james debate
james debate

Saturday 7 November 2009

Developed by FreeStyleGames
Published by Activision
Genre Music/Rhythm
Platform Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii
Release date(s) Out Now

It's an idea that has torn apart the music game community. Is it a logical next step in expanding the magic of guitar hero styled games to a new genre of music and a new fanbase? Or is it simply milking it? For better or for worse, DJ Hero is here, read on for the full low down.

dj hero

So here we have DJ Hero, a bit like guitar hero, but for the clubbing crowd. Let's explain how this thing works then. You have your plastic turntable (or your much better quality, but overpriced turntable if you get the renegade edition) which has a turntable with three buttons on it, a crossfader over to the left, and a turnable knob with an extra button next to it.

Let's begin with the turntable itself, which is after all the core of the gameplay mechanic. Forgetting the middle red button for a minute, the left (green) and right (blue) ones are your main buttons. Each of these corresponds to one of the two tracks that is being mixed in your song. You press the corresponding button in time with the notes on the screen just like in guitar hero, and when you see a long bar note for one particular colour you hold the button while "scratching" the turntable. Then in addition you will crossfade between the tracks when you see the corresponding track shit out to the left or right on the screen as appropriate. Simple then.

The red button plays samples. For the most part playing the red notes will play a sample that has been pre-chosen by whoever mixed the song you're playing, but occasionally you get a long red bar note, which is essentially a "freestyle" zone, in which you can play samples from your sample set (which you choose before the song, and can switch between different samples using the knob) in any pattern you see fit. It's an interesting idea, but in reality you have like 5 sample sets to choose from and they inevitably won't really go with whatever song you're playing.

Meanwhile there is this turnable knob, which for most of the time will just allow you to select a sample to play during freestyle segments, but really what it's supposed to be is a low/high pass filter, but only actually works in designated segments of the song. The button next to this is how you trigger "euphoria" which is essentially the DJ Hero version of Guitar Hero's star power.

Great, so now you know how to play the game, but is it worth playing? Is it any good?

DJ Hero is a lot of fun for sure. The gameplay is addictive with a range of difficulty settings that run the gamut from absurdly piss easy to ridiculously anal and difficult, and the presentation is appropriately slick through out with lots of colour and flashing lights and (perhaps a bit too overdone) "attitude".

First of all, there is no failing on this game. Instead the game punishes you by forcing you to listen to how much you suck, and not being able to unlock more songs, DJs, decks, skins, etc, which you do by earning "stars" for beating songs. You continue in this fashion, playing through a series of set lists until you've unlocked everything, and of course there's the mandatory "custom set list" option.

You can also play along to certain songs with a guitar hero guitar, but frankly playing the same looped samples over and over gets old very quickly. Also for some reason when you're playing single player they still inexplicably feel the need to show the computer character's guitar note chart on the screen next to your's, meaning for those songs your turntable note chart is crammed into the tiny corner of the screen. Pretty stupid actually.

I can't help but feel that it's all a bit thin though. There are only a handful of venues to play in, and a really awful selection of characters to play as, with no custom character designer at all, which has become such a standard in this genre. To begin with you get to choose between a giant gorilla with a Mexican wrestling mask, an ugly midget, and a girl with too many piercings. Frankly I like to just play as someone who looks normal, or at least vaguely like me, and such a thing is not really possible in this game. Fortunately this is almost made up for by the large number of real life superstar DJs you can unlock, the undoubted highlight of which is none other than fucking Daft Punk.

But ultimately such superficial details are largely irrelevant, and what matters is how good the music is. I'm pleased to be able to say that as a whole the music in this game is of a VERY high quality, which some absolutely breathtaking mixes that frankly I wish they would release a compilation album for this game. As I mentioned, the highlight is definitely Daft Punk, who for this game have produced 11 mixes featuring a bunch of their songs and a few from other bands like Queen, Beastie Boys and err... Gary Numan (which is pretty awesome actually). There are a number of absolutely brilliant mixes aside from this as well, including Gorillaz mixed with Blondie, The Killers mixed with Eric Prydz, and Jackson 5 mixed with Third Eye Blind. The glory of this soundtrack is that you'll even enjoy songs that you otherwise wouldn't like because the vast majority of the mixes are so catchy and well done.

But the soundtrack is not perfect. Frankly there is a gross overemphasis on rap music with the likes of Eminem and Jay-Z, and not nearly enough trance or dance tunes. Seriously, bring on some Basement Jaxx, Avalanches, hell I'll even take Moby, it'd at least be something different. Oh and the Chemical Brothers, definitely. And while we're on that note, let's have some Girl Talk for the dlc, he's without a doubt the best mash up artist out there, so it seems like a waste to leave him out. If Girl Talk makes a few mixes for this game it would actually be the most epic thing ever.

In the end, this is a pretty fun game, with a decent soundtrack. However, a lack of certain pretty obvious features, a skewed list of songs in terms of genre appeal, and a few questionable gameplay design choices makes this feel slightly half baked. More a proof of concept rather than the genuine article. If you've been dying to get your hands on this game, go for it and you'll enjoy it. If not, then you might as well wait for DJ Hero 2, which will probably be a much more complete package.

Awesome tunes
Addictive gameplay
Glitz and flashiness

Too much rap
Those stupid play along guitar songs
Lack of a character designer, seriously what is this 2003?

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