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    DJ Hero

    Game » consists of 21 releases. Released Oct 27, 2009

    FreeStyleGames' DJ Hero uses a turntable controller to bring Guitar Hero-like gameplay to more genres and styles of music.

    mrkart's DJ Hero (Xbox 360) review

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    A Scratching Good Time, or a Lackluster Mix?

    Bursting into what is already one of the most oversaturated genres of the generation, DJ Hero attempts to innovate music games while renovating an already clichéd formula. The result is an unexpected menagerie of exciting new potential and a recalling of what once made the genre so addicting and unique in the first place.

    As the initial cinematic sequences start, the initial reaction is one of a “here we go again” approach—the same cartoonish figures and awkward transition cuts present in the more recent Guitar Hero games are here again, albeit with a bit more urban

    The sleek Renegade edition of the controller.
    The sleek Renegade edition of the controller.

     theme. As the required tutorial boots up, that “here we go again” feeling certainly doesn’t leave, as you are taught the basics of DJ Hero’s gameplay, which will at first bear an uncanny resemblance to the Guitar Hero games. Colored fret buttons are pushed down to gain points as notes cross the bottom of the screen, and a star power mimicking “Euphoria” button that doubles your score as you play perfect sections all contribute to the ultimate goal: earning stars based on your performance to unlock new songs, setlists, characters, and venues.

    But this is where the similarities begin to come to an end, as DJ Hero begins to craft a highly unique method of gameplay that create a type of depth not seen in other rhythm games. The included turnstile controller includes a record platter that can be spun forward and backward, simulating required “scratches” that go from numbingly easy on the early difficulties to excessively brutal on expert, as you are at times required to scratch the turnstile in the same direction in rapid successions, requiring a technique that rivals that of “tapping” from the Guitar Hero games.

    Also included is a fader, a small tab that is pushed left or right when the note highways begin to sway from their middle path. Its inclusion allows for a much more involved experience, as both of your hands will be required to work in unison with each other. From a hardware standpoint, however, the fader is somewhat fragile, and a very finite “click” at neutral is the only thing prohibiting you from accidentally shoving it too far back in one direction. While it’s forgivable on the earlier difficulties, it can become quite a hassle when you begin spiking it rapidly on Hard and Expert.

    DJ Hero’s biggest asset to its gameplay, however, arrives in its “play as you will” approach. While Guitar Hero and Rock Band have relied solely on the whammy bar, DJ Hero presents several options that not only can contribute to your score, but can

    Yeeeeaaahhhh boyyyeee!!
    Yeeeeaaahhhh boyyyeee!!

    also make the game feel much more personal. An effects switch can be turned to fade or boost vocals, instruments, or both in certain segments, and can also be used in conjunction with the platter to create various preselected vocalizations and noises. The results are a bit comical, as the majority of these sections result in an awkward urban street brawler shouting “Check this out!” repeatedly, but they do add some personality to the mixes.

    The final addition is the use of a rewind feature, which can be triggered by spinning the record backward. This allows you to replay a section of the song with a doubled score multiplier, but acts as a double-edged sword at times by carrying the possibility of still breaking your current note streak. It all blends together to be an experience that thrives on the sum of its parts—the relationship between gamer and DJ feels far less muddled and obscured than the relationship between gamer and, say, guitarist. There’s never a feeling of disconnection between what you’re doing on the turntable and what you’re doing and hearing in the game, and while that line has become one of ridicule and mockery in the world of plastic guitars, it actually becomes one of creation and excitement here. It’s all helped by the game’s “forgive and punish” system. Missing notes and scratches never completely cuts out the music, and you can never fail out of a song by performing badly. You can only earn low numbers of stars, but in a game that is designed by a linear progression of unlocking new items based on your performances, you ultimately become the master of your own trades, weighing the costs and benefits of trying to tackle the higher difficulties.

    The driving force of music games though is unquestionably the soundtrack, and DJ Hero pulls away a winner once again. There are 94 music mixes of more than 100 officially licensed hip-hop, rap, rock, and techno songs, though several mixes repeat several songs. All of the mixes were crafted by professional DJs, and it shows: every mix is met with the highest production value and integrates appropriate scratches and fades to match the gameplay style. At times, some of the reinterpretations begin to become a stretch, with the tracks by Queen really standing out, and the ability to use a guitar controller to play along with the DJ on some of the songs feels entirely tacked on and not fleshed out at all, though one must appreciate its inclusion in the first place. If you’re a fan of hip-hop and rap music, you will undoubtedly revel in the wonderful setlist, but even the most uptight of music aficionados will find multiple mixes that will certainly make a foot tap or two.

    And that’s the ultimate drive of DJ Hero: creating an incredible musical experience. Behind the note scrolling are visual light cues and dancing crowds that, while occasionally out of sync, create that “underground club” vibe the game is certainly looking to achieve. Textures and poster covers pop with immensely vibrant colors as the entire game begins to create a “graffiti” style presentation to it. A bit of that magic is lost, though, in the lackluster character models and poor customization options in on-screen turntables, as well as the fact that there are very few venues to play in, though they all look the same anyway. This ultimately feels a lot like what the first Guitar Hero felt like—a wonderfully sought out and ambitious gameplay that is somewhat clouded by a lack of major features. There’s no story and very little context—you’ll find yourself just playing a setlist, achieving stars, unlocking another setlist and perhaps a new character or two, and then repeating the process over again. That’s not to say that a game like this needs a lot of fancy features to be great, but the guitar integration tease makes us think that perhaps a little more could have gone in to give DJ Hero that little something extra that pushes it beyond just a fun gameplay experience.

    One of these things is just like the other...
    One of these things is just like the other...

    A decent online head-to-head mode and a co-op mode both round out the mix, but both modes have players playing the exact same portions of each mix, providing little to no distinction from the single player campaign. DJ Hero is, ultimately, a single-player gameplay experience first and foremost. Not only does its music make it a great alternative to traditional CD players while hosting parties, but it also provides an experience that feels strikingly like what its attempting to mimic: actually being a DJ. The series certainly has a long way to go in perfecting that feeling, as well as expanding the package to being something much more than just a linear experience, but for the time being, DJ Hero has managed to mix new life into a genre that has been in desperate need of a makeover. We can only hope now that by the time the full package comes together, we won’t be demanding something entirely new once again.

     On the Positive Side:

    + Gameplay that reinvents while retaining what works.
    + Hip-hop never sounded this good.
    + No Soulja Boy.

    On the Negative Side:

    - Linear focus.
    - Flirts with ideas that don’t reach full potential.
    - No Soulja Boy.

    Gameplay: 9.5/10 





    Replay Value:

    Value: 8.5/10 

    Final Score: 9/10

    Other reviews for DJ Hero (Xbox 360)

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      And now for something... Different (in music games) 0

      When I first saw DJ Hero, I was not really looking forward to the game. I am not really into the music (or so I thought) and I figured it was just a "cash-in" game riding the coat tails of Guitar Hero and the like.   After seeing the gameplay videos, it really looked like a lot of fun and I was getting tired of Rock Band. I have put way too many hours into Rock Band and I was in need of something different and I went ahead, drank the Kool Aid, and put down for a pre-order of DJ Hero.  In additio...

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