Re-re-r-remix . . . DJ Hero2 Mixes It Up for the Better
Want to be the next big DJ, mixing up funky beats, or making sweet mash ups? Well, DJ Hero 2 is here and it’s time to party. DJ Hero 2 is Activision's latest follow up to the DJ Hero collection. This addition surprised me in many ways—not least because I hadn’t intended to buy or review it in the first place. I spent a few hours playing the first DJ Hero, and the fun-level of that version waned pretty quickly. I felt a disconnect from some of the mixes and, though it seemed like an awesome idea for a music game, it got boring very quickly. I didn't review the first DJ Hero, but if I had, I would have probably gave it a mediocre 2 stars. It fell flat in many areas and I considered it no more than an o.k. game. Not a good one, not a bad one—just . . . o.k.
DJ Hero 2 is nice improvement from the first installment. There are a few changes that are significant enough to mention, the most important of which is the introduction of new freestyle sections. One of the frustrations of the first game was that you were so locked into the existing mix that you never really felt like a DJ. Granted, a truly realistic game would probably require you to adopt a fake British accent and look down on people who like Nickelback, but the least they could do is give the player the “feel” of DJing. The new freestyle sections in DJ Hero2 are a big step in the right direction. They now allow you to do freestyle crossfades, scratches, and sample taps. If you have never spent an evening laughing at the guy in the mesh shirt dancing alone with lightsticks in front of the mirrored wall, you may not know what these terms mean. Allow me to explain: “crossfading” is when you can go back and forth between two different audio tracks, and basically mix the audio or blend it; “scratches” occur when you grab the turntable and push the disc spinner back and forth to get that “Whomp Whomp Whooomp Whomp” sound; “sample taps” are short pieces of audio heard when you press a single button. (That guy with the deep bass voice who comes in over the dance track to advise everyone to, “Party . . . P-p-p-party,” is the result of a sample tap.)
Another new feature/improvement from the first DJ Hero is the expanded online play. DJ Hero2 has added mix battles, stat tracking, and unlockables for your online persona. This was a pleasant surprise and adds some unexpected depth to the game. Moreover, battling someone else online is actually lot of fun. I found the match making system easy, and the online special titles for your DJ accomplishes, like winning "x" amount matches etc. in online battles adds a level to the competition.
The ability to connect a microphone and have a second player rap/sing the lyrics of the mix is another minor bonus to this game. I have tried this and it's a nice addition, as the resident singer in my house (a.k.a. my wife) was able to jump right in and sing to the mixes I was doing. In theory this is a welcome addition to the game, as it’s a good way to add a friend who doesn't want to use the turntable controller, and allows for endless, “two turntables and a microphone,” jokes. However, the game does err in requiring the poor singer to sing the full mix, jumping wildly from sample to sample, much to the amusement of any audience eager to see someone attempt to simultaneously impersonate Flo Rida and Will.I.Am.
At the time of this review, there was no new downloadable content for the game, but the press releases and the in-game menu appear to promise that there will be plenty of future track/mixes available to download. As fans of Rock Band know, the trick to keeping music games fresh is to offer new songs, so if it can meet the promises of its launch, the future of DJ Hero2 looks bright.
The tracks themselves are also a vast improvement over the last DJ Hero. Those that dread the possibility of hours of inaccessible house music will be happy to see artists like Kanye West, Eminem, and Lady Gaga. And the mixes themselves are generally very good, sound great, and (most importantly) are lots of fun to play. The pinnacle of the fun is when you are playing a track, get to a freestyle crossfade section, and manage to find the exact spots to crossfade. For one brief moment, as you manage to mash two songs perfectly together, you’ve become a super-cool DJ. (Minus, of course, the years of practice and the unfortunate incident with the she-male in Ibiza). Trust me—that moment alone is worth the purchase price.
Please see my rating below and look for my video review for a more personal comment on this game. (0 to 4 stars with 4 stars being the best)
Summary and Rating
Is this a must buy? No. But it's a great music game, and if like you Rock Band, Guitar Hero etc, you should consider giving this a (literal) whirl. It's fun and if you get two turntables you can have battles in your living room or throw a DJ Hero party. Do you need to have played the first one to play the sequel? No. And I personally think this version is much better than the first, so skip right to DJ Hero 2. If you don't like music games then is just more of the same, but if you ever wanted to be DJ, you will love DJ Hero. Now on to my more detailed grades:
Production - *****
This game is very polished and, from the in-game menu to the characters (both real and fictional) in the game, it just looks great. Menus are clean, and options are plentiful. Super solid production.
Graphics - ****
Ok the graphics are not groundbreaking but the urban/hip hop aesthetic they go for in DJ Hero 2 is easy on the eyes and gives the game a sense of fun.
Sound - *****
Of course the sound is fantastic—it's a music game. This is one area that they had to get right and did.
Play Control - ****
You simply can’t avoid the fact that there is a serious learning curve to conquer if you are new to turntable. Though DJ Hero 2 is a pretty easy game to play, it’s also one that is hard to master. The bright side is that this allows for a ton of practice and a real sense of satisfaction when you learn how to do it well. It must be acknowledged, however, that this is not a game for the uncoordinated.
Replay Value - ****
I think this games has ton of potential if they release new tracks, but without knowing for sure what they have planned (and on what timetable), the best I can give it for now is 3 stars. However, there’s still plenty of play with career mode and when you add online battles as well, we’re talking hours, yo! (Note the DJ-like ending to that sentence. That’s how cool this game can make you.)
Overall - ****
This is a solidly good game. Sure, it’s not going to be a Game of the Year, but if you like music, like the DJ culture, and would love to imagine yourself as the next great DJ, then you are going to have a blast playing it.