previews\ Oct 7, 2009 at 8:00 pm

DJ Hero - 360 - Preview 2

With the rhythm game genre beginning to dwindle in popularity, it's pretty easy to see that gamers are getting a little tired of the same old band mechanics. While there are some die-hards out there who run to pick up every little spin-off the Rock Band or Guitar Hero franchise (myself included), it's safe to say that the genre has hit a plateau since the introduction of full bands. Luckily, Activision and developer Freestyle Games are looking to stir things up a bit with their upcoming game, DJ Hero. Featuring a huge setlist with a great blend of electronica artists, rappers, and pop stars, DJ Hero gives players a chance to try their hands at spinning records and creating mixes courtesy of a new DJ controller. GameZone recently received a demo build of the game along with the controller, and took it out for a spin (pun intended). The game was both challenging and intuitive, which is a fine recipe for an entry to the genre.

The demo build features four songs total, three for the solo DJ portion of the game, and one for DJ Controller/Guitar co-op. Additionally, Expert mode was disabled in the preview, but that wasn't too big of an issue since Hard mode was quite challenging on its own. The three mixes in the demo were pretty good mash-ups of artists like Rick James, Gwen Stefani, Black Eyed Peas, and the Gorillas that help to acclimate you into the gameplay.

The game's difficulty level is pretty high going in, but the controller and highway interface is quite intuitive and never feels overly complex. The basic gameplay as a general appearance of other Activision rhythm games, requiring you to perform specific actions as they hit the bottom of the note highway. There are three buttons on the turntable section, which you push at certain times for solid notes, or hold down for scratching portions. The green button on the very left represents on track, while the blue represents the other song in the mix, with the red button in the middle being used for samples. As you do well in a mix, you'll unlock a rewind function that lets you spin your turntable back in order to redo a section for a higher score.

On the other half of the controller is the crossfader, the euphoria button (similar to star power in the Guitar Hero games) and an effects changer. The crossfader is used more heavily than the other buttons on this side of the controller, as the mixes require you to switch between the green and blue tracks at different points. The effects changer selects between a grouping of preset samples that the player can use during specific red sections of the highway. The layout is quite simple, but the challenge comes from trying to balance all of these elements together, which is difficult. However, anyone who's slightly familiar with DJing should find this to be a pretty natural setup.

The guitar/DJ mix is pretty much what you'd expect. One player controls the DJ controller, performing the same crossfading, sampling, scratching functions as the regular game, while another player uses a Guitar Hero controller to play along to the other part of the track. The guitar/DJ mix in the demo was Beastie Boys - Sabotage vs. Foo Fighters - Monkey Wrench, with the DJ mixing Sabotage and the guitar player hammering out the notes to Monkey Wrench. The note layout for the guitar was just like that in Guitar Hero, meaning that fans of that game will feel right at home with these tracks.

Graphically, the game looks pretty solid, and on track with other games in the "Hero" lineup. The preview build only had two playable DJ characters and one venue, but the look was good and featured some nice lighting and color features and felt like a club environment.

While the demo was pretty short, it did give us a great taste of what DJ Hero has to offer, namely a unique take on the rhythm game genre, and an addicting and challenging one at that. Keep an eye out for it

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