DJ Hero 2 Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | Wii
DJ Hero 2 box art
System: Wii, PS3, X360 Review Rating Legend
Dev: FreeStyleGames 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Activision 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 19, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-3 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

When it comes to physical mechanics, there’s an inherent disconnect with just about every modern music-based game on the market. We take “playing” streamlined instruments with a grain of salt in games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero (and even karaoke-style games like Lips or Def Jam Rapstar), trading in the realism and complexity of playing a real musical instrument in exchange for the fun of being in a band or taking center stage.

DJ Hero 2 screenshot

Since musical games try to recreate the same kind of symphonic experience musicians have when performing, this kind of sacrifice is perfectly acceptable. Who cares if assuming the role of a rock star with a plastic instrument is a completely different experience than actually playing a six-stringed guitar? With a game like DJ Hero, though, which deals with the complex and (to many of us) alien art of spinning, it’s not particularly surprising that what you do on a DJ Hero controller only somewhat resembles what an actual DJ does. While I don’t think it’s entirely fair to cast negative judgment on a game for not accurately emulating the craft it takes after—especially when that craft happens to be as potentially and overwhelmingly complex as audio mixing and engineering—the first DJ Hero did get some flack from some gamers and musicians for a somewhat “inauthentic” DJing experience.

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With DJ Hero 2, FreeStyleGames has made some progress towards a purer freestyle mechanic, but the core tenets are the same. You might say that the title DJ Hero is actually a little misleading, since what you’re really getting is something of a casual DJ simulation, if most of the technical and freestyle elements of spinning were replaced with something a little more rhythm-game friendly. Like it or not, it’s a necessary concession to make: you can either have a Rock Band or Guitar Hero design that tackles some of the technique of actual DJing or you could have a hardcore spinning simulation that, much like Gran Turismo does in the racing world, could theoretically give any aspiring DJ or fan a powerful program that allows them to mix their favorite tracks together to create completely custom mixes (as well as all the creative expression that would come with it) rather than messing with elements of premade mash-ups, as the game actually does. The problem is that that would kill the pick-up-and-play arcade-style music design, severely limiting mainstream appeal. Not only would this make Bobby Kotick unhappy, it would also probably require a controller more complex than Steel Battalion’s. The Simon Says mechanics of DJ Hero may be an inelegant solution to a near-untapped musical genre in video games, but if you can get past the fact that you can’t spin what you want when you want and aren’t allowed to freestyle at will, there’s still some enjoyment to be had here.

DJ Hero 2 screenshot

For the uninitiated, here’s a quick primer on how DJ Hero actually works: the DJ controller is split between a platter with three face buttons (left and right are the two tracks of the mash-up, middle is used for sampled sounds pulled automatically for appropriate tracks) and an audio mixing side that lets you control crossfading and effects, as well as activate Euphoria, DJ Hero’s power-up mode that increases your score while activated. Throughout the game’s Empire mode (basically arcade mode, mercifully with no story), you play clubs across the globe, spinning fairly long sets of mash-ups that usually last for between three to five songs. You know the drill—when the colored cues scroll to the bottom of the screen, hit the corresponding color on the controller. But DJ Hero has a few other elements that make it more complex in some ways than Rock Band or Guitar Hero. The three lines on the track highway can shift to the left or right when not in the center, which will temporarily cut out or between track channels when you slide the crossfader to one side or the other. Scratching is obviously a big part of DJ Hero as well, which can be as simple as scratching a note back and forth or having to perform directional scratches up or down on harder difficulties. Finally, you can screw around with audio levels using the effects knob in certain sections, which can produce some interesting sounds or provide contrast to part of a mash-up.

DJ Hero 2 screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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