DJ Hero Review

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Is this the hero we’ve been waiting for?

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Anyone that knows me will tell you that I can no longer stomach the once groundbreaking franchise that is Guitar Hero. After World Tour, I became disenchanted with the whole idea that these types of games were fun to play. Maybe I just couldn’t find enough people to play with me; I don’t really know. Or it could have been the time my friend Dave decided to beat me with his World Tour drumsticks after I refused to play. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that was it, but I digress.

As is the case with most new fangled gizmos and doodads, I was a little skeptical about how DJ Hero would pan out. Sure, the concept was different, but what about actual gameplay? More importantly, what about the deck? Was it going to be a one-turntable setup or two? Well, I can say without a doubt this is the Hero we’ve all been waiting for. The monotony has been broken, so throw your hands up party people!

(We also interviewed Jay-Z, so be sure to keep on keepin’ on.)

The scenery looks similar, but that’s really the only comparison you’ll notice between DJ Hero and the rest of the Hero family. What’s unique to DJH is the soundtrack that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. You’re not fingering your way through another ho-hum track from yesteryear. Each track was exclusively mixed for DJH. Where else would you hear the Gorillaz x Blondie, Daft Punk x Queen or The Jackson 5 x Third Eye Blind? For the record: I hate Third Eye Blind, but the music is broad and appeals to just about anyone. I could sit back and let this soundtrack play during a party, which you can actually do.

Aside from the music, the visuals are vibrant and seeing Daft Punk in a video game is pretty astounding. The venues, crowds and stage antics are much the same, but skinned for a more underground club vibe.

If there’s one gripe I have with the game it’s the unfortunate inability to create my own DJ. The stable of available DJs to pick from when you start is pretty wack, but who can say no to a Rollergirl clone? Celebrity DJs like Grandmaster Flash, DJ Jazzy Jeff or the late DJ AM are unlockable once you’ve acquired enough ‘stars,’ which also unlocks outfits for said DJs along with new turntables, headphones and the like.

Previous apprehensions about handling turntables will quickly dissipate once you’ve gone through the starter tutorial. The peripheral is comprised of a spinning platter, three colored buttons (green, red, blue), a cross fader, effects dial, euphoria button (star power) and controls for your platform of choice. It gets a bit more difficult when you’re tasked with ‘scratching’ in a specific direction or cross fading spikes. Check out the video below. But before you do, I realized I have one other issue with DJH. There are various freestyle sections within each song that allow you to sample effects or phrases (think of those obnoxious sayings Flavor Flav is always spouting off) by tapping the red button, which is true to what DJs often do, but you’re not boosting your score, so what is the point of having them? Furthermore, you’re attempting to pick from five samples via the effects dial all the while trying to hit each note as it flies down the highway, cross fading and/or scratching at the same time. The satisfaction of actually picking the right sample ahead of time and timing it perfectly within each track was far and few between. Or I just suck at it. Take your pick.

As far as peripherals go, the turntable appears to be of high quality. The case and telescoping legs that come with the Renegade Edition surpassed my high expectations. There’s the off chance that you might inadvertently break or knock off the effects dial or cross fader, but it never crossed my mind while playing. If anything, the default hand positions (one on the platter and one on the cross fader) might be awkward for some of you with larger paws. I felt it to be a little strange before and after a set, but never during an actual song.

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The last component being multiplayer also happens to be an area I lightly touched on over the course of this review. You can add a second turntable to battle it out, which is good in theory, but you’re both playing the same track. It’s not that great. But what is fun is the ability to add a guitar on certain tracks, so you’re not always playing by yourself.

Earlier this year, Jay-Z said, “A DJ has the ability to use music to control people’s emotions and is responsible for the entire vibe of a room, a club or a party.” And DJ Hero delivers in every way. It’s far from perfect, but neither was Guitar Hero 1. Forget about the rest of the music-based games on the market right now, DJ Hero is the real deal. And don’t be surprised to see this make our Top 10 Games of the Year list.

BTW, Jay-Z liked my shirt. My shirt rocks.

DJ Hero

*I recommend the Renegade Edition*