DJ Hero is Activision’s latest entry into their long-running “Hero” line of rhythm video games. Similar to Guitar Hero, DJ Hero has players tap buttons in time with music notes. But DJ Hero takes things to a different place–that of club/dance music. Does the popular franchise make a strong case for the DJ scene? Find out in this review.
DJ Hero has a completely different feel to it compared to Guitar Hero or Rock Band. Initially there are no menus–just a list of the sets available to play. The game starts out with a nicely-paced tutorial, and it is clear from the get-go that this game is far more complex than any of those other band games.
The controller has a turntable on the right side with three colored buttons on top of it. On the left is a directional pad, face buttons, Start, Select and the PS button, all of which are neatly tucked away in a compartment that can be hidden from view, perhaps in an attempt to keep the controller looking clean. Below that is a “Euphoria” button (think Star Power), an effects dial, and a cross-fader. The controller is well-built, though after only a few days’ use, some of the silver circles around the turntable were already worn off. The turntable itself glides effortlessly, and it is a very responsive controller.
Gameplay is similar to Guitar Hero in that various shapes come down the in-game “highway,” which this time is a curved road because it rests on a record. Tapping the buttons in time with the song will begin the music. However, this is where the similarities end. There are only three circles to hit at any difficulty level, but the two outside tracks will move to the left or right, and when they do, the player must move the cross-fader with his or her left hand to hit the notes. Notes may also come at the same time, so players must pay full attention.
What would normally be “long” notes in Guitar Hero are scratching sections in DJ Hero, in which players must hold a note as well as scratch the turntable by rapidly moving it back and forth. The Hard and Extreme difficulty settings also force players to time the scratch direction based on arrows on the screen.
To score more points, there are special highlighted notes sections which, if all notes are hit, earn Euphoria. This works much the same way as Star Power from Guitar Hero, and doubles the score multiplier for a brief amount of time. It also automatically crossfades the song, which allows players to simply focus on hitting the notes/scratches for a little while.
There are also some sections of the songs which have a meter over them. When this is active, the effects dial can be moved left or right to affect the song’s bass and treble levels and double the score muliplier. However, the real strategy comes into play with Rewind. Players must hit a number of notes in a row to be granted one of these power-ups. By physically moving the turntable a full rotation backwards, the player can rewind and replay a section of the song with double the score multiplier. Using this right after a long crossfade section ends can lead to some big scores.
The game is very rewarding to players who enjoy a challenge–even Medium difficulty in DJ Hero is more involved than expert difficulty in Guitar Hero. The music is also great throughout, though obviously players who are not into Pop, Rap, Techno or House music may not enjoy the selection. The audio is in Dolby 5.1, but the game defaults to stereo for some reason. The graphics are simply on-par with other rhythm games, though the camera work and visual effects synced to the beat of the songs is impressive.
Multiplayer is available and works without a hitch online. There is also local multiplayer, but it requires the use of two DJ Hero controllers. A small selection of songs also have guitar notes which can be played with a Guitar Hero controller. This is a nice feature, but it almost feels like an afterthought, since such a small number of songs have this mode. A game like this practically begs to have some sort of a creation mode, but sadly there is nothing like that to be found here.
DJ Hero is fun to play and challenging. It is a breath of fresh air after numerous recycled iterations of guitar and band games. The music is the real star here–there are some amazing mixes in this game. Though DJ Hero is not as easy to play as Guitar Hero or Rock Band, and thus perhaps not as suitable for parties, it is pretty fun to watch and a treat to listen to.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
Some truly amazing music mashups
Game is challenging yet rewarding
Graphics are lackluster (though camera work is nice); characters are mostly forgettable