reviews\ Nov 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm

DJ Hero - PS3 - Review

Though the music game genre has been selling like gangbusters since Activision introduced the first Guitar Hero game a few years back, it can be easily surmised that the genre has recently hit a plateau. It seems that the two prominent entries in the genre, the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises, have only received modest improvements over their predecessors. After the introduction of a full band mechanic, allowing for drummers, singers, and guitarists to all play together, it’s hard to say where the genre could feasibly go from there.

Luckily, Activision has made some excellent strides to bring the genre into a whole new direction with their latest, DJ Hero. DJ Hero finally brings the field of DJ culture and electronic music to the fray, offering up challenging and intuitive gameplay, a great new controller, and one of the best and most original soundtracks ever to hit a music-based game. If you’re at all interested in electronic music, then DJ Hero is definitely worth your time.

At its core, DJ Hero plays out a lot like the Guitar Hero franchise. The game features a note highway that moves down the screen, and you must perform the corresponding actions when the notes hit the bottom of the screen, matching up with the music. There are some basic features that DJ Hero shares with Guitar Hero. The turntable controller features three colored buttons that you have to tap in order to produce certain sounds, and a “Euphoria” button that activates a “Star Power” of sorts, doubling your multiplier (and automating crossfades, but more on those in a bit). The game’s tracks are divided into themed setlists of a few songs, and new setlists are unlocked by earning stars in other songs.

The areas where DJ Hero stands out are scratching and crossfading. In order to scratch, you have to hold down the right button on the platter and push it forward and backward. While up to Medium difficulty you’ll only have to move the platter back and forth during the note streaks, once you get to Hard or Expert, you’ll have to push the platter in specific directions and with a certain speed during some scratching portions.

The other key difference is crossfading. At times, one of the three individual tracks of the mash-up will shift to just one song, requiring you to push the cross-fader left or right. These crossfades also get more complex as you go up in difficulty, with some songs featuring quick spikes, where you push the crossfader to the left or right in a quick snap and then back to the middle, as well as combinations of scratching and crossfading at the same time. Generally, the game is pretty difficult to get into at first, but it also features a robust tutorial hosted by Grandmaster Flash, and feels very intuitive once you know what you’re doing.

There is also an effects knob that will change your samples. This element lets you put your own personal touch on the mix, injecting a sample into the track at specific points by pressing the red button in the middle. Additionally, you can use the knob at certain points of the song to manipulate the track, which is also a cool touch to let you put your own spin on the mix (no pun intended).

DJ Hero boasts a very impressive line-up from a wide array of artists. The track list was created with the support of a variety of well-known DJs, including Daft Punk, DJ Shadow, and the late DJ AM, was actively involved in the game’s development prior to his death in August. The game features original mash-ups of artists like Blondie, The Black Eyed Peas, Justice, Eric Prydz, Daft Punk, Eminem, Jay-Z, The Killers; the list goes on and on. The mash-ups are fantastic, boasting professional quality, and are would be great even outside of the context of the game. Additionally, some of the featured artists are unlockable characters, including the aforementioned Daft Punk, DJ Z-Trip, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and so on. The soundtrack is excellent, and if you just want to hear the music without playing the game, you have that option through Party Play.

The game’s multiplayer element is also well-conceived, allowing you to either have two turntablists battle it out with each their own platter, or do co-op with one player on the turntable and the other on a guitar for some songs. The guitar mechanic is lifted straight from Guitar Hero 5, so it should be immediately welcoming to fans of that series. Only 10 songs support the guitar feature, but those that do are pretty fun and add a nice element to the multiplayer gameplay.

Graphically, the game sports a nice look. The character models have a bit of a cartoony look to them, but also sport some nice details, as well. The environments look pretty great, with sweeping camera angles and bright lighting effectively capturing the feel of a club. The audience members are the only true sore spot, looking like pixilated cardboard cutouts.

DJ Hero is a great game, and a fantastic entry to the music game genre. It’s as original and intuitive as they come, offering proof that innovation in the genre may be down, but not out. If you are at all a fan of electronic music or just curious at how DJ’s work, then definitely check out DJ Hero.

Review Scoring Details for DJ Hero

Gameplay: 9.0
The game brings fine new elements to the music game genre, exploring a side of music that is oft-ignored by publishers. The controller feels solid, and the gameplay is a nice combination of challenge, innovation, and addictiveness.

Graphics: 8.5
The character models look pretty good, and the brightly colored environments are well implemented.

Sound: 9.5
The game boasts more than 90 original mixes, taking a variety of old fan favorites as well as recent hits, as well as some that you may have never heard before. The soundtrack is awesome if you’re a fan of mash-ups, and is one of the best to hit the music-game genre.

Difficulty: Hard

Concept: 9.0
A refreshing new take on the rhythm genre, DJ Hero is a great idea brought to fruition by a solid execution.

Multiplayer: 9.0
The co-op DJ/Guitar mechanic is nicely done, and teaming up on Xbox LIVE is easy and fun.

Overall: 9.0
DJ Hero is a great game that will challenge you and give you countless hours of entertainment. If you’re at all a fan of DJ culture, then this game is definitely for you.


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