DJ Hero

GamesCom 2009: DJ Hero Hands On Preview - Pure Unadulterated Fun

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Those of you that religiously follow our news will be more than aware of my prior feelings of a certain upcoming DJ Hero title. I honestly couldn’t find a nice word to say about it… well, that was until recently, and it just goes to show that you can’t judge a book – or a game in this case – by its cover. My hands on with DJ Hero at this year’s GamesCom was enough to totally change my initial preconceptions of the title. So much so, that as soon as I got back to the hotel after I’d put it through its paces, I was straight on to to pre-order it. True story.

Whilst for Activision slapping the “Hero” brand on everything gives new products and lines this important brand recognition, from a gamer’s perspective, it also typecasts the game and effectively tars it with the same brush. This is partly the reason why I wrote off DJ Hero before I’d even given it a chance. Although it is a “Hero” title, and a rhythm game, it’s a totally different kettle of fish to the Guitar Hero franchise. There are multiple elements to get your head round in DJ Hero and unlike its sister, Guitar Hero, you’ll have to learn some serious multi-tasking if you are to succeed, especially if you want to move up the difficulty levels.

The first gameplay element involved in DJ Hero is scratching – duh. Starting on the easy setting, players will only have to hit the 3 relevant coloured buttons in time and scratch when needed. A scratch is simple – when you see an elongated button press with multiple multi-directional arrows on, you have to hold the corresponding coloured button and push the turntable back and forth - i.e. scratch. Once you have mastered that – which is fairly simple if we’re being honest – you then move on to using the cross fader as well, which gets introduced for the first time on the medium setting.

The cross fader is a slider on the left side of the controller (if you’re right handed of course, but the controller is compatible with both lefties and righties). When the cross fader is in the middle, both tracks of the mash-up will play; when it’s on the left, only the left track will play; and when on the right… you get the idea.
The three main lines will all start in the middle – from our experience anyway – and when one of the main lines moves out from its starting position, players have to slide the cross fader whichever way the line goes. So for instance; you can be in the centre with both songs playing, and the note chart requires you go left to access the left song on its own, and then right to access the right song on its own, and then end in the middle to resume both tracks together. The higher the difficulty, the faster and more often these transitions appear and chances are they’ll want you to scratch in between these as well. It gets pretty complex when you move into the hard and expert difficulties… but so did Guitar Hero all those many moons ago.

There are of course other elements to the decks that include distorting separate sections of the song with a separate mixer, the euphoria button (DJ Hero’s Star Power) and the effects button - which is basically hitting the red button on the turntable during certain sections of the song. These all boost your score, which is what the game is about. The game also features a rewind function that you must earn, but how and when you use it is beyond us. Maybe we’re just not that good… yet.

There isn’t much more I can sit here and tell you about the title other than the fact that it’s a lot of fun. Obviously the learning curve though is a little steep to start with and even on medium, gamers at the show were struggling to get 3 stars most of the time. That will improve with practice of course, but we’re just preparing you for the inevitable.
The game shouldn’t get old too quickly either and boasts plenty of replayability and hours of fun with over 100 songs (101 in fact) and 94 different mixes. You can expect to see a wide range of music throughout and anybody that has a soft place in their hearts for mashups is surely going to love it. Sure, you may be able to go out and pick up a set of decks for the same price as DJ Hero, but picking up a 100 vinyls as well? Ha, I don’t think so.

Don’t kid yourself though – if you don’t like the mashup style music on offer now, chances are you won’t ever like it. From a personal standpoint, I grew up in an era when house and garage music was massive in the UK, and with that came the mashup culture. So for me, I have it ingrained on my soul. The simple fact is, DJ Hero is a lot of fun and the main DJing mechanic is spot on. The £90/$120 price point is maybe not as bad as it seems – considering you get a durable peripheral as well – but some people will undoubtedly be put off by it, but that doesn’t detract from what is essentially an enjoyable experience. We’re yet to check out or hear of any of its game modes yet – other than DJ versus guitar – so we’re not sure how much bang for your buck you’ll be getting. However, even if it shipped with a set list of 94 mixes and just a free play mode, I don’t think I’d grumble. Now if that isn’t a testament to the game’s addictiveness and delivery, I don’t know what is.

DJ Hero will ship October 27th and 30th in North America and Europe respectively (Europe date unconfirmed).


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Game Info
FreeStyle Games


US October 27, 2009
Europe October 30, 2009

ESRB: Everyone
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