An improvement over the original in almost every way
A lackluster story mode
Last year, Activision and FreeStyleGames mixed things up with DJ Hero, a title that critics took quite a shine to despite being an entry in an overcrowded genre– Nintendojo included. While the title may not have sold as well as its other Hero brethren, that didn’t stop the makers from pumping out a sequel. Luckily, the title builds upon its predecessor in almost every way, cementing the spin-off as a solid franchise in its own right.
The controls remain essentially the same as the first title, with a few tweaks and additions. When the blue, green and red icons enter the Hit Zone, corresponding buttons on the deck are pressed. In special scratching fields, the button is held as the platter is shifted back and forth, with more intense difficulty settings showing specific forward and backward directions for the turntable to be moved. The crossfader allows for the blending or separating of the two audio tracks, and the effects dial tweaks the sound style. Finally, Euphoria and Rewind are two methods of multiplying the score for more points– the former sets the crossfading sections to automatic, while the latter rewinds the song to a previous checkpoint when you spin the platter counter-clockwise.
For those who have played the first title, this is all familiar territory. New to DJ Hero 2 are the held note sections, which are similar to scratch sections but without requiring the movement of the turntable. Length scratches are also similar to the standard scratches, but represent longer scratch motions. But perhaps the best addition to the gameplay is with the various freestyle methods: freestyle sampling, freestyle crossfading and freestyle scratching. These three let the inner (and likely far less experienced) disc jockey come through and unleash musical fury with no repercussions– however, the better it sounds, the better the score, encouraging attempts at decent mixing.
Vocal performance is also bolstered in the game, with the vocalist rated on rhythm and pitch. While this is unlikely to be unfamiliar to those who have enjoyed the mode offered in Guitar Hero and Rock Band, the songs certainly will be. Given that two tracks are blended for the musical experience, the lyrics will switch between the songs, so those familiar with one may not be familiar with the other; furthermore, it’s even more unlikely that he or she would be familiar with the combination thereof.
All of these features blend together beautifully for some engaging gameplay, offered in a multitude of modes. Empire Mode is the standard story mode of the game, meant to emulate the rise from small-town mixer to super-star DJ. While fun, that feeling is never captured– how could it, when the first set-list played is to a massive crowd of screaming fans with a spectacular light show? Also, there’s a sore lack of customization, as not even name entry is allowed, but rather a preset list; likewise with the on-screen avatar, who is replaced throughout the game. Once again, the mode isn’t the worst, it just feels a bit uninspired, especially compared to the gameplay.
Quickplay is as its title implies: pick some mixes and get down to it, just like Guitar Hero. Also like Guitar Hero is the Party Mode, playing the mixes similarly to a jukebox, allowing for jumping in and out of gameplay as seen fit. The downside to this mode is the randomization of the tracks– come DJ Hero 3, hopefully this mode will allow for user selection of tracks.
Like all music titles, the overall success of the game is contingent upon the set list. Luckily, in this regard DJ Hero 2 does not disappoint. With some more recognizable tunes than the previous entry and some true talent shining through the mixes, it’s hard not to get caught up with the music. But really, when you get down to it, any game featuring “Axel F” (more commonly known as the theme from Beverly Hills Cop) is bound to be golden in the audio department. Whether professional mixologists RZA or DJ Qbert, or FreeStyleGames themselves, the mixes are all of great quality.
At the end of the day, DJ Hero 2 lives up to the standards set by its predecessor while simultaneously improving upon the original in almost every way. While more personalization would be welcomed– be it through fashioning one’s own mixes, creating an avatar or even creating a name– it’s hard to be too hung up on what could have been when looking at what was brought to fruition with all the promise set by the original. It’s refreshing to experience a title in an overcrowded genre that can generate excitement for another sequel, should one be developed.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.