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DJ Hero 2

Score: 100%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: FreeStyle Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 3; 1 - 3 (Online)
Genre: Rhythm/ Party/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

DJ Hero looked slick. DJ Hero 2 looks slicker, with a really nice looking and easy to use user interface, well-modeled characters, including returning and new fictional characters as well as the digital likenesses of some real-life DJs, which start as bosses, but become unlocked as playable characters once beaten. Additionally, on the Xbox 360 version, you can play as your Xbox Live avatar. This is interesting and is, quite frankly, the biggest temptation I've had to date to actually pay for some avatar wardrobe upgrades.

The sound effects feature hasn't been removed, but the ability to select a bank of sound effects and then choose which samples to play while in a mix has been thrown out in exchange for a more natural feeling, context-based sound sample system. Now, when you reach that sound effect section, tapping the red button may play "A - B - C" (from the Jackson Five song), instead of an endless stream of "Yeah, boyee!" (You don't see me complaining.)

I reported earlier on the complete list of artists to be found on the game and you can find that link below. The songs include some relatively recent hot hits, such as Basement Jaxx's Where's Your Head At and Lady Gaga's Bad Romance, but some of my favorite mixes include older (but gooder?) songs, such as Pump Up The Volume, Le Freak, Groove Is In The Heart and even Donna Summers' Bad Girls. Of course, the most awesomely viral song in the list is Harold Faltermeyer's Axel F, which will get stuck in your mind and stay there; whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends on whether you like the song.

As of this writing, there are no songs in the in-game store available for purchase. According to my sources, the songs from DJ Hero will be made available for playing in DJ Hero 2, via a downloadable upgrade. It was not made clear whether all of the songs would be transferable or whether this upgrade would be free or not, but that's something to look forward to. Additionally, artists are being lined up for DLC songs, so expect to see things hitting the in-game store once the game is out for a bit. As a warning, however, don't expect the mixes to be as cheap as DLC for, say, Rock Band or Guitar Hero... with these mixes, each one is two songs (meaning two separate writers and performers and possibly labels) as well as some artist to mix the two songs together... that all adds up to a lot of licenses and a lot of mouths to feed.


All the fun of DJ Hero is back again. Well, that is, assuming you weren't into the guitar thing and you weren't too attached to selecting your sound effects pack for yourself, as mentioned above. The guitar parts were abandoned, perhaps due their limited compatibility with mixed dance music... not in a hardware sort of way, but more of a "creative differences" sort of way. In DJ Hero 2, the guitar aspect is basically replaced with the addition of a microphone for vocal parts which include both sung parts and rapped parts. These vocal parts are available in almost all songs, in contrast with the guitar parts in DJ Hero, which were restricted to only a few songs.

The original DJ Hero has been out for a year now, so DJ Hero 2 kicks the complexity up a notch for DJ Hero gamers looking for additional challenge. There are several new twists to keep you on your toes, such as a "Hold," which requires you to press one of the scratch buttons down without moving the turntable and hold it down for a certain duration, indicated by the length of the section on the note highway. While this might sound really easy, it gets difficult, at times, to switch back and forth between scratching and keeping the turntable still - especially when a hold note starts or ends right next to a scratch section.

Also new this time around are Freestyle Crossfading and Freestyle Scratching, both of which truly kick the creative aspect of the game up a notch; these two types of Freestyle actions give you the most control over how the song actually sounds. Crossfading lets you switch between two tracks or blend them, cutting in or cutting out the parts you want to by timing your work on the crossfader.

The coolest added gameplay mechanic has got to be Freestyle Scratching. The normal bidirectional scratch sections let you scratch fast or slow and in either direction, but will penalize you for any stops during the section and the sound of the scratch is only turned on or off based on whether you're scratching, not fashioned based on how you scratch. Freestyle Scratching, on the other hand, lets you choose how you want to scratch, whether it's fast scratching or slow, scratching up, down or back and forth and letting you start and stop as many times as you want during that section... and the sound actually reflects what you do.

The career mode or "Empire" mode, as they call it, has you starting out as nothing and playing your way from Las Vegas to New York to Europe and Asia, taking your mad scratching and mixing skills global. Along the way, you'll unlock goodies, from new mixes to wardrobe changes for DJ characters and even decks that give you special boosts and bonuses... which come in handy when you're trying to top a friend's high score.

Speaking of taking on your friends, the multiplayer modes and competitive aspects of DJ Hero 2 are leaps and bounds beyond the original game. There are five different varieties of online multiplayer games to play, as well as local multiplayer and party for taking on friends in more or less competitive fashion. The competitive aspect is there even when you're not playing multiplayer, with indicators on the scoring graph to show which of your friends has the high score on the track you're currently playing, showing the level that you'd have to beat to top their score. Also, the Hero Feed acts as an in-game social network tool, providing in-game Twitter-esque updates on your friends, letting you know who just got what achievement or grabbed which high score... there is even an option to simply hit (Y) to make an attempt to top a mentioned score. Sweet.


There are five difficulty levels to choose from, from "Beginner" (which is just this side of not playing), "Easy", "Medium" (a nice place for most players), "Hard" (for those wanting to push the envelope) and "Expert" for those who have a third arm and are ambidextrous... or, perhaps, for actual world class DJs who are "slumming." In all seriousness - if you're cranking out high scores with few errors on Expert... props to ya. Seriously. We're talking some truly scary stuff.

The tutorials built into the game are a great place to start if you're new to the DJ Hero series or if you just want to be updated on the new things to be found in DJ Hero 2. In fact, the tutorials are presented in both ways: tutorials for new players and for those needing to know just the new things in DJ Hero 2. Once you've selected which of those two options you want, there are tutorials for each difficulty level.

I suggest finding a difficulty setting that you can get really comfortable with and playing there until you've got a pretty solid handle on things. Then, use the tutorials for the next level to introduce the new mechanics and try some of the easier songs on that new difficulty, sort of easing yourself into it. Once you've gotten to where you're not too horrible on the next level, start the Empire mode over with this new difficulty and work your way through. By the time you get done with the Empire mode, you should be pretty good in this new difficulty setting. Then, rinse and repeat. If at any time you get frustrated, you can drop down to an easier difficulty setting, switch to some easier songs or hit the tutorials again for some tips.

Game Mechanics:

Ah, two turntables and a microphone; Beck would surely approve...

The microphone aspect adds a new accessibility to the game, as the guitar tracks did to the first DJ Hero. The microphone allows for players who are familiar with the lyrics and are good at singing or rapping to participate, without necessarily having to be good on the turntable. It also allows for a third player, helping DJ Hero 2 to vie for the party game market. The music selection is, by definition, limited to mixes and that boxes the game's appeal to a "dance" flavor, although there are some mixes that pull in some disco and some motown, for the older players in your parties. DJ Hero 2 isn't going to have the wide audience appeal that Rock Band games do, with their multiple instruments and vocalists, or, for that matter, even Karaoke Revolution titles, where everyone from your little sister to your grandfather can belt out the lyrics from songs they know and love. DJ Hero 2 may be a little less "family" and a little more for the "hip" crowd, but the Party Play mode allows you to set up a playlist for your party and then let the music run in the background and let players jump in or out as often as they like without interrupting the music or (gasp) failing out of a song. This is nice for parties with fans of dance music.

While I admit that DJ Hero 2 (or dance music, for that matter) isn't for everyone, the microphone makes it more approachable, as does the nice selection of older songs in some of the mixes. DJ Hero was an excellent game; DJ Hero 2 simply takes the idea and makes it better.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Related Links:

Sony PlayStation 3 DJ Hero 2 Nintendo DS Gormiti: The Lords of Nature!

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