by Chris Scott, reviewed on
A growing sentiment amongst the online gaming community is that the music / rhythm genre has been getting stale and for it to continue on the successful path it has been on it must innovate. Developers of these games have had trouble with this as the last genre changing innovation came two years ago when Harmonix unleashed Rock Band on the masses. After all there is only so much that can be done with the basic formula of rock songs and rock bands. The only way to truly innovate in the genre was to leave rock music behind and take on an entirely new sound. Enter DJ Hero.
DJ Hero, which latches onto Activision's Hero franchise, is the newest assault on consumers of plastic instruments and music video games. Coming with, and requiring, a plastic turntable controller, DJ Hero puts gamers in the virtual shoes of some of the hottest DJ's in the music industry. A first glance at the game in action will be both oddly familiar and totally alien to veterans of the genre. There is still a note highway, of sorts, that streams down the screen and there are still stars to be earned, however that is where the similarity ends.
Being a DJ is fundamentally different than performing in a rock band and DJ Hero is fundamentally different from its genre siblings. The difference is present right from the moment you open the box as the wireless turntable controller will be staring back at you. The instrument of a DJ is about as far as you can get from a guitar or drum kit as possible. The controller, which has a rotating turntable equipped with three buttons as well as a cross fader and effects dial, needs to be placed on a flat surface (although your lap will do in a pinch). Once you have gotten yourself in a properly comfortable position to play the game you will be ready to go.
The music in this game is completely comprised of mash-ups, meaning two different songs were taken and mashed together to create something entirely new. The role of the player is not to simulate creating the music while performing but rather to simulate the live mixing of the two mash ups. Instead of five note streams rolling down the screen as in Guitar Hero, there are three streams which correspond to the three buttons on the turntable. While that may sound simplistic to veteran Guitar Hero or Rock Band players, there is far more involved than just hitting a few notes scrolling down the screen.
The closest approximation to notes are the tap icons as they resemble the note gems of the guitar based games but the corresponding buttons on the turntable are needed for more than just tapping in time with the music. Certain areas of the mix will require gamers to scratch the turntable, done by performing a back and forth motion while pressing the appropriate colored button on the controller. While you do the tapping and scratching with one of your hands, you will also be tasked with cross fading the mix by positioning the cross fader switch in the appropriate direction with your other hand. When it is all lumped together there is quite a bit going on for the player to pay attention to, especially at the higher difficulty levels where scratches may have to be performed in a certain direction.
A shot in the arm for the music genre. Fundamentally different from Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Excellent soundtrack. Tons of unlockables.
Extremely bare bones in the presentation department.