Last year we were introduced to DJ Hero. It was a refreshing entry to the rhythm-action music games. The style and musical presentation was a real stand out. Now we have the second installment of the series and let me just say beforehand, it has taken the game and improved it two fold.
The biggest complaint I had for the first title was the fact that so many tracks were reused in other mixes. There were plenty of mixes, but there just wasn’t that much variety when it came to songs. DJ Hero 2 boasts over 100 songs that span over 80 mixes. Granted, they do reuse a few tracks, but it’s not as predominate. The mixes themselves feel more genuine. The first game had some songs that seemed like they hit play on both tracks and just let them go. DJ Hero 2’s songs all go well together and mix almost flawlessly. One of my favorite features is the mega mixes. These are a group of mixes that all flow together seamlessly. So before the songs start they have a base beat playing throughout and then begin the mixes. It really makes the songs sound and play like they were all part of one big song. It’s a really nice touch.
The “campaign” mode called Empire mode is where you will unlock songs DJs, venues, and extra visual outfits. Here you choose a DJ to play as, and start your “empire” through playing at clubs, slowly making your way to DJ stardom. In this mode you are playing all the mixes in the game as well as battling rival DJs to accumulate stars to unlock new mixes and venues to continue the story. The pacing is well done, and you’re always unlocking new things to play with. Battling DJs is fun, but can become challenging at times.
The battling has had an upgrade in both playing against players locally, online, and the computer. There is now a checkpoint battle where you are scored on sections of a song and whoever gets the most hits on the highway, wins that checkpoint. You can even knock out your opponent if you dominate the song. There is also the standard DJ battle where each player takes turns playing a part of the song and whoever plays the best, gets a point. I really like the battling due to the fact that if you play bad on one part, you’re still not out of the game, you can always come back and play the next section better to catch up.
The multiplayer is the biggest improvement overall. It’s basically jump in, jump out play. At anytime, player two can hit a button on the second turntable and begin playing. Everything about the game is streamlined to make the game as accessible as possible. You can change the difficulty on the fly and anyone can jump in when they wish to play. It was like the game was made for parties. You can start up a mix, and just let the computer play giving you some music to listen to. If you feel like you want to play the song that’s playing, just hit a button. It’s just so simple and user friendly.
As far as the gameplay goes, most of what was in the first game remains the same with a few variations. You hit three notes on a highway chart as they come by, and shift the cross fader to the left or right to play certain tracks. The cross fading is more forgiving this time around which really helps out the player due to challenging note presses and scratches. They have added held notes where you must hold down a button for a certain amount of time and added in held scratches where you must hold a button and scratch in one motion for the duration of the note. The biggest change to the game play is the freestyle notes and cross fades. Now, instead of hitting the middle red button to make Flavor Flav yell “YYYeeeeeah, booooy!” you’re actually playing notes that go along with the song.
The freestyle cross fader is my favorite addition. In some sections of a mix you are allowed to cross fade to any track you wish. So if you think Heartless sounds good by itself, you can shift the cross fader to the left and just play that track instead of Midnight in a Perfect World. Of course, you can mix and match to whatever you choose. The best thing about the freestyle notes and cross fades are, if you mix and hit the notes to the beat of the song, you get points for it. So, mixing a better sounding track will make your score go up. It’s the best feature in the game and can turn the tide is some battles. It allows you to create your own unique mix and add your own flavor to the song.
The song selection is more varied this time around. They focus on more trance and techno music, but you still have a good selection of hip-hop and R&B. The biggest exclusion is the rock genre, and with the exception of Metallica in one song, you will get pretty much no rock or metal. This also means that the guitar play has been taken out of the game, and I can say I really don’t miss it. With the removal of the somewhat useless guitar functionality comes the addition functionality of the somewhat useless microphone. You can use a mic to sing the lyrics of the mixes, but half the time you’re scratching and rewinding making the singing almost pointless, but it is there if you want to belt out some rhymes and lyrics.
The visuals didn’t get too much of an upgrade in DJ Hero 2. It looks more refined, but for the most part, they all stayed the same. Some of the introductions to the mega mixes are rather nice and set up the mix nicely. To be honest, there will be so much going on on the highway, that you probably won’t even notice the backgrounds.
The only beef I have with the game is the fact that there is no importing of DJ Hero songs in to DJ Hero 2. You can import the DLC, but that’s all of 5 songs. They really dropped the ball on that one. Maybe on down the line they’ll allow you to pay for importing the songs. Until then, you’ll be switching discs.
Unlike a lot of music games, DJ Hero 2 is more than just an extended track pack with a few tweaks; it’s a totally new and improved game. The game play is more streamlined to fit both veterans and newcomers to the series so anyone can jump in and have a great time playing songs and freestyle mixing to their own choosing. The old turntable will work so there is no need to run out and buy a new peripheral. The song selection is fantastic and each song really mixes well with each other. The multiplayer both online and locally has been improved to cater to the competitive DJs out there. Plus, the game itself is a nice departure from most music games that really give the game a fresh feel.
Review copy provided by publisher.