Genre: Other Developer: Publisher: Classification: PG Release Date: 28th Oct 2009 Platforms:
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Remember way back when Guitar Hero had only just come out - before music rhythm games sat in their own genre, when they were just wedged in with Simon Says titles like Parappa the Rappa or Karaoke games like SingStar? Back then strumming along to Iron Man on Medium was not only entertaining, it was challenging. Now people pick up their new Guitar Hero or Rock Band and immediately set the difficulty to Expert - they've gotten so good Guitar Hero: Metallica included an Expert + mode, dammit.
Well no more. DJ Hero is rewinding the plate, spinning it back so to speak. Odds are good you won't be any good at DJ Hero without doing the tutorial - and this is both a curse and a blessing for the title. Clearly Activision want DJ Hero to share the lounge room with Guitar Hero - another peripheral to be dragged out when everyone is a couple of vodkas in and ready to sing/drum/air guitar. The idea is obviously to have them "scratch" as well - though obviously not at the same time (not until Guitar Hero: Linkin Park comes out, anyway).
The problem with DJ Hero is it's not a pick-up and play title like Guitar Hero has become - and even when it is, you probably won't be doing well when you're a little drunk. It's a question of learning curves - while Guitar Hero has always had a fairly natural progression from easy through to expert (or hard, if you're as bad as I am), DJ Hero essentially begins at medium. It's a side effect of the beginner mode on Guitar Hero World Tour - the difficulty where all you do is strum the bar. DJ Hero has this as well - but Easy mode is also ridiculously simple. Both beginner and Easy mode focus on just one hand, rendering them all but worthless as a tool for learning how to play DJ Hero - and also fairly terrible in terms of getting anything out of the game.
It's made more mind-boggling by the fact that you can't actually "fail" a song in DJ Hero - on any difficulty. No matter how crap you are at any part of DJ Hero, you'll always technically finish the song - you might not score any points, but you'll always get the full song experience. It's a curious gameplay choice, but it works for the game nicely - people who would often find themselves with a flashing red background (yours truly) will relax and enjoy the game more, and people won't feel pressured to hold onto their Euphoria (star power) for tough parts of the game.
The game measures success in other ways - the more stars you earn in a song the more things you unlock. As you progress through the game you'll unlock more of the 93 previously unreleased remixes the in-house and licensed DJs have created for the game - over 100 songs have been mixed for the game, and they're all really good. Even "Hollaback Girl" - the single most vile piece of "music" known to humanity - is bearable when mixed with... good songs.
So how does one actually play DJ Hero? The game combines time honored elements of Guitar Hero - pressing the right coloured buttons as they come down the screen - with some very turntable specific moves. The hand you usually use for strumming is much more active in DJ Hero - you now find yourself using it to work the crossfader and the effects dial, as well as hitting the Euphoria button. If this is all gibberish to you, fear not - it was to me as well. The crossfader controls your tracks - instead of having five tracks in DJ Hero you have three, but you use the crossfader to shift the two outside tracks across.
The effects dial is initially something you'll use as a gimmick - something you'll twist occassionally to trigger a "YEAHHHHH BOYYYYYYYYYYY" from the game for no reason - but real turntabilists (I swear it's a word) will begin to use it to tweak their scores in a way the whammy bar in Guitar Hero should have. The scratching element of the game focuses on the two outside buttons - you hold them down while you "wiki wiki" when the respective buttons are elongated (instead of being buttons). By the time you've unlocked all the songs you'll have experienced nearly every element in some sort of combination - crossfading while scratching, dial-turning while tapping, and in some cases cross fading into tapping and then scratching. On the higher difficulty levels the game scratch sequences begin to come into play - in these you're asked to scratch in specific directions, increasing the complexity immensley.
Once you've built up your multiplier by successfully hitting every beat as it comes down the track you'll earn a Rewind. Rewind is a save feature - when you mess up you can Rewind (by spinning the record back quickly) and try a section again - unfortunately it's pretty worthless. You have to be pretty good at the game to actually earn a Rewind, so you probably won't be messing up much anyway. Instead, you'll wind up using it to get more points - wait til you get to a section in a song which is worth heaps of points, successfully clear it and Rewind to play through it again for double the points.
The best way to have some idea of what you're doing in DJ Hero is to simply do it - of the people I've played the game with, everyone has worked out what they're doing before the end of their first song. The tutorial is great - it is clear and concise, and accurately demonstrates what you need to do while you're doing it. The problem with the tutorial is that you'll wind up hearing "Another One Bites The Dust" remixed with "Da Funk" almost eight times, thoroughly ruining both songs forever.
The peripheral is probably the only other thing needing a mention here. It's both good and bad - I'd worn the paint off the side of my turntable (through friction - from all the spinning and stopping) but unlike some other Hero franchise peripherals it's responsive and - most importantly - small. Those worried about their lounge room space when they already have a full Rock Band or GHWT set will be happy to know that it takes up barely any space at all. You also won't need a table to play it on - it sits nicely in your lap.
The biggest problem the game will face is the apparent complexity of
the title. Someone playing one of the later songs on just medium is doing more with their hands than most expert guitar heroes. The game isn't as complicated as it appears - once you learn the basics most people will be able to fake wiki wiki with the best of us. As a video game it's unbelievably addictive - the amazing remixes compel you to play "just one more track", while the graphics are great to look at.
My gripe with the game is that it doesn't really work as a party game - even if you pick up two turntables (or use a guitar and a turntable, which a handful of songs support) the game still isn't as active and fantastic as any guitar based game, and with the perceived complexity most people will relegate themselves to waiting for their turn and putting something else on. It's absolutely the new generation of the Hero franchise - I just don't think the general public is ready yet.