PS3 Review – DJ Hero 2

When DJ Hero launched last year, it faced quite a bit of skepticism along with a general distaste from consumers who already had too many peripherals cluttering up their homes. Was DJ Hero worth the hefty price tag and additional clutter thanks to the necessary turntable controller? The answer was a resounding yes. DJ Hero went on to become the highest-grossing new IP of 2009. That meant the sequel, DJ Hero 2, has some big shoes to fill, and is going to have to bring fresh ideas and features to the (turn) table. So the question is, does DJ Hero 2 add enough to the mix to keep things fresh, or does it feel more like a rewind of the previous installment, only with a new setlist and a fresh coat of paint?

At first glance, the gameplay hasn’t changed much from the first DJ Hero. After a short amount of time, it’s hard not to notice that much more control has been put into the hands of the player. A DJ’s main job is to take control of the music and add their own unique cuts, cues, and overall flair to it. Instead of just tapping and buttons and scratching the corresponding action as it comes down the highway, there is now “freestyle” gameplay elements that allow you to put your own twist on the track. Certain areas will call for freestyle scratching, freestyle crossfading, or using the red button to perform freestyle sampling.

Gone are the generic samples from the previous game. Now, when you freestyle sample, the sample will actually be a tone, tune or vocal that is grabbed right from the track itself. This allows for the track to flow much more naturally, rather than just hearing “Yeeeaaahhhh Boyyyyyeeeee!” over and over and over again.

Freestyle scratching can mesh just as well with the track as the freestyle sampling does, providing that you are good at scratching. If you’re not, it sounds out-of-place. But if you’re good, it sounds as if you’re a veteran at the wheels of steel. It just works that well. Freestyle crossfading is the toughest to master, but doing it effectively, by taking advantage of certain parts of the track can rack up your score all while sounding like a professional mix-master. Using the freestyle controls not only will provide a better score at the end, but it lets you personalize the song with your own flair — and that’s what being a DJ is all about. DJ Hero 2 captures that perfectly within the gameplay.

The set list features over 83 mashups from over 100 top artists from today and yesteryear, all mixed, cut-up and blended by master mixologists such as Deadmau5, David Guetta and more. Although the setlist is compiled of mostly relatively new music such as Eminem’s “Not Afraid”, there are some old school classics that will be sure to make you smile like Warren G’s “Regulate”. The overall variety is packed with the best artists in the hip hop, pop, and dance genres, and makes for a great listen. The setlist itself could be sold as a standalone album or compilation. If you’ve got the right audio set-up, you can instantly turn your living room into a jumping club just by firing up DJ Hero 2.

While the first DJ Hero featured some mulitplayer, it definitely wasn’t a primary focus. This time around, it’s a party. Not only are you encouraged to play versus a fellow turnablist, but the game invites a third player to team up and lend their vocal skills on the mic. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is another sing along; the majority of the tracks are compromised of mash-ups and mixes — so the vocals are also mixed up — which will throw even the best karaoke buffs for a curveball. A second turntable or vocalist can jump in at any time during gameplay.

Along with the normal versus multiplayer mode where you will just both compete for a high score, there’s also a new DJ battle mode. Battle mode puts two players up against each other for a sort of game of horse. The track is broken down into segments and it will bounce back and fourth between the two players in a game of one-upmanship. Whoever hits the most notes, and performs the best on freestyles will win the match. Here, in the true spirit of battle DJs, the scratching and fading can get hectic.

Last and least is the game’s single player campaign, Empire Mode. Here, you’ll choose through a small list options to create your own DJ and “Empire”. Your created DJ will travel from venue to venue performing sets all with the goal of growing your empire. Where this mode suffers, is from the lack of customization — your DJ never really feels like an extension of you. The mode itself is also rather shallow, providing you with little to do aside from just performing pre-set lists of tracks. The only real highlight of Empire mode is the all too rare head-to-head matches with the DJ talent Freestyle Games has enlisted for DJ Hero 2.

DJ Hero 2 takes everything that made the original so special and spices it up a bit by letting players add their own personal touches thanks to the new freestyle gameplay. The additional modes certainly don’t hurt the overall package, but they’re missing that fresh new take on things. Empire mode which is the bulk of the single-player experience is unfortunately lacking. These minor flaws don’t detract from the top-notch gameplay, the eclectic mix of music spun by the industry’s best DJs. DJ Hero 2 really is a party in a box, and one of the best the music/rythym genre has to offer.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Freestyle gameplay add personal touch

+ Setlist is jam-packed with great music

– Empire mode is lacking

9 out of 10