In the midst of the Guitar Hero onslaught of 2009, which saw the release of five separate Guitar Hero titles, Activision released DJ Hero, a surprisingly original rhythm game. DJ Hero was developed by FreeStyleGames and brought the art of turntablism to video game consoles in a fun and unique way.
Now, Activision and FreeStyleGames are back at it with DJ Hero 2. Does DJ Hero 2 improve upon the original outing and once again breathe new life into the crowded rhythm genre? Check out the full review below.
DJ Hero 2 does not stray far from the original game’s winning formula. It capitalizes on what made the original great without changing things drastically. This isn’t to say it is just a rehash or expansion. DJ Hero 2 is a smoother and more fulfilling experience that makes needed changes, but never feels different for the sake of being different.
The opening video looks like an Apple commercial and sets the tone and style of the game, which is modern, fresh, and well organized. In fact, one of the biggest improvements in DJ Hero 2 is the organization of the menus, mixes, and modes. Gone are the days of scrolling through one giant wheel of setlists and game modes. The main menu of DJ Hero is clean and gets straight to the point.
The game does a great job of welcoming newcomers by asking a series of questions up front to make sure it gets things right. This allows gamers to bypass the options menu and jump right into scratching records. It also provides a series of tutorials for those that need a little bit of practice or want to take their mixes to the next level. The tutorials begin with the fundamentals of DJ Hero 2 and gradually build up to lessons that only experts will be able to complete.
DJ Hero 2 is slick, but the big question is whether the gameplay remains enjoyable or not. The answer is an emphatic YES! The refreshing and addicting rhythm gameplay elements are back from the first, along with an extra dose of style. As the game progresses, it becomes continually more evident how rich the experience is. Hold Notes, which were strangely absent in the original DJ Hero, make their debut and add variety to the mixes.
However, the biggest single area of improvement in DJ Hero 2 is the amount and quality of Freestyling sections. In DJ Hero, the Freestyle sections were boring and generally resulted in the player mindlessly spamming the red button until the section was over. Now, the Freestyle sections have variety and encourage players to truly express themselves and mold the mix to their liking. The original Freestyle Sampling still exists, but instead of preselected generic samples, the game automatically provides samples that sound good and fit the context of the song.
Another completely new feature is Freestyle Crossfading, which momentarily takes away all worries of missing notes or losing multipliers and allows DJs to find a groove and manipulate the track to their liking. These sections give players full control over crossfading and allows them to inject their style into the mix.
The last and perhaps coolest freestyle element is Scratching. During Freestyle Scratch segments, the game leaves the speed and sound of the scratch up to the player. It is really fun trying to recreate all the different scratch sounds and rhythms and the game does a great job of making it feel realistic. These small improvements, taken together, make a huge difference in the game, and advances the franchise. Players feel more in control and more like a real DJ.
When the setlist was first announced for DJ Hero 2, some gamers were turned off by the fact that it was mostly comprised of modern rap hits, along with a spattering of electronic and classic hip-hop tracks. However, each mix in the game incorporates at least two songs, often more, in clever ways that feel more authentic than the limited mixes from the first game. The mixes are definitely greater than the sum of their parts.