DJ Hero

Let's get this out of the way: in case you were wondering, I am in no way a "DJ," nor am I a "Hero." Therefore, when I first heard the concept of the recently released "DJ Hero" I chuckled to myself and scoffed at Activision's seeming money-lust. Then I heard a mix of Marvin Gaye's "Heard It Through the Grapevine" and The Gorillaz's "Feel Good Inc." being played in a trailer for the game and found it very intriguing. Like the curious individual I am, I soon found myself at the local Best Buy trying out a demo, and to my surprise it turned out to be good. I felt foolish for scoffing at Activision (even though the Guitar Hero franchise hasn't really appealed to me since its' third installment) and soon after purchased my very own copy of DJ Hero. Which brings us to this review.

Since DJ Hero introduces a new peripheral I'll start there. The patented DJ Hero DJ Deck is surprisingly sturdy and well built. The platter (that's the spinney-disc-record-thing) rotates smoothly and feels great. The three input buttons on the platter (which will look familiar to anyone who has played a recent music-rhythm game) have a good grip feel and are also solid. The left-hand portion of the DJ Deck is comprised of a cross-fader, "euphoria" button, nob, and a sleek panel that lifts to reveal traditional face buttons, d-pad, and start/back buttons. Once again, all of these feel really great and certainly get the job done. The entire peripheral is wireless (taking two AAs as usual) which is also nice.
Most of the pros like Grandmaster Flash here have their own set-lists in the game.

When you start up DJ Hero and sync your DJ Deck to your console you will be forced to at least start a tutorial. This is probably wise. Though the on-screen input may look like Guitar Hero the game-play is definitely different and will take a few minutes to a half-hour to get used to depending on your fine motor skills. The tutorial will help you learn the basics of pressing the three buttons in time with the music, scratching when required, cross-fading between tracks, and finally using "euphoria" (DJ Hero's form of "Star Power"). After the basic tutorial you will have an option to go into a more advanced tutorial (which gets you acquainted with some of the trickier moves) or to simply hop into the first set-list and start your long journey to become a DJ Hero.
There are very few Guitar vs DJ songs but it is a nice way of tying in the past franchise.

As I mentioned, the on-screen display will look familiar if you've played Guitar Hero or Rock Band. Three lines (green, red, and blue) are the center focus and each corresponds to the same-colored buttons on the platter. While playing through a mix, the green and blue lines on either side usually correspond with the two tracks being mixed together (for example: green might be Eminem's "My Name Is..." while blue is Beck's "Loser"). The middle red-track is mainly used for sound effects and free-style shout outs. Nearly all mixes will have you start by pressing the green, red, and blue buttons in some order to get each track started. From here you'll see inputs on screen that require you to "scratch" one track or the other (by holding down the green or blue button and spinning the platter back and forth, as a real DJ would I assume...). Other times you will be required to use the cross-fader to slide over the emphasis of which track is being played to the left or right.

I won't go into all of the mechanics but DJ Hero is one of those games that deceives you into thinking it is simple. It may seem like a piece of cake simply pressing three buttons and spinning the disc with one hand and then cross-fading with the other but things certainly get hectic on the higher difficulty levels, and keeping track of what you need to do can get overwhelming quickly. Luckily, Activision has finally managed to take most of the frustration out of the game by making it impossible to fail mixes. The focus of the game play is now on how well you can play instead of playing to survive. This certainly doesn't mean the game is easier and when you aren't playing a mix right, you'll hear it, but it will probably protect a couple DJ Decks from being thrown across the room in a blind rage.
Things can get pretty hectic on those three colored lanes.

Apart from the game-play there's really not much to say about DJ Hero. It's basically got a ton of set-lists to play through, online support, 2 player DJ versus, and DJ versus Guitar modes. With over 90 mixes (and undoubtedly more to come via DLC) it certainly isn't low on value though. Aside from that the graphical presentation is pretty much what you would expect: slick CGI intros, lots of bright flashing lights, ugly looking audiences, and some unique and weird characters to unlock and play as (as well as some real-life DJs like Daft Punk, Grandmaster Flash, DJ Shadow, DJ Jazzy Jeff etc.).
I'm not part of the underground mixing world but is it common to see a large luchador man and colorful punk chick in a heated DJ battle?

Has Activision completely rebuilt the wheel that is rhythm gaming? Not quite. Will the track-list appeal to as wide an audience as Guitar Hero or Rock Band? Probably not. But if you're getting carpal tunnel and finger cramps from your plastic guitar DJ Hero is definitely a slick new toy to play around with and holds a lot of promise. It's also a much more impressive first leap into a new peripheral than you would expect.

The Final Verdict:


  1. Easy to pick up, fun to play, difficult to master

  • If you know who Grandmaster Flash or the Scratch Perverts are then you'll love the fan service

  • Fairly solid graphics

  • DJ Deck feels incredibly well built

  • Possibly the only game you'll find that includes Gwen Stefani, Eminem, David Bowie, Marvin Gaye, The Gorillaz, and Jackson 5 together.

  • Huge set-list including a lot of big names and great mixes

  • Fair share of unlockables


  1. Not really too much variety to the game-play or an assortment of modes

  • Audiences and other minor details look ugly

  • A fair share of the mixes combined with over-the-top flashy visuals will probably get on some players' nerves (although that should be expected)

  • $120 price tag for the deck and game seems a bit steep to me

  • Some of the characters downright scare me

The Score:

Presentation/Concept: 7.5/10
Music/Sound: 8.5/10
Graphics: 7.5/10
Value: 8/10
Game-play: 8/10

Overall: 8/10


As I've said before, if you've found yourself listening to Daft Punk or anyone with "DJ" as a prefix to their name then this is more than likely the game for you. If you love music/rhythm games you'll probably also enjoy it but some of the mixes might get on your nerves. All in all DJ Hero is somewhat of an innovation while still sticking to a tried and true formula. The caliber of the peripheral and the number of tracks available on the disc are certainly worth a look. Personally though, I'm still waiting for Piano Hero (once again proving I'm not cool enough to be a DJ).