Last year, Activision introduced a new entry into it’s “Hero” franchise, which up until last year was focused primarily on its well known and popular Guitar Hero games. DJ Hero took a side step from what we perceive to be a music rhythm game and introduced a new peripheral along with a strong emphasis on remixed music.
With DJ Hero 2, Activision put a strong emphasis on the saying “two turntables and a microphone” as the sequel has more multiplayer modes and it introduces the ability for a third player to take the mic and perform with the game.
The first thing you’ll notice when you start playing DJ Hero 2, or possibly before depending on how good your perception is, is the new turntables. The party pack comes with two turntables that are exclusive to the pack and a wired microphone. One turntable is white, while the other is a gunmetal and both for the most part haven’t been changed in terms of their layout. They both still have 3 colored buttons on the turntable, and it still has a slider with a button for Euphoria and a silver knob to change the sound effect of your track. The buttons on the turntable have received a little bit of sponginess so they no longer feel cheap and plasticky compared to the original DJ Hero controller. The slider has also received a much needed upgrade as it now has a tiny bit of weight to it which helps in not accidentally switching the track too far from one point to another. All in all, this is what the original DJ Hero controller should have been in terms of its quality and aesthetics.
Enough turntable love and onto the game itself. DJ Hero 2 has a ton of updated features that improves on an already solid game play mechanic. If you played DJ Hero, then you’re familiar with the tap, scratching, and crossfade, but DJ Hero 2 improves on these. The game introduces a handful of new gameplay mechanics, such as held notes, length scratches, and three types of freestyles: Sampling, Crossfading, and Scratching. The freestyles allow you to throw in your own style in the track by freestyling through a track. This new element adds some much needed individuality to each track as the player can choose how the track will sound, compared to how you played straight through a remix without much individuality in the original DJ Hero.
DJ Hero 2 features 83 completely original tracks. If you enjoyed the track list in DJ Hero, then you’re going to love the selection in DJ Hero 2 as popular artists such as Rihanna, Kanye West, Eminem, Lady Gaga, David Guetta and a bunch of other popular artists and their songs are all remixed by a number of very talented DJs. You can choose to play through the tracks as you normally would with the turntables, or you could now sing along with the tracks. Although this aspect might have seemed like a good idea on paper, but its execution was poor at best. You might know each song’s original form before you play the song, but you’ll soon realize you’ll need to sing along with the remixed track, which can be quite the challenge as some tracks jump in and out between one another. If you don’t know the second track that the original one is being remixed with, then you’re going to have an even tougher time with your performance. It’s a shame because the concept of singing along while two people play was a big selling point for DJ Hero 2, but the learning curve for would-be singers is just too great for it to become somewhat enjoyable.
DJ Hero’s single player experience had you playing across a number of decks with a theme, such as tracks by DJ AM. DJ Hero 2 introduces “Empire Mode” which changes the formula of the single player experience a bit. You still play across a number of decks, but instead, you’ll work your way from a DJ working at a neighborhood nightclub to a number of locations around the world with thousands of fans dancing to your mixes. Along your journey, you’ll be able to unlock new tracks, characters, outfits, and locations to play across all modes in DJ Hero 2. You’ll also come across a number of fictional and real-life DJs to battle with, which introduces DJ Hero’s 2 new DJ Battle modes.
DJ Hero 2 features a number of new and improved Battle modes which can be played both locally and online. Each battle mode has their own rules as to how to defeat your opponent, which conveniently flashes on screen before the battle begins in case your opponent doesn’t know the rules. Taking your DJ skills online allows you to rank up through battles and unlock new tags and medals that can be used to customize your DJ profile online. Each tag and medal can be unlocked by performing a specific challenge that’s associated with the tag or medal.
If you just want to jump into DJ Hero without the need of going through an empire or playing people online, you can access the game’s Quickplay mode. This mode lists all of the available tracks along with the song’s difficulty statistics. Songs can be sorted a number of ways, such as by complexity, track name, artist name, and a number of other sorting options. If you don’t even want to go through the process of selecting your tracks yourself, then DJ Hero 2’s Party Play mode is where you need to be. Party play was first introduced in Guitar Hero 5 and it allows the game to automatically choose tracks whole players can drop in and drop out at their leisure. If you’re currently playing with your fiends, and the pizza guy shows you, you can drop out of the game for a moment and the track will continue to play with those who are still playing. If you all decide to start chewing down on some “za”, then all of you can completely drop out of the game, but still have the track playing in the background. It’s a complete drop-in / drop-out experience that I loved in Guitar Hero 2 and I’m happy to see it’s being incorporated in other “Hero” titles.
One of the last updates that was added to DJ Hero 2 was a “Hero Feed.” The point of the Hero Feed is to not only keep tabs on your progress through both online and offline modes, such as how many times Euphoria had been activated or how many scratches have been completed, but you can also keep tabs on your friends to see how they’ve been progressing through their game. You can also issue and accept challenges against your friends through the Hero Feed. I didn’t get much use out of the Hero Feed as only a small number of friends have DJ Hero 2, but I’m sure things could get heated if you have a number of friends who continually challenge you to beat their score on certain tracks.
FINAL THOUGHT: DJ Hero 2 brought many much needed improvements both to the game’s hardware and software. The track list has a lot of popular songs with amazing remixes, and the game’s multiplayer modes encourage players to take the fight other DJs. The only downside I could think of is the game’s vocal mode, which was way too difficult an experience to enjoy. With that aside, DJ Hero 2 is a great sequel to an already great game.