Giant Bomb News

55 Comments

The Science of DJ Hero

We're of the firm mind that you'll need to see and play DJ Hero for yourself for it to finally make sense, but our interview with Chris Lee should help you learn more about FreeStyleGames' upcoming release.

  

 
When DJ Hero was first announced, it seemed like a bad idea. Applying the Guitar Hero tactics to what was, at the time, sounding a lot like a hip-hop-focused game just didn't sound like a great fit. Sure, you'd get a popular genre of music into video games, but, really, how many modern rap tracks even have a turntable in them? When renders of the game's controller were released, the idea looked even worse. Buttons on the turntable? It looked like some kind of horrific toy. The whole thing looked like a cash-in. But still... I couldn't help but find the whole thing at least a little intriguing.

You'll be able to use these guys as playable characters. 
Hearing that it'd be focused on both hip-hop and dance music made it start sounding interesting. As a fan of the music, it's been rough seeing it go so underrepresented in rhythm gaming. Adding insult to injury, most of the attempts have been pretty bad. But more than just wanting this style of music to get its due, seeing the game in motion made the whole thing click. For me, that happened back at E3, where I got to see the game played in front of me and get a sense of what, exactly, you'd be doing in the game. You can watch the video I shot of this demo, if you like.

After seeing it in motion, I was pretty much on-board. The game seemed like much more than a simple Guitar Hero clone, and the folks working on the game seemed like they were going after some really solid music. Plus, the concept of mashing up two dissimilar songs (which has sort of been played out) ends up working a lot better when the mixes are actually made from the masters, rather than just bootleg DJs with instrumentals and acapellas. This means the tracks can get more complicated than you might think. No one's just dropping Beyonce vocals over Nirvana instrumentals here, these are all proper mixes, with plenty of cuts back and forth between the records and other things that make them more interesting, both from a listening and a gameplay perspective. But since I hadn't played it for myself, there were still a few question marks. I got a chance to play a final version of the game at an event last week, and came away impressed.

I'm impressed with the way the game eases you into the action. Working the turntable and the crossfader in DJ Hero feels very different than slinging a guitar controller over your neck and slapping out a few notes does. There's a lot going on, and a lot for you to keep track of. So it's incredibly smart that the game's tutorial takes things step-by-step, working you through the basics and getting you up to the advanced features. The tutorial, narrated by Grandmaster Flash, is a must for anyone looking to get the most out of the game, and you won't get very far without at least some kind of instructions, be it from the game or from a friend who already knows what's up. From there, you can dive into the music at one of several difficulty settings. While the easy mode is incredibly simple, it's also so stripped down that I can't really imagine anyone having fun with it. After completing the tutorial, I dove directly into medium, which employs the crossfader, all three buttons on the turntable, and, of course, the turntable itself. It's a good medium, letting you use all of the features of the controller while still acting lenient enough to keep you from getting savaged on your first few times out.

The tutorial is a must for making all this stuff make any sense. 
But hard and expert is where the game really starts to get exciting, mostly because of the way scratching changes at higher difficulty settings. On medium, the scratching is really indiscriminate--as long as you're holding down the right button and rubbing the record, you're good. But the scratches get directional and more realistic on the higher settings. So arrows on the scratch markers let you know when and how to move the record, which more closely matches the music than the medium difficulty. I managed to get two stars on a song on expert... it's definitely no pushover, but it also doesn't seem totally out of reach, either. You don't really need to worry about failing, either. The game is in some kind of permanent no-fail mode, so the music never stops... of course, if you aren't doing well, you aren't earning stars, so you aren't going to make progress in the game's career mode if you don't play well.

The game groups songs into tiers, sort of like Guitar Hero. But instead of having you play through each song one at a time, the tiers in DJ Hero work as a setlist that you play in one sitting, one after the next. It would have been pretty cool if the tracks blended into each other, but instead there's a brief pause between songs. If you tire of the game's preset tiers, you can also create your own sets.

On top of all that, the game looks really nice. But you can watch some gameplay videos to get a feel for that. The most important thing is that once you give DJ Hero a try, it all falls into place and quickly becomes a ton of fun. Now I'm just curious to know if the fun lasts... but we'll have to wait for review time before we can figure that out. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
55 Comments
  • 55 results
  • 1
  • 2
Posted by Jeff

  

 
When DJ Hero was first announced, it seemed like a bad idea. Applying the Guitar Hero tactics to what was, at the time, sounding a lot like a hip-hop-focused game just didn't sound like a great fit. Sure, you'd get a popular genre of music into video games, but, really, how many modern rap tracks even have a turntable in them? When renders of the game's controller were released, the idea looked even worse. Buttons on the turntable? It looked like some kind of horrific toy. The whole thing looked like a cash-in. But still... I couldn't help but find the whole thing at least a little intriguing.

You'll be able to use these guys as playable characters. 
Hearing that it'd be focused on both hip-hop and dance music made it start sounding interesting. As a fan of the music, it's been rough seeing it go so underrepresented in rhythm gaming. Adding insult to injury, most of the attempts have been pretty bad. But more than just wanting this style of music to get its due, seeing the game in motion made the whole thing click. For me, that happened back at E3, where I got to see the game played in front of me and get a sense of what, exactly, you'd be doing in the game. You can watch the video I shot of this demo, if you like.

After seeing it in motion, I was pretty much on-board. The game seemed like much more than a simple Guitar Hero clone, and the folks working on the game seemed like they were going after some really solid music. Plus, the concept of mashing up two dissimilar songs (which has sort of been played out) ends up working a lot better when the mixes are actually made from the masters, rather than just bootleg DJs with instrumentals and acapellas. This means the tracks can get more complicated than you might think. No one's just dropping Beyonce vocals over Nirvana instrumentals here, these are all proper mixes, with plenty of cuts back and forth between the records and other things that make them more interesting, both from a listening and a gameplay perspective. But since I hadn't played it for myself, there were still a few question marks. I got a chance to play a final version of the game at an event last week, and came away impressed.

I'm impressed with the way the game eases you into the action. Working the turntable and the crossfader in DJ Hero feels very different than slinging a guitar controller over your neck and slapping out a few notes does. There's a lot going on, and a lot for you to keep track of. So it's incredibly smart that the game's tutorial takes things step-by-step, working you through the basics and getting you up to the advanced features. The tutorial, narrated by Grandmaster Flash, is a must for anyone looking to get the most out of the game, and you won't get very far without at least some kind of instructions, be it from the game or from a friend who already knows what's up. From there, you can dive into the music at one of several difficulty settings. While the easy mode is incredibly simple, it's also so stripped down that I can't really imagine anyone having fun with it. After completing the tutorial, I dove directly into medium, which employs the crossfader, all three buttons on the turntable, and, of course, the turntable itself. It's a good medium, letting you use all of the features of the controller while still acting lenient enough to keep you from getting savaged on your first few times out.

The tutorial is a must for making all this stuff make any sense. 
But hard and expert is where the game really starts to get exciting, mostly because of the way scratching changes at higher difficulty settings. On medium, the scratching is really indiscriminate--as long as you're holding down the right button and rubbing the record, you're good. But the scratches get directional and more realistic on the higher settings. So arrows on the scratch markers let you know when and how to move the record, which more closely matches the music than the medium difficulty. I managed to get two stars on a song on expert... it's definitely no pushover, but it also doesn't seem totally out of reach, either. You don't really need to worry about failing, either. The game is in some kind of permanent no-fail mode, so the music never stops... of course, if you aren't doing well, you aren't earning stars, so you aren't going to make progress in the game's career mode if you don't play well.

The game groups songs into tiers, sort of like Guitar Hero. But instead of having you play through each song one at a time, the tiers in DJ Hero work as a setlist that you play in one sitting, one after the next. It would have been pretty cool if the tracks blended into each other, but instead there's a brief pause between songs. If you tire of the game's preset tiers, you can also create your own sets.

On top of all that, the game looks really nice. But you can watch some gameplay videos to get a feel for that. The most important thing is that once you give DJ Hero a try, it all falls into place and quickly becomes a ton of fun. Now I'm just curious to know if the fun lasts... but we'll have to wait for review time before we can figure that out.
Staff
Edited by Tiwi

 Grandmaster Flash and daft punk is in this game! *cries a single tear of happiness* 
 
Edit: OMG that's the screw attack dude!

Posted by mustachioeugene

Daft Punk, Scratch Perverts, Z-trip... I am only more and more excited for this one.   
 
first and foremost, I must clear space for more plastic junk.

Posted by OmegaPirate

No- please =( no 
 
I cant afford this, theres no more room in my gamerden for plasic instruments 
 
stop making this seem awesome 
 
PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESE

Posted by nanikore

I still don't understand the hype over this game. It's Guitar Hero with a table and some knobs. Fun.

Posted by Sanj

The coverage on GB has certainly peaked my interest in this game...alot. The fact that you can remix tunes is great and the artists featured like Jay Z and Daft Punk definitely make it all the more awesome.
  
This may be my first ever rhythm game!
Posted by Slim

i'm beginning to come around on this game, i'll have to try it out at least

Posted by Tortoise

Day 1 DLC is the best kind of DLC.

Edited by Milkman
@nanikore said:

" I still don't understand the hype over this game. It's Guitar Hero with a table and some knobs. Fun. "

Except it's not at all....?
 
By the way, awesome 8 bit remix of my plan.
Online
Posted by nrain

LOL stuttering craig from screwattack in a giant bomb vid too good :)
Edited by Xymox

Glancing through the track list, it's pretty clear that this is not a game for me. 
However, I hope it sells well. Because I would really like to see DJ Hero Encore: Spins the 80's. 

Posted by mdock

I guess I've warmed up to the idea, but the the tracks and their mash-ups have me worried.  How does the crossfader feel?

Posted by nanikore
@Milkman: Except it is.
Posted by get2sammyb
@mustachioeugene said:
" Daft Punk, Scratch Perverts, Z-trip... I am only more and more excited for this one.     first and foremost, I must clear space for more plastic junk. "
You're not the only one. Had this game preordered for a while now. Sure it's a bit expensive, but as someone who has only just been able to get into the whole Guitar Hero/Rock Band craze (with The Beatles Rock Band) because I hated the music previous iterations promoted, I'm so all over this.
 
Simple analogy: the way the "rockers" feel about DJ Hero, is how I feel about Guitar Hero of old. Just doesn't connect with me. This however, is looking like having one bad ass setlist. Can't wait for it to be delivered.
 
Great piece Jeff.
Posted by Milkman
@nanikore said:
" @Milkman: Except it is. "
The guitar controllers and the turntable controllers are completely different. So, no, it's not. The only thing that is at all similar is that it uses the same buttons and the word "Hero".
Online
Posted by stinky
@nrain: yeah i spotted that too. 
Edited by Almeida69

I WANT PRODIGY IN THERE!!!
 
GO CRAIG!!!!!!!

Posted by get2sammyb
@Almeida69 said:
" I WANT PRODIGY IN THERE!!! "
That would be awesome yes. Any word on that?
 
I'd like to see a lot more from the Hed Kandi tier of tunes, I appreciate it's massively commercial club music here in Europe -- but who doesn't like funky house? Really?
Posted by Kraznor

Cool, nice to know there are plans for DLC as its pretty much just Daft Punk and DJ Shadow for me thus far. Certainly heard of some other artists in the game but never really cared about them. I would totally pay money for playable Justice...maybe some MSTRKRFT, Bloody Beetroots, Simian Mobile Disco, SebastiAn and to a (much) lesser extent, Boys Noize. Activision may well have another cash cow on their hands. Hope they don't abuse it like they did with Guitar Hero.

Posted by get2sammyb
@Kraznor said:
" Cool, nice to know there are plans for DLC as its pretty much just Daft Punk and DJ Shadow for me thus far. Certainly heard of some other artists in the game but never really cared about them. I would totally pay money for playable Justice...maybe some MSTRKRFT, Bloody Beetroots, Simian Mobile Disco, SebastiAn and to a (much) lesser extent, Boys Noize. Activision may well have another cash cow on their hands. Hope they don't abuse it like they did with Guitar Hero. "
If it sells, that is pretty much guaranteed.
Posted by Reverseface

Looking smoooooooooooooooth
Posted by WitchHunter_Z

I'm neither a fan of music games or this type of music [bar Daft Punk], so I won't be picking this up; but the controller concept seems interesting and I'd like to see exactly how this works myself.

Posted by morningthief

Pixelated Xavier de Rosnay please.

Posted by tranquilchaos

I hear some Midnight Brown in that there video...  
 
"Programmed to kill? Check..."

Posted by addictedtopinescent

Looks sweet, Im getting this for sure

Posted by MrMiyagi

Don't know if want.

Posted by Imperial_ninjA

did i just see screwattack man

Posted by Sifugamer

Jeff could barely contain his excitment
Posted by Afroman269

The game actually looks promising but dropping $120 on this is too much in my opinion. I'll wait for a price drop.

Posted by coonce

great interview! super excited for this game.

Edited by megalowho

It's clear in this article that DJ Hero has left an impression on Jeff, but even after reading positive impressions I just can't get excited for this game. The price, another chunk of plastic in my living room, no multiplayer fun, a hit or miss setlist, Activision being evil... it all adds up to an experience I just don't want to be bothered with during a time of year when I'm already planning on picking up 6-8 $60 titles anyway. They'll be taking up enough of my free time as it stands. 
 
Of course I haven't actually played it, and maybe playing is believing - but even if this is the Next Big Thing in music games, I can wait until next year to give it a proper go.

Posted by Zaapp1

Dude looks like Vinny with a wig.

Posted by JoelTGM

I've ignored this game up until now, and after watching this I'm actually excited for it.  Ugh, I really don't need more plastic instruments though lol...

Posted by Gamer_152

I must say when I first heard the concept and saw the game I thought it looked like a horrible mess and the type of music in the game is definitely not my thing. But I still have to hand it to the creators of the game, this is a very clever style of control.

Moderator
Posted by AlexB

Lol @ Stuttering Craig.

Posted by cmac2099

Stutterring Craig on the 1s and 2s!

Posted by Gregomasta

Chris Lee is dreamy.

Posted by MaddProdigy

woooottt i can burn those extra 16 and 1/2 plastic controllers!!!!
so stoked for this game. the special edition with silver case and all isn't gonna happen, but i'll for sure be pickin up the basic package

Posted by SoothsayerGB

This site is getting more and more pro.  Liking your direction a lot.

Posted by SoothsayerGB

Yeah, loving this video.

Posted by Jerr

this actually looks pretty sick. ive been looking for a guitar hero/rock band alternative for a while (or wishing for one rather)

Posted by gunslingerNZ

Man this game could have been good but you just look so damn goofy playing it. I think the problem is how little it seems you have to do. Watching Jeff play he seems to be doing barely anything with his hands and Brad was doing even less...
 
Also mash ups are just awful, the only redeeming factor is Daft Punk but that's not enough to make it a purchase.

Posted by jonnyboy

I still want this game. Cant help thinking the UK is gonna get it in the arse when it comes to pricing/demoing this though. That seems to be the Acti-EA routine.

Posted by simian

It's all about the journey which is the journey of which we want to journey on.

Posted by Hoffer

I've had this game on preorder from Amazon for a couple months.  Hearing Jeff say in the Bombcast that the standard turntable is wired and the renegade edition is wireless got me wanting that instead now.  I want that case that turns into a table.  The thing being wireless helps me justify, just a little more, the ridiculous price of the thing.
Posted by SuperJoe

Multicam?  Vinny's getting fancy

Posted by takua108
@Hoffer: I'm thinking of getting Renegade 99% because of the wireless controller. Nothing else really interests me in that bundle, but finding out that the standard controller will be wired was a huge bummer.
Posted by Berkie

 Stuttering Craig?

Posted by TeflonBilly

Stuttering Craig sighting!
 
I hope this game pulls this off cause I am wicked excited about it

Posted by TheHT
@Berkie said:
"  Stuttering Craig? "
from screwattack.com
 
good interview, i'm reasonably excited to try this thing out now.
  • 55 results
  • 1
  • 2