DJ Hero is a great break from the regular rhythm games. Presentation isn't the greatest, but gameplay is solid.
If there is one thing that you will learn from me, it is that I am a sucker for music games. For instance, I freaking hate Green Day, but the announcement of Rock Band: Green Day made me want to play the game. So it was a good bet to say that I would pick up DJ Hero from Activision and FreeStyleGames. My love of the rhythm-based gameplay allows me to play pretty much any music game -- even when I don’t enjoy the soundtrack.
DJ Hero was no different. The gameplay in DJ Hero holds up for me, though the soundtrack did not. It’s a bit of a stretch to justify paying full price for this game, but if you can find a deal (much like I did) and are a fan of rhythm games, I would suggest picking this up.
DJ Hero doesn’t have a story. When booting up the game, you are presented with a series of mixes that are playable. This makes me very happy. For me, at least, music games have been more about the experience and how you play the music rather than some convoluted story that ultimately has me in a guitar battle with the devil *cough* Guitar Hero 3 *cough*. Activision and FreeStyleGames got it right. Just let me play the game and the music.
As I said before and in a previous review, and earlier in this review, and I’ll scream it from the rooftops, music games are my thing. Currently, I can play most songs on expert when I’m playing on drums, guitar and bass. I’m not trying to toot my horn, though my apartment does tend to smell like rich mahogany.
DJ Hero was the swift kick in the rear that I need. The gameplay is immensely more difficult for me than any other music game I’ve played to date. I completed most of the mixes with an average of three stars on each song. You’d think that as the game progressed, I’d get used to the controls, and start improving. No dice. I ended up being even less successful in the later sets, with an average of one or two stars per song.
Sometimes, difficulty can be a huge turn-off. For instance, I know that I vented ad nauseum about the frustrating difficulty in Left 4 Dead 2. But I feel that difficulty is a good thing for the music genre. Music is something that needs practice and playing games with have a higher difficulty motivate players to continue to pursue perfection.
The DJ Hero peripheral is probably the most solid music game instrument I've used.
Of course with the $129.99 price point, you get the game and the turntable peripheral. In the past, the iteration of any music game series seems to come with controls that are a bit sketchy. My first Rock Band set was plagued by broken foot pedals. The Guitar Hero: World Tour drum sets were so un-sensitive that it was unplayable. However, the DJ Hero turntable worked perfectly once I pulled it out of the box. It is built very well. The turntable itself spins perfectly and records the scratches well. If there was one complaint that I could make about the turntable, it’s that the crossfader is very sensitive. I would have liked to see it snap in the middle position.
No doubt about it, the graphics in DJ Hero are ugly. That’s pretty much it – bad graphics are a standard complaint in the music game genre, and it’s no different here. Although there are several different locations and character models, the graphics tend to become more distracting than anything else.
SOOOO MANY LIGHTS!
Music gamers were very spoiled with The Beatles Rock Band; Harmonix made a music game that stands out amazingly in the graphics department. But DJ Hero goes right back to the norm. Thankfully, many rhythm gamers tend not to focus on the graphical areas of their games, as they are too busy attempting to hit the right notes.
A positive side for the graphics is that gamers truly feel that they are spinning in a packed club. Lights flash, random scantily clad women dance on stage. In my personal opinion, I never really liked the style or look of the DJ scene (if you can call it that), but at least the visuals in DJ Hero feel authentic, from what I can assume.
Much like every other rhythm game, the music is where the focus is. DJ Hero is an interesting departure from what many rhythm gamers are used to playing at their homes, as all the songs in the game are original mixes created solely for the game. The game is full of incredible mixes and remixes. Songs like Rihanna’s “Disturbia” and The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me” are mixed together precisely, giving listeners an interesting variation of music. I found myself beginning to enjoy music that I normally do not like.
I've never been a big fan of Daft Punk, but I'm warming up to that idea.
However, there are some interesting choices that Activision and FreeStyle Games decided to place in their game. For one, The Jackson Five and Third Eye Blind mix of “I Want You Back” and “Semi-Charmed Life” will forever haunt me. The sound of little Michael’s voice does not mix well with one of my fondest musical memories when I was younger. Also, several of the sound effects get very repetitive and frustrating. If I hear Flava Flav’s voice one more time… I swear I will burst into flames for no apparent reason.
All together, it’s a great selection in music and something that will definitely broaden anyone’s musical horizons.
Multiplayer is an interesting aspect of DJ Hero. The game offers gamers two choices -- turntables and a guitar controller -- of peripherals in multiplayer games. When playing with a set of turntables and the guitar, players are limited to only a handful of songs. At the time of release, this seemed like the only option, as turntables were not sold separately (they are now).
DJ Hero also offers online play where gamers can set up custom playlists and play each other. There are also Leaderboards to compare your scores with your friends. Multiplayer serves the same purpose as other rhythm games as gamers attempt to one of their friend’s DJ skills.
DJ Hero is a great departure from the normal rhythm games that we are all used to. With the amazing soundtrack that the game features and addicting gameplay, DJ Hero is great buy for any veteran rhythm gamer looking for a challenge. However, the high price may be a little steep for those looking to pick this up as their entry to the rhythm gaming genre.
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Released: October 27, 2009
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
Also available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii