OverviewPlatform: Xbox 360
Is this a step forward for rhythm games, or a step forward in the plastic industries plan to build an empire of fake instruments?
People as cynical as myself might be a little apprehensive approaching DJ Hero. This latest installment in the ‘Hero’ franchise ditches the plastic guitar in favour of a plastic turntable. But is it worth the asking prices?
Anybody familiar with either Guitar Hero or Rock Band will likely know the basic proposition of DJ Hero. The controller is comprised of a moving turntable with three buttons used for tapping and held down for scratching, a crossfader which allows the player to cut between the different tracks in the mix and an effects dial for inserting sound clips and jazz up the mix. Finally there’s the glowing ‘Euphoria’ button which works in the same fashion as star power from Guitar Hero.
Alongside tapping the three main buttons, the player must cut back and forth between the different lanes as well as scratch when prompted. The simple design and user-friendly lefty flip feature makes it appealing and approachable to newcomers, however the actual build felt disappointingly cheap, it betrays the design and lacks any sort of weight to it. Furthermore the crossfader took some getting used to, since it lacks a groove in the middle to allow it to be returned to the neutral position easily I would often end up pushing it further than intended which caused the track to cut out, this minor issue can become a little irksome on the higher difficulties when the crossfader is used for repeated quick motions.
One of the most appealing features of DJ Hero is the music, the game features an impressive catalogue of songs available to play in single player and multiplayer once unlocked through the career mode. Since the game isn’t forced to stick to a single genre the various mixes feature a broad range of songs spanning rap and dance to heavy metal and blues. However the eclectic range of songs being mined don’t all play nice with each other and while the majority will just be a little cringeworthy some are downright painful. On the other hand, the tracks that do work together are nothing short of amazing. It’s hard not to smile while scratching to a mix of ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye and ‘Feel Good Inc.’ by Gorillaz. Playing one of these tracks coupled with the impressively authentic atmosphere created by the blindingly colorful flashing lights and dynamic camera angles can be a euphoric experience.
One long standing issue with many other rhythm games is the balance between making the player feel like they are actively contributing to the music, and the difficulty scaling of the game. In Dj Hero you can feel somewhat disconnected from the music on the easy and normal difficulty level, this was remedied by the extra gameplay mechanics such as directional scratching and crossfade spikes introduced in the hard and expert levels. However, by then the game ups the speed and difficulty considerably. This gulf sorts the men from the boys and provides additional challenge and depth to those able to keep up.
The game is also lacking in the multiplayer department. Although it features an adequately functioning one-on-one local and online multiplayer mode, it lacks the sort of gameplay quirk or twist you’d expect from a game as unique as DJ Hero. Players play the same song with the same highway track and simply battle for who can score the highest points, which feels cheap & bland. DJ Hero also features a few songs that can be played with an accompanying guitar but these feel flat and soulless next to the flashy DJ highway track and usually the guitar segments are overpowered by the mix.
DJ Hero is a charming game that will certainly defy many cynics. In spite of some minor issues, it’s a refreshing addition to the music game genre as it looks & sounds fantastic and is great fun to play. It’s a shame that this first DJ Hero is essentially just testing the water, and is quite basic in terms of features considering the high pricetag. But if the asking price isn’t an issue for you, DJ Hero is a highly recommended.