Guitar Hero was one of the select few games that sparked somewhat of a revolution in gaming not too many years ago. Beforehand, people were content with first-person shooters, racing games, RPGs, puzzle games, and other traditional genres but somewhere along the line someone took the rhythm out of rhythm and blues and moulded it around the console for a concept that resulted in the rise to popularity of rhythm-based music games for the Playstation, Xbox, Wii, and just about any other console you can imagine. Even back then, rhythm games were nothing new and had existed in flash form for a while (take the DJ Sheepwolf series, for example), but tiny plastic guitars and imitation drum kits flew off the shelves to facilitate the fun of strumming and hitting the correct notes at the correct time along to various tracks in Guitar Hero and Rock Band. We’re in the age of music that doesn’t even need instruments to be heard however, and as you can imagine, the rise of DJ Hero wasn’t too far behind. So now we have a sequel to the original to play around on, with more tracks and features to boot, so do these features justify a second DJ Hero, or are we simply seeing an over-milking of a musical cash cow?
The original DJ Hero’s concept prevails in this sequel of course, presenting the player with an effectively identical gameplay mechanic that involves using the specially-crafted turntable-cum-controller to spin and scratch when the corresponding colours on the screen (which are this time gracing a distinctly vinyl-based surface) pass the active zone at the bottom. Getting the notes right as well as the timing is the point of the whole game, and the number of points you receive is directly related to how accurately you can “DJ” in order to press the right colours at the right time. I’m not sure whether I prefer the fake turntable controller of DJ Hero or the touch-screen scratching seen in DJ Star for the Nintendo DS, but the former is good enough and does bring the player closer to the actual DJ experience.
The original DJ Hero Here forewent the usual musical game bull of story modes and world tours and such in order to concentrate on bringing the player nothing but music, but DJ Hero 2 has “Empire Mode”, which is obviously a career mode going by a pseudonym. This career mode sees you start as an amateur DJ and allows you to rise up to fame through DJing in various locations and being recognised by those who recognise DJing talent.
Player-guided scratching, sampling, and cross-fading is somewhat of a new feature unique to the sequel, allowing you to take the reins a little in certain predetermined parts of the song, your performance in which is added to your total score at the song’s conclusion. The free-styling can change up the song a little, though you don’t really hear that much of a difference, even if the inflated points at the end indicate differently.
Fancy a classic DJ battle that requires barely any actual DJing skill whatsoever? Then the multiplayer/battling system is quite the entertaining bit of pastimery. The ability to add vocals has been added in place of the feature of hooking up Guitar Hero or Rock Band, and it can be priceless to shoulder out our competitor by performing better than him and watching him get essentially locked out for whole sections of songs because you’re doing better than him.
One of the main downsides to the game is the broadening of the song selection and not just in terms of the sheer number of songs available. I’m referring to the genres included, which used to represent some old-school techno-style tracks as well as some classic house and dance music but we’ve got Pitbull and Lady Gaga joining the playlist this time around and while these are popular, they certainly aren’t my cup of tea (got any Jungle in, Guy?).
So with DJ Hero 2 we have improvements in areas where it counts but a broadening of the including genres resulting in a little watering down. While these games are no substitute for actual musical creation software such as this Step Seq. music game, the can provide some superficial DJ-like fun at a fraction of the cost and effort of actually becoming a DJ.