Xbox 360

  All Features


  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One


DJ Hero

Score: 100%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: FreeStyle Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Rhythm/ Simulation/ Party

Graphics & Sound:

Behold... the latest rhythm game has arrived, ready to rock your next party wielding two turntables and... well, a guitar. DJ Hero has been getting a lot of hype as of late, with some nice television ad campaigns and such, but, as I rarely watch live television, I have had to take my friends' word for it. However, while others were salivating over the television ads, I have been earning blisters scratching wax and I can tell you from first hand experience, DJ Hero is, in a word, awesome.

If you're into remixes and turntablism, then DJ Hero is a blast. In fact, while I'm a (casual) fan of Dance, Electronica and House Mixes, I was surprised to find that Psibabe enjoyed the music as well. Even J.R. Nip enjoyed listening to the music as I played the game, and he can't stand when I listen to BPM on XM Radio; he's more about lyrics and is usually quick to turn off this type of music. Let's just say that "The Rockafeller Skank" isn't exactly his cup of tea.

Being a simulation of a DJ rig may narrow the age range of the target audience a bit, but there are some classic rock songs and Mo Town songs (think Jackson Five here) in some of the mixes, so, while grampa might not want to try playing the game, he might enjoy listening for a while. In fact, Psibabe said that listening to DJ Hero's mixes is the first she enjoyed the Jackson Five. True Story.

I originally thought that players would be able to create their own character, but, in fact, you have to choose from the included DJs. There are, however, 16 DJ selections to choose from, of which seven are real DJs whose likenesses are being used in the game (well, eight, if you count two for Daft Punk, since there are two of them) and four of the DJs created for DJ Hero are female. While we're on it, the real DJ's featured in DJ Hero are: Grandmaster Flash, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Daft Punk, (the late) DJ AM, DJ Shadow and DJ Z-Trip. In general, there's a good mix to choose from, especially since the characters created for the game have different outfits you can choose from, as well as different turntable decks and deck skins, to allow you to tweak your character's appearance to suit your tastes. Furthermore, these outfit changes can really change the look and feel of the characters sometimes. In fact, one girl, Mixy Trix, looks very Latino with her first two outfits, but once you get to her last two outfits (Hot Suit and Fire Suit), she bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain raider of tombs that we all have come to know and love. While these selections all affect your character's appearance and have little real bearing on the gameplay, you also get to choose a preset group of samples, which are used for special Freestyle sections in a mix; you select your sample using the effects trim knob and press the red button to activate the sound sample. In all, there are 10 different sample sets to choose from, including ones called Space that sounds like sound effects from a sci-fi videogame, Posh (my favorite), which features an English male saying things such as "Fresh!" and "Oh my Goodness," in an ironically low-key way. There are also two different samples sets featuring Flavor Flav.

The music is generally pleasant, ranging to awesome, in my opinion. You have to like (or at least not be annoyed) by scratching and DJing, in general, but, beyond that, the music in DJ Hero is excellently crafted and is of a wide variety of music styles and decades. Now, I can't wait to see what music will be available for download.


The point of the game is to "be the DJ" and follow the on-screen cues that indicate what you should be doing with the turntable controller. The controller features a rotating platter (turntable) with three buttons, as well as a mixer console that has a knob used for effects, a button that activates your "Euphoria" effect (DJ Hero's version of "Star Power") and the crossfader control which will, in the higher difficulty levels, eat your lunch. (You've been warned.) Much like in Guitar Hero, there is a note highway that streams down the screen, although this time, it's stylized to look like it's coming around a playing record. There are three buttons on the platter: Green, Red and Blue. When a note crosses the bottom of the screen, you press the corresponding button. (Just like in Guitar Hero.) However, in addition to simple circles, there are fills denoted with up and down arrows that indicate a scratch section. For these, you have to press the correct button at the start of the scratch section, move the turntable platter forward and backward during the length of the scratch fill, then let the button up at the end of the scratch fill. In higher difficulties, some of these sections have triangles that point up or down (or some specific order of these moves). During these sections, it's not enough that you scratch, you have to scratch the indicated direction. This can get tough.

At the beginning and end of every song, the three lines go down the center of the screen. At certain times in the mix, however, the rightmost track will go off to the right or the leftmost track will go off to the left. At these times, you have to move the crossfader (or "slider") control on the mixer in the same direction. When the slider isn't in the correct position, you'll hear a sound much like a record player playing static and there will be a sort of "electrified" visual effect as well. You have to keep the slider in the right place to earn points. This can be difficult in songs that focus heavily on crossfading back and forth and to the middle in varying rhythms. (Scratch Perverts... you know who you are.)


There are five different levels of difficulty to choose from in DJ Hero. These range from a "yes-your-grandmother-could-probably-do-just-fine" Beginner to a "you-have-to-pay-your-dues-to-run-with-the-big-dogs" Expert. I found that Medium was a decent level to start on if you want to have fun with the game without a lot of challenge, and Hard turns up the pressure to give you a bit of a challenge.

One thing to bear in mind in DJ Hero, however, is that you can't "fail out" like you can in some other games. The mix can sound bad if you mess up, and your score can be miserably low, but the mix won't stop until it reaches the bitter end. This, in general, is a good thing, working out well for DJ Hero and letting you practice the song all the way through even if you mess up on some earlier parts. This is important in DJ Hero, since there isn't a Practice mode or option. The closest thing to a Practice mode is the custom set lists. You can create two custom set lists of DJ songs and one custom set list of DJ + Guitar songs and then play through them. I used the custom set lists to work through the song lists quickly. When I achieved all five stars on a given song, I could remove it from the set list and replace it with one I had yet to master.

Getting high scores depends on mad skillz, of course, but it also depends on strategic use of some of the special features of the game. Euphoria has a time duration limited effect, but doubles your score multiplier while it is in effect. Another feature, the rewind, allows you to rewind your game (a little bit) and re-play a section, allowing you to pick up more points. Your score multiplier is also doubled during this rewound section as you re-play through it (as long as you don't make a mistake). Finally, there are certain parts where an arch indicator appears above the note highway. During these parts, you can use a trim knob on the mix console to do audio effects on the note(s). While you are using this audio effect, your score multiplier will double. Bear in mind, however, that these don't compound, and the highest your multiplier can be is 8x. That's where strategy enters into it. You want to use these different effects so that you keep your point multiplier high throughout the mix, without messing up and resetting your multiplier.

Game Mechanics:

DJ Hero brings something new to the (turn)table, with a turntable controller, supporting up to two of these turntables (but, surprisingly, no microphone... sorry, Beck). The ability to play certain songs with one person on the DJ console and a second player on a guitar was a nice touch, helping to reach out to the existing Guitar Hero fan base and capitalize on the prevalence of guitar controllers. I would love to see the addition of drum parts, after seeing a DJ/drummer team play live in concert this past E3, but there's more than enough to love about what's out there now.

In addition to the 93 mixes that ship in the game, there are two tutorial sets (a Basic Techniques and an Advanced Techniques set), in which Grandmaster Flash explains and walks you through the various mechanics of playing DJ Hero. This is pretty cool, as it brings you up to speed relatively quickly.

Everything I've heard or read has indicated the DJ Hero will support downloadable content (DLC) for new mixes. I have no reason to believe otherwise, but the fact that there is no in-game music store is worthy of note. True, this isn't a huge deal; you could simply download the mixes in the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, but it seems strange that there isn't a store available in-game. Perhaps that will be added as an upgrade. For that matter, it is technically possible that the feature could simply not show until the first song is available for download. While the 93 songs that come with the game are enough to give an awesome experience, I'm anxious to get my hands on additional tracks.

If you've wanted to be a DJ, if you're a fan of remixed music and if you think you've got the skillz (or the potential) to scratch some mad wax, then you definitely need to pick up a copy of DJ Hero.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Related Links:

Nintendo Wii DJ Hero Nintendo DS A Witch's Tale

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated