Review: DJ Hero 2
Last year, the team at Freestyle games and Activision brought something entirely new to the rhythm genre. While most were unsure on how exactly it would work, when it was finally released, DJ Hero managed to turn everyone and especially critics into believers. And while most of the feedback was positive, sales didn’t exactly reflect that same sentiment.
Compared to most videogame sales (most is the key word here kids), DJ Hero actually did pretty well. But when you’re the king of selling games (Activision), just ok sometimes isn’t good enough, and the fate of the franchise at one point seemed up in the air. Luckily enough, it didn’t stop them from making a sequel. Read on to find out how that sequel had my avatar fist pumping (a-la Jersey Shore) and me dancing on my sofa.
The first things you’ll notice immediately when you boot up DJ Hero 2 for the 1st time are the instantly recognizable songs and tracks. Personally, there’s nothing better than having tracks that are currently playing on the radio, because as I stated in a previous rhythm game review, there’s nothing worse than old tracks that are no longer relevant.
One of the welcomed changes is the game’s campaign, which is now called “empire” mode. Last year’s campaign seemed well… kind of a bore, actually. Now to progress through the story mode, you have to build your empire by making people dance all over the world. Your journey takes you from playing at small venues in Ibiza to selling out shows in Vegas, and beyond.
You play as one of the already created characters in the game, but you do get to play dress up a bit as you make progress in “empire” mode. The unlockable stuff includes everything from new threads, headphones (Dr. Dre Beats of course) and different turntables. On the 360 you also have the option to play as your Xbox LIVE Avatar. Unfortunately, you can’t dress the avatar with all the cool stuff you unlock. However, as I said earlier, there is no better feeling I think than watching your avatar fist pumping. If you play on the 360, this is definitely the way to go.
One of the biggest additions to this year’s game was its heavy influence on real life chart topping DJ’s. Since E3, we all knew that “legendary” DJ’s like Tiesto, David Guetta, and Deadmau5 would all make it into DJ Hero 2; we just didn’t know what their roles were going to be. I too was drawing a blank, and that was until I made my second stop in London. However, instead of seeing the usual track selection menu, I was instantly thrust into the shoes of David Guetta.
So for a 3 track set list, you’re no longer the new guy. You play as a world renowned DJ with a sold out crowd… and it is awesome. It’s a clever way to present it, and I think no rhythm game, to my knowledge, has done before. They give you a taste of what it’s like at the top and it makes you want to get there even more.
What adds even more icing to the DJ cake is that all of these DJ’s have been recreated in the game with dead-on accuracy. Their faces (or giant mouse face in the case of Deadmau5) look so good that it’s almost scary. Having seen all 3 of the aforementioned DJ’s in person, I can say with confidence that even their movements are spot on as well; putting all of those things together make the moment or experience of feeling like Tiesto, Guetta, or Deadmau5 that much better.
One of the biggest complaints from the original title has been addressed for the most part. Last year, what bothered most players was the fact that even though the ability to scratch and cross fade was there, it was still set on a pre-determined mix of a track. You had pretty much no control over how the song was played back, and it eventually turned into a memory game.
I know and understand why the creative restriction is there, but thankfully this year it doesn’t hurt as much. What FreestyleGames has done to remedy the issue is allowing you to express your inner DJ by giving you areas within the track to do well… whatever the hell you please.
With the introduction of freestyle crossfading and freestyle scratching, you have the potential of making songs sound completely different every time you play them. With the crossfading, you have the ability to switch between tracks completely; lending a distinct sound to every mix. With scratching, you’re provided with segments throughout the track where you can scratch to your heart’s content. This is where I figured out that not only does your turntable measure the speed of your scratches, but also the lengths and timing as well.
Multiplayer is back with a vengeance. This time around you have the option to play with two more friends. One player can use a 2nd turntable and another player on vocals. Made famous by the Guitar Hero series, Party Play mode is also present and it allows other players to jump in and out without affecting the person who’s already playing. It’s worked before and it works here just as well.
What would be a good multiplayer component without some head-to-head action? Well it’s here in the game’s battle mode. Whether it is on split-screen or online, players can either choose individual tracks or whole set lists to battle on. For battles, tracks are broken down into checkpoints where players compete on accuracy, timing and style. Checkpoints are tallied off and at the end of the track whoever won the most checkpoints wins.
There are also checkpoint battles throughout the game’s “empire” mode as well where, instead of throwing down with actual people, you go up against all the world’s greatest DJs. It’s cool because they almost seem like boss battles when you reach the end of playing each location.
Visually the game doesn’t look that much different than its predecessor. There’s only so much that can be done in that department, especially when you consider how the gameplay is altogether different from any other rhythm title out there. One thing that I noticed was plenty of new animations and camera angles, but as far as a graphical improvement, I couldn’t really say that there was any.
The sound in DJ Hero 2, as it should be in any music game, is top notch. The game obviously sports master tracks that sound better than you’ve ever heard them. Combined with a great sound field with plenty of bass, don’t be surprised if your subwoofer leaves you love notes under your pillow. And as I mentioned earlier, as far as a track list is concerned, DJ Hero 2 probably has the best (out of the box) track lists in the rhythm game genre.
As someone who normally throws “Hero” games under the bus for being cheap with tracks on disc, DJ Hero 2 has made me change my tune completely. It’s a very rare occasion in gaming, not just rhythm games, but in general that a sequel can reach and surpass the goals set by the game that came before it. That is exactly what FreestyleGames has achieved here. If you’re a fan of the rhythm games you need DJ Hero 2 in your collection. If you’re a fan of great music, again, you need this in your collection. If you’re on the fence when it comes to music games, you need to – just kidding, but you really should give this game a good look because, like me, you may be pleasantly surprised with what you find.
- Title: DJ Hero 2
- Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
- Developer: FreeStyleGames
- Publisher: Activision
- MSRP: Varies
- $59.99 (Stand Alone)
- $99.99 (Software and Turntable Controller) – “Bundle”
- $149.99 (Two Turntable Controllers, Microphone and Software) – “Party Bundle”
- Release Date: Available Now
- Review Copy Info: A “Party Bundle” was provided to DualShockers Inc, by the publisher for purposes of this review