The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Activision has taken a lot of heat in gamer circles for its
perceived shameless exploitation of the Guitar Hero franchise. A lot of
gamers have been more sympathetic to Harmonix (the originators of both
Guitar Hero and Rock Band), a stance reinforced by the company’s classy
handling of its DLC catalog and The Beatles: Rock Band, especially in
contrast to Acvitision’s botched handling of Kurt Cobain’s likeness in
Guitar Hero 5. Against this backdrop, DJ Hero is an even more
impressive feat of game development. Not only does it succeed in being
much more than a cheap cash-in on the “Hero” brand, it’s the most
innovative and inspired new music title since the original Rock Band.
the basic “gems and runway” onscreen display reflects the tradition of
Guitar Hero, the gameplay and the new turntable controller transform
the template into something radically different. The turntable and its
three face buttons handle the cuts, scratches, and rewind effects that
cascade down the three-track runway. But the real challenge comes from
using the crossfader to switch rapidly between different samples when a
track makes an immediate left or right turn on the two outside tracks.
At first it’s like trying to rub your belly and pat your head at the
same time, but the learning curve should be manageable for most music
game fans. However, some expert Guitar Hero players will have to
swallow their pride and start on the medium difficulty. For this
reason, the entire game plays in “no fail” mode. Some hardcore players
might balk at this, but I think it was the correct decision. Still,
perhaps it would have been wise to at least include a mode that allows
you to fail for the expert set.
The gameplay is exhilarating,
providing the illusion that you are in command of the mix as you juggle
beats, lay down scratches, squelch frequencies with the knob, and
interject custom sample sound bites in the freestyle sections of the
track. The game transforms on higher difficulty levels, as added
directional scratches lend the game another layer of complexity. My
only small complaint is I wish the crossfader control had a stronger
“notch” in the middle, making it easier to find the default position
during hectic sections.
Musically, this is the most adventurous
music game released to date. Instead of a simple tracklisting of
classic rock tunes, these fresh mixes offer an entirely new listening
experience. Familiar tracks are blended with obscure DJ cuts to often
thrilling results. In DJ Hero, the delicate ‘60s psych of the Zombies
is melded with Chuck Brown’s go-go classic “Bustin’ Loose,” while jazz
producer David Axelrod gets down with Eric B. and Rakim’s hip-hop epic
“Eric B. is President.” Finally, a music game that’s not simply
regurgitating the past, but transforming it. While the mixes sometimes
rely too heavily on pop hits or well-known artists, the soundtrack
feels remarkably true to the cut-and-paste aesthetic of DJ culture.
might be expected in a game that tries to do so many new things, not
everything works. A few mixes, like DJ Yoda’s awkward mash-up of “Tutti
Frutti” by Little Richard and “Beats” by Shlomo, sound like audio car
crashes, leaving you feeling confused by the jumble of edits and
hyperkinetic scratches. Other times, it’s clear that marketing has
taken precedent over artistry. The Jay-Z set is a disappointment,
eschewing classic early Jay breaks for inferior latter-day material.
The freestyle samples – brief soundbites that can be deployed with the
middle button – are fairly corny, and often do little but disrupt the
groove. Also, the guitar-and-DJ multiplayer duets are more novelty than
fun, though perhaps this can be improved with better DLC in the future.
presentation is also a mixed bag. While the graphics and impressively
rendered environments are state of the art, the horrible character
designs that we’ve come to expect from Guitar Hero continue to annoy in
DJ Hero. From stripper-like females to faux “rednecks,” there’s not a
dumb stereotype these fuggly Muppets don’t cover. Thankfully, you can
unlock a good number of genuinely respected real-life DJs like
Grandmaster Flash, DJ Shadow, and Jazzy Jeff – although DJ AM’s bio
weirdly neglects to mention the fact that he recently died.
these complaints, I’m hooked on DJ Hero. In many ways, it feels like a
new beginning for the music genre. Freestyle Games has pulled off an
impressive trick, crafting a game that holds true to its sister
franchise while at the same time putting a unique spin on both the
gameplay and the music. This is a great start, and I hope that
Activision follows through with robust DLC support. With so much of the
classic rock catalog depleted, this genre needs to look to new and
creative ways to keep the experience fresh. DJ Hero is a great first
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
DJ Hero is the most interesting music game this year, even if it’s
not conclusively the best. The presentation, character designs, and
number of overall gameplay options lag behind the more familiar titles
that released earlier this fall. However, for anyone looking for a new
challenge and new arenas of music to explore, this is the far better
choice. The turntable game mechanic is incredibly addictive, not to
mention surprisingly challenging. The difficulty curve up to Expert is
smooth and balanced well; it encourages harder settings since you can’t
fail songs – you can only fail to unlock new content. The soundtrack
will be a revelation for many, showing off the complexity inherent to
hip-hop, dance music, and turntable music creation. Even for those
already into that vibrant musical scene, the wealth of
never-before-heard mixes in the game make it worth checking out. The
original songs these mixes are culled from are at times more mainstream
than might be necessary, but I can understand the desire to include
recognizable tunes. Even with some freshman stumbles, DJ Hero is
exactly the shot of adrenaline the music genre needs.