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DJ Hero 2

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: FreeStyle Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 3
Genre: Rhythm/ Simulation/ Party

Graphics & Sound:

Now this is what I'm talkin' about. If you read my review of DJ Hero last year, you know that I enjoyed it but took issue with some of the more underdeveloped elements. I ended that review by expressing my hopes with regards to the game's inevitable sequel. Those prayers have been answered: DJ Hero 2 is here to officially shut my cynical side up. Several of my frustrations with the original game have been destroyed by a number of fundamental gameplay improvements that ultimately go a long way towards unlocking the franchise's staggering potential. DJ Hero 2 proudly stands alongside its genre brethren as a meaningful entry into a genre that many believe is being beaten into the ground.

Graphics are never the focal point of a music game. As long as the game properly communicates the required inputs to the player in a clean, efficient manner, there shouldn't be much to complain about. DJ Hero 2 features a virtually identical presentation to the one in the original DJ Hero, and that's perfectly fine. High-definition it isn't, but it comes with the territory. The new input styles make sense from an aesthetic standpoint; for example, when you see a freestyle crossfade section, tiny but distinct lines mark the segments that are rich in musical potential. This helps you learn the songs more quickly.

I won't lie. When I started up the Wii version of DJ Hero 2, I was left with the worst possible first impression I've ever gotten from a game. Not one second after the title screen popped up, I was greeted with an obnoxious "YOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUU!" That's not fair, I know; just because I break out in hives upon hearing the voice of Soulja Boy Tell 'Em doesn't mean that everybody does. DJ Hero 2's soundtrack is superb. I'm not saying that because I'm a huge fan of the selected tracks. What I really respect about DJ Hero 2's soundtrack is how the components of each mix feel like they were designed to work in harmony. Regardless of your musical tastes, the soundtrack is mastered so well you're almost guaranteed to fall into a zen-like trance every time you start scratching.


DJ Hero 2 isn't a groundbreaking game. If you've played a music game at some point in your life, you at least have some idea of what's going on in this one. And you'd probably be right. DJ Hero 2, following the template established by DJ Hero (and countless other music games before that), has players use a special turntable peripheral to match timed button presses. This makes music and earns points. What's unique about this one is, of course, the way in which players make the music.

DJ Hero 2 doesn't cut any corners when it comes to structuring; if you know a gameplay mode from another music game, it's probably in DJ Hero 2. Empire is this year's Career Mode; you take a pre-made go-getter DJ and progress through a number of carefully prepared setlists. Performing well earns you stars, which unlocks new gear and venues.

Rounding out the package is a healthy emphasis on social gaming. Party Play allows anytime drop-in/drop-out multiplayer. You can build your own setlist and play it either competitively or just to enjoy the music and have a great time. You can spin the tables with another player, and even add a singer/rapper. It all works the way it should; it's accessible, intuitive, and entertaining. Just the way a music game should be.


Music titles are built from the ground up to ease players into a unique style of gameplay -- usually through the use of around five distinct difficulty settings. Like its older brother, DJ Hero 2 is such a title. Naturally, the game's more advanced input types don't show up until you crank up the difficulty to Hard and beyond; held scratches, directional inputs, and crossfade spikes only show up when you're ready.

There's a good bit of challenge for gamers who like to maximize their scoring potential. Like in the first game, playing through a complex section is important to earn big points, but it's equally important to manage your Euphoria and Rewinds. If you're confident enough during the game's more difficult sequences, try triggering your Euphoria and Rewinding to the last checkpoint. This strategy also proves useful in multiplayer, as long as you're actively trying to lock your buddy out of the song during your best moments. Geck0 ended up learning that the hard way, though he still ended up kicking my ass.

Game Mechanics:

DJ Hero 2 runs on the conservative side of things when it comes to the number of truly new mechanics, but the ones they've chosen to include make all the difference between a stellar music game and a merely decent one. Singing/rapping is handled efficiently, though a live performance doesn't exactly lend itself well to loop-heavy mixing. The real magic is in the new input types. Held taps and scratches require the inputs you'd expect them to require. For a held tap, you'll have to hold down the indicated button while keeping the turntable absolutely still. As you'd expect, a held scratch requires you to steadily rotate the platter in the indicated direction while holding down the correct button. This takes a little getting used to, but then again, so does the turntable controller in general.

My number one complaint with DJ Hero had to do with how it shackled the player's creative limits. I know quite a few disc jockeys personally, and while they enjoyed the game, they also saw areas that needed attention. DJ Hero 2 marks the inception of freestyling into the franchise, and it's here that it is finally given its chance to truly shine. And shine it does.

You're required to match as many beats as you can, but several sections encourage you to fill in the blanks yourself. These sections allow you to get creative with your samples, crossfades, and scratches. These subtle (but key) evolutions vary in terms of success, but by and large, they represent a major step forward for the budding franchise. Freestyle sampling works just like it did a year ago, but this time around, each sample is exclusive to its own mix. This is a huge step up from the same small handful of samples. Freestyling with the crossfader yields the most satisfying results, because it feels like the real thing. That really says something about the overall mix quality and the responsiveness of the peripheral. Freestyle scratches are perhaps the least impressive of the three; the turntable doesn't track your movements very accurately, especially if you get experimental with the rhythm. It feels as if it's detecting platter speed without factoring in directional changes. It would be nice if it was better at detecting both, but hey: there's always DJ Hero 3, right?

DJ Hero 2 doesn't exactly open the floodgates of innovation, but it makes calculated and important strides forward for the franchise. To me, that's more important than blind experimentation. In my book, the DJ Hero franchise came off the launch pad with a bit of a stumble, but DJ Hero 2 proves that the franchise is moving along a promising trajectory at a steadily-increasing speed. Looking good, FreeStyle; keep it up.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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Sony PlayStation Portable God of War: Ghost of Sparta Sony PlayStation 3 DJ Hero 2

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