Wikkety-wikkety-wah-wah, yo DJ, pump this par-taaayyy!
With the current offers available for DJ Hero on the web (I got a copy of the Renegade version for £40!), I decided to take the plunge and see what the latest Activision “Hero” title had to offer. As a diehard fan of the “Guitar Hero” series, and after feeling distinctly let down by the “Band Hero” release last autumn, I wasn´t too sure what to expect: I am not the world’s biggest hip-hop fan, but the varied set list and interesting set up lead me to splash the cash, and get down to the serious business of becoming a virtual mixmaster. Good job I did, too: DJ Hero is not only innovative, but a good, fun offering that only gets better the more you put into it. Much like the earlier “Guitar Hero” titles, in fact.
So, first things first: it looks and sounds great. The years of subtly tweaking the formula have given DJ Hero an early leg-up, and the title carries the same level of polish we have come to expect from Activision. Slightly cartoony visuals mixed with over-the-top backdrops are the order of the day here, and everything moves beautifully: clubs are packed with revellers and dancers, and animated backdrops are specifically tailored to each individual track. The track-based system of playing is retained here, with brightly coloured symbols clearly marking out what you need to do – button presses are circles, and scratches are longer areas with arrows pointing in the direction that the platter needs to be moved for scratches.
The key ingredient, though, is the sound, and with the right set-up, DJ Hero is a belter: tracks play cleanly and clearly from a good stereo or surround system, and can be tweaked to your own tastes. The tracks themselves are great too, although at lower levels, sometimes the mixes and scratches can be a little disjointed. Moving the game to at least the Hard setting, though, and the game comes into its own: scratching corresponds to the movements you make with the controller, and you really do feel as though it is you creating the tunes. My only criticism is an over-reliance on certain key tracks: with such a varied mixture of songs, a bit more effort could have gone into creating some wider variety, and at later levels, you do feel a little as though you are re-playing the same set time and time again.
The new controller is great too: Renegade Edition gives you a nice shiny black-and-gold controller, which has the same chunky-tough feel of a good guitar peripheral. It certainly took a good battering when I got into the Daft Punk mixup, and came out the far end with no damage at all. The finnicky among you may get annoyed with the proliferation of smudges and fingerprints that build up on the nice shiny cover, but a quick wipe over keeps it looking lovely. A single deck, with rotating platter and three buttons is one half of your control scheme, with a mixer connector with crossfader, effects dial and “Euphoria” button attached to one side (think “Overdrive” from GH). Under a small hood on the top edge, a miniaturised gamepad allows you to navigate menus with ease.
So it looks and sounds nice, but how does it play? Well, pretty good, all things considered. Starting with a tutorial (hosted by Grandmaster Flash himself!), the game eases you into the tricky task of mixing two tracks together slowly, ramping up the difficulty in stages. With a huge selection of mix lists, a freeplay mode, online leaderboards and DLC, DJ Hero certainly has plenty to keep you occupied for quite some time. However, to really get a good amount of enjoyment from the title, you really need to step up to Hard mode as soon as possible. The difference is quite staggering – the scratching becomes direction controlled, and the crossfading more direct, changing the game entirely from feeling like a simple puzzle style game with musical leanings, into an actual DJ simulator. The scratches need to be precise, the crosses perfect to keep the scores up, and yet, the fun factor goes through the roof in direct proportion to this, and a six track set is likely to leave you sweaty but exhilarated by the end.
DJ Hero is a belter
My only criticisms really stem from this being the first title in the series: there is a bit of a shortage of big tracks, and the game relies a little too heavily on a small handful of tunes being reused a little too often. Also, if you really hate hip-hop, you won´t find anything here that will change your mind (although I would say that the game wasn´t really aimed at you!). But this does all pale into comparison with the sheer fun to be had mixing it up with the big boys: DJ Hero recreates the rush felt when you first played Guitar Hero, and the new peripheral is destined to be here to stay. The few guest appearances add a touch of class, and the music (when played correctly) is fantastic. In fact, I challenge anyone to play four tracks in this game and stand still the whole time – it is impossible, thanks to the infectious grooves and fun of playing DJ.
So, if you enjoyed any of the Hero or Rock Band games, DJ Hero is well worth a consideration, particularly if you are getting a little jaded with your guitar. It offers a long and enjoyable career mode, and a lot of varied tracks and mixes, all well produced and polished with the sparkle the series is renowned for. So, if you wanna Rep-ra-zent, get down wit da homies and scratch it up like a true playah, you better check yo´self and pick up a copy today! (Meh, that was terrible….)
The Bad: Some tracks overused; more obscure music than well known; can get a bit old unless played on the higher settings