The lights are on
DJ Hero was one of the most exciting new properties of 2009, and Activision is ready to build on the momentum. Thankfully, there is still plenty of room to innovate within the franchise, and developer FreeStyle seems to have a good handle on where to focus their efforts, as evidenced by our hands-on demo of the game. At the core of any music game are the tunes, and DJ Hero 2 is upping the ante with a number of big name artists and some great sounding mixes. Last year's game was criticized by some for being very hip-hop focused. The new game responds by keeping the hip-hop presence strong, but increasing the elements of electronica, pop, and dance music. The first few songs we heard all sounded amazing as we played them, including:--Nelly: "Hot in Here" vs. Warren G: "Regulate"--Chemical Brothers: Galvanize" vs. Chemical Brothers "Leave Home"--Iyaz: "Replay" vs. Rihanna: "Rude Boy"The front-end interface is now much cleaner than last year. A sparse white presentation is less busy than the sometimes-confusing menu system of the first game. We spent most of our time with the game exploring the new Party Mode, which delivers a constant flow of songs where players can drop in and out at any time. The big push this year is on playing with two turntables and a microphone, and all three players can change around at any time, including shifting difficulty on the fly. In-game, the song-playing structure has not dramatically changed, but several new features have been added that increase the level of creativity that players can put into each mix. Samples are now taken directly from the songs being played, so there's no longer that strange disconnect of having a sample set not match with a given mix. Freestyle scratching sections and freestyle crossfade sections let DJs dictate their own flow by adjusting the sound in the way they like -- a fantastic feature that really moves the experience closer to the true DJ vibe. Several new competitive game modes join the equation, helping to encourage 2 DJs to fight it out on the turntable. Each one of these modes has its own unique objective, like Accumulator mode, where players try to build up and bank note streaks to defeat their opponent. The new DJ Battle mode has the track jumping back and forth between the two competing DJs, evoking a great sense of give and take between the two players. In most of these two-player competitive modes, a singer can jump right in to join in the fun. Song parts for vocalists are pretty unusual, because in many cases you're singing the parts of two different vocalists from two different songs. Even so, it's a great addition to the formula that helps contribute to the party atmosphere of the entire title. We came away extremely impressed with the tweaks that have been made to the existing DJ Hero formula. The mixes we heard sounded great, and the new creative and competitvie elements of the experience are engaging and fun. DJ Hero 2 will be out this fall, and you can watch for it on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or Wii.
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.