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Review

Review: DJ Hero 2

Activision builds its Empire.

In my mind there’s a t-shirted Bobby Kotick in some strobing Ibizan superclub; he’s clutching Tiesto’s latest in one hand and the other’s held tightly against cocked headphones.  He’s nodding, not with the deep boom, boom of the bassline, but with the overriding sense that his grand masterplan appears to now be in motion – this time around there’s more chance that people will own two of the plastic turntable peripherals and, wisely, eschewing the disparate guitar from the line-up has meant that not only can a twin desk affair work, but there’s also room for vocals.

DJ Hero 2, then, is very much an evolutionary step for the Freestyle Games powered series: it’s 75% the old, familiar DJ Hero and 25% brand spanking new sequel, and comes with a healthy, far less America-centric crate of records.  As a result, helped no end by a vastly improved front end that takes a few cues from the Codemasters school of UI, DJ Hero 2 is fresh, exciting, invigorating and best of all, damned good fun.  It’s like Activision knew all along that the first game was just the foot in the door, eventually making way for the bouncer to burst his way in with the second.

Of course, anyone expecting Two to anymore resemble real DJ’ing needs to find a new wavelength to ride, this isn’t DJ’ing as much as Guitar Hero isn’t playing in a band and Tony Hawk Star isn’t skateboarding – this is a rhythm action game in which you press buttons and slide sliders along to prebuild, predetermined tracks, albeit normally ones that involve at least two pieces of music, mashup style.  What is does do, mind, is ensure that every button press, every scratch and every slide of that crossfader feels as close to DJ’ing as it needs to do whilst not forgetting it’s a game.

And what a game.  That 75% that’s carried over from DJ Hero is present and correct – the game still needs taps, fader flicks and, of course, sc-sc-scratching, but it’s the new that brings as much innovation to the (turn) table as the manual and revert did to that other popular Activision license.  This year it’s all about the freestyle, so we’ve got freestyle scratching, freestyle sample playing and freestyle crossfading – when the icon scrolling down the 33 highway is empty, that’s your (literal) cue to go wild and improvise, and the freedom to do things your way is most welcome.

Not that you’re changing too much, of course – you’re only playing with what’s there – but in the absence of the ability to actually be a DJ (Hero 3 would be lovely if it gave you a reason to use two decks in single player) this is as close as you can get to a sense of flexibility without risk of breaking the game.  On hard mode and above, when the game’s throwing everything it’s got at you the new freestyle portions offer high score potential that would normally be limited to ensuring you know every tap off by heart, so it’s nice to know there’s no longer an obvious score ceiling.

Empire mode is also new.  Across six gradually unlocked locations, you’ll start in Ibiza and, via a series of increasingly tricky set lists, battles and challenges you’ll unlock stars that in turn open up more modes and stacks of secret goodies, including customisation for your DJ (costumes, headphones and decks), new characters and new mixes.  Think of Empire as a light career mode and you’ll be somewhere near, and the structured focus is a nice aside from the quick play and battle modes that make up the other single player sections.

What’s neat is the way online is integrated into everything you do in DJ Hero 2, including the display of the next highest score in your Friends list for each particular track, so as you’re trying to concentrate on hitting the right buttons and scratching in the right direction you’re also concious that if you miss a beat and lose your multiplier your friend won’t be seeing your score the next time he tries that mix.  Of course, there’s online battling too, and you can also challenge your friends to beat your score directly after finishing a particular section just by hitting a button.

The game’s not perfect, though: there’s still no proper transitions between mixes during a setlist (apart from the six introductory openings for each country in Empire mode which are dubbed megamixes and do exactly that) although the gap is now much shorter, the characters roll from the same ugly extras agency that populates other Hero titles and the vocal sections, whilst a clever inclusion, aren’t as developed or as rewarding as the likes of Singstar. Loading each mix is still too slow, though, and saving, if automatic, shouldn’t take as long as it does after each one.

That said, DJ Hero 2 is brilliant entertainment and is such a clear step up from the first that we’d even suggest those that didn’t get on with DJ Hero should at least try the demo as practically ever aspect that needed work has been improved, tweaked or replaced.  With better music throughout the game feels more consistent and the extra polish applied to the non-game sections really gives the game a sense of quality – a hugely improved sequel that doesn’t feel like Activision have done anything but make sure DJ Hero 2 is a success.

Let’s hope it is.

Pros:

  • Better source material and better mashups
  • Lovely user interface
  • Online has been given a welcome boost
  • The bundle includes DJ Hero 1
  • The hardware’s still superb
  • The super-easy Party Play setting means anyone can have fun

Cons:

  • The graphics aren’t quite up to scratch
  • There’s still a bit of repitition with the artists featured

DJ Hero 2 acts like Activision have listened to feedback from the first game and the good points read like a checklist of improvements.  Better music?  Check.  More single player modes?  Check.  More freedom to influence the audio?  Check.  I’m impressed with the way this one’s been handled by both publisher and developer, the icing on the game being the inclusion of the first DJ Hero when you buy the turntable bundle, which means for a penny under £90 you’re getting two full games and a DJ controller, which is excellent value for money.

Score: 9/10

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11 Comments
  1. Dan Lee
    Common like the rest of us.
    Since: Jun 2010

    sounds great, im in the process of selling a kidney to buy all the upcoming games!

    Comment posted on 25/10/2010 at 09:12.
    • CNWLshadow
      Member
      Since: Oct 2009

      The problem with selling a kidney is its a one rime deal. Selling yourself is much better, you can resell your self again and again :P

      My problem with the the first DJ hereo was that, you had no real control over the music, so glad to see that has been changed for the new one.

      Comment posted on 25/10/2010 at 09:38.
      • CNWLshadow
        Member
        Since: Oct 2009

        *one time*
        Dam you Monday morning

        Comment posted on 25/10/2010 at 09:39.
      • bunimomike
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        In all fairness, Dan didn’t say it’d be his own kidney but your point still stands for those foolish enough to blag their own organs. ;-)

        Comment posted on 25/10/2010 at 10:35.
  2. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Already spending a bomb this weekend on all the awesome games that have been released.

    Looking forward to having a go on this, I have even been practising my beatboxing…

    Check it…

    Boots n Cats, Boots n Cats, Boots n Catsssss….come on, how good does that sound?

    Comment posted on 25/10/2010 at 09:43.
  3. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Excellent :)

    Comment posted on 25/10/2010 at 09:58.
  4. tom_lord
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Apr 2009

    Like! Buying!

    Comment posted on 25/10/2010 at 13:05.
  5. colossalblue
    Team TSA: Editor
    Since: Forever

    really tempted, despite my usual distaste for rhythm/music games.
    Really tempted.

    Comment posted on 25/10/2010 at 13:45.
  6. DJ-Katy
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    Here’s the full track list:

    2Pac ft. Dr Dre and Roger Troutman / B.o.B. ft Bruno Mars – California Love Remix / Nothin’ On You
    Dizzee Rascal & Armand Van Helden / Basement Jaxx – Bonkers / Where’s Your Head At
    Nas feat. Keri Hilson / Talib Kweli – Hero / Get By
    Snow / Jackson 5 – Informer / ABC
    Janet Jackson / Justice – Nasty / D.A.N.C.E.
    DJ Shadow / FSG – Midnight In A Perfect World / Remix
    Kelis / FSG – Acapella (David Guetta Extended Mix) / Remix
    Daft Punk / FSG – Human After All / Remix
    Edwin Starr / Justice – War / Waters of Nazareth
    Lady Gaga / Deadmau5 – Just Dance / Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff
    Pussycat Dolls ft. Busta Rhymes / Pitbull – Don’t Cha / I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)
    Iyaz / Rihanna – Replay / Rude Boy
    Nelly / Warren G & Nate Dogg – Hot In Herre / Regulate
    The Chemical Brothers / The Chemical Brothers – Galvanize / Leave Home
    MSTRKRFT ft. N.O.R.E / FSG – Bounce / Remix
    Eminem / Lil’ Wayne feat. Static Major – Not Afraid / Lollipop
    Naughty By Nature / Jackson 5 – O.P.P. / ABC
    Estelle ft. Kanye West / Chic – American Boy / Good Times
    Basement Jaxx / Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Where’s Your Head At / Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix)
    David Guetta vs The Egg / Flo Rida – Love Don’t Let Me Go (Walking Away) / Low
    Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz ft. Ying Yang Twins / 50 Cent – Get Low / In Da Club
    House of Pain / Busta Rhymes – Jump Around / Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See
    Salt N Pepa / Armand Van Helden – Push It / I Want Your Soul
    Sean Paul / Harold Faltermeyer – Get Busy / Axel F
    M.I.A / Wayne Smith – Galang / Under Mi Steng Teng
    Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five / Kool & The Gang – The Message / Jungle Boogie
    Damian Marley / Dillinja and Skibadee – Welcome To Jamrock / Twist ‘Em Out
    Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em / Chamillionaire – Crank That (Soulja Boy) / Ridin’
    Robin S / Calvin Harris – Show Me Love (Stonebridge Radio Edit) / I’m Not Alone
    Pitbull / Nightcrawlers – I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) / Push The Feeling On (MK Mix 95)
    Salt N Pepa / Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force – Push It / Planet Rock
    Kanye West / Lady Gaga – Heartless / Lovegame
    David Guetta & Chris Willis / Sam Sparro – Love Is Gone / Black & Gold
    Timbaland ft. Keri Hilson & D.O.E. / Tiga – The Way I Are / You Gonna Want Me
    MSTRKRFT ft. N.O.R.E / A-Trak – Bounce / Say Whoa
    Malcolm McLaren / M|A|R|R|S – Buffalo Gals / Pump Up The Volume
    Tweet ft. Missy Elliott / Snoop Dogg – Oops (Oh My) / Who Am I (What’s My Name)
    Flo Rida ft. Will.I.Am / Clinton Sparks, DJ Class & Jermain Dupri – In The Ayer / Favorite DJ
    Tiësto & Sneaky Sound System / Tiësto – I Will Be Here / Speed Rail
    Dizzee Rascal & Armand Van Helden / The Prodigy – Bonkers / Omen
    Deee-Lite / Chic – Groove Is In The Heart / Le Freak
    Major Lazer feat. VYBZ Kartel / Harold Faltermeyer – Pon De Floor / Axel F
    Lil’ Wayne / 50 Cent – Go DJ / In Da Club
    Timbaland ft. Drake / Young Jeezy ft. Kanye West – Say Something / Put On
    Kanye West / Donna Summers – Love Lockdown / Bad Girls
    David Guetta ft. Kid Cudi / Pirate Soundsystem – Memories / Bashy Bashy
    LL Cool J / Chic – I Can’t Live Without My Radio / Good Times
    Lil’ Wayne feat. Static Major / Flo Rida – Lollipop / Low
    Missy Elliott / Sean Paul – Get Ur Freak On / Infiltrate
    Calvin Harris / New Order – I’m Not Alone / Blue Monday
    Busta Rhymes / M|A|R|R|S – Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See / Pump Up The Volume
    Stevie Wonder / Edwin Starr – Superstition / War
    Sean Paul / Rihanna – Get Busy / Pon De Replay
    Newcleus / Donna Summers – Jam On It / Bad Girls
    Damian Marley / Walter Murphy – Welcome To Jamrock / A Fifth Of Beethoven
    Young Jezzy ft. Kanye West / DJ Shadow feat. Q-Tip and Lateef – Put On / Enuff (DJ Fresh Remix)
    Kanye West / Metallica – Love Lockdown / The Day That Never Comes
    Kanye West / DJ Shadow – Heartless / Midnight In A Perfect World
    LL Cool J / Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – I Can’t Live Without My Radio / The Message
    Major Lazer feat. VYBZ Kartel / New Order – Pon De Floor / Blue Monday
    Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force / The Crystal Method – Planet Rock / Busy Child (Still Busy After All These Years Remix)
    Missy Elliott / Dillinja and Skibadee – Get Ur Freak On / Twist ‘Em Out
    The Prodigy / Orbital – Omen / The Box
    Estelle ft. Kanye West / FSG – American Boy / Remix
    2Pac ft. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman / FSG – California Love Remix / Remix
    Adamski / Tiësto – Killer / Remix
    A-Trak / FSG – Say Whoa / Remix
    Deadmau5 & Kaskade / FSG – I Remember / Remix
    Deadmau5 & Kaskade / FSG – Move For Me / Remix
    DJ Qbert / DJ Qbert – Super Battle Breaks / Remix
    Gorillaz ft. Mos Def & Bobby Womack / FSG – Stylo / Remix
    House Of Pain / FSG – Jump Around / Remix
    Justice / DJ A-Trak – D.A.N.C.E. / Remix
    Lady Gaga / Tiësto – Bad Romance / Remix
    New Boyz / FSG – You’re A Jerk / Remix
    Newcleus / DJ Qbert – Jam On It / Remix
    Sam Cooke / FSG – Chain Gang / Remix
    Sparfunk & D-Code / FSG – Apocalypse / Remix
    The Chemical Brothers / The Scratch Perverts – Galvanize / Remix
    The Notorious B.I.G. ft Mase & Diddy / FSG – Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems / Remix
    The Prodigy / FSG – Firestarter / Remix
    Tiësto vs Diplo / FSG – Come On / Remix
    BlakRoc ft. Pharaohe Monch & RZA / FSG – Dollaz & Sense / Remix

    Comment posted on 25/10/2010 at 14:48.
  7. Peco
    Member
    Since: Oct 2010

    Mau5 in the house? Looks superb.

    Comment posted on 25/10/2010 at 15:35.
    • EntitledToOpinion
      Member
      Since: Jun 2010

      Cannot wait!!
      Actually thats not accurate. If I’ve learned anything from having bought the first it would be to not buy the bundle at top whack and wait just a month or so for supermarket wars. Half price baby, frik-frik-Yeeeaaaah Boooiiiii.

      Comment posted on 25/10/2010 at 16:04.

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