The crossfade slider is used when the blue or green tracks shift to the side—you have to slide it in the right direction right when the track jumps position, and then slide it back to the middle when the tracks realign or switch to the other side. On the harder difficulties you must flick it in and out quickly to hit crossfade spikes.
Pulling off all these techniques is decidedly different than the guitar, drums or vocals in past music games. When playing guitar hero my left hand did most of the “thinking,” per se, by working the frets, while I could pretty much forget my right hand because strumming was second nature and didn’t require much conscious thought. DJ Hero requires accurate coordination of both hands with a lot of thought divided between them, something that I could never get completely comfortable with.
My issues with DJ Hero come from the sheer precision it requires even on medium, when it isn’t even going that fast. You must time the scratches perfectly, pressing down and letting off the button at just the right time. The crossfader also gave me problems because the track shifts are so abrupt, and the slider is pretty loose. It’s too easy to shift back to the middle and accidentally push it to the other side; it doesn’t “grab” hard enough in the middle to prevent you from slipping over. These two complications kept killing my score multiplier and making it difficult to get anything more than a 3-star rating when playing above medium difficulty. Like in Guitar Hero 5 each new gig, character, and secret item is unlocked with the stars you earn, so needless to say I wasn’t unlocking much.
DJ Hero isn’t as brutal a teacher as Guitar Hero or Rock Band though. As you work your way through the ladder of gigs you’ll never fail out of a song, no matter how many songs are in the gig or how badly you perform on each one. The music just keeps going, even as you stumble through the incredibly complicated mixes on hard and expert. Sure, you might not even get a 2-star on most of them but it lets you practice without kicking you out of the gig after a streak of missed notes.
As with any of Activision’s music games, DJ Hero includes a multiplayer mode. If you own two turntable controllers you and a friend can go head-to-head on the same mix. It’s kind of simple but it’s a tried and true setup and a callback to face-off mode in the old Guitar Hero games. Alternatively, one person can scratch out on a turntable while another plays guitar accompaniment on any compatible guitar controller, using the exact same gameplay from the Guitar Hero series. I thought this was a pretty cool feature to include, but only some of the songs have a guitar part so your options in this mode are somewhat limited.
DJ Hero has a total of 93 mixes, and while they aren’t all unique—some of the songs repeat—it’s a healthy selection with a little something for everyone. Pop, funk, rock and alternative styles are all represented, much like Guitar Hero 5 or the family friendly Band Hero, and it’s only a matter of time before the DLC starts dropping every week.
Still, I’m not sure if I’ll buy as much of DLC as I have with Guitar Hero or Rock Band; DJ Hero just didn’t hook me the same way. Maybe it’s because jamming on an air guitar or beating the skins is a more natural fantasy for me—like most people I’ve always wanted to feel like a rock star, but DJing doesn’t hold that kind of wish fulfillment for me. I still fire up Rock Band now at then and run through my favorite songs, and Guitar Hero 5 is my new mainstay for parties, but I just don’t have much incentive to go back to DJ Hero. In fact I’m still trying to figure out just who asked for DJ hero; what audience is this game trying to cater to, the club scene? Maybe I’m just boring and don’t go to a lot of clubs; I'm are more likely to watch obscure horror films with a small group of friends than hit the nightspot circuit.
In any case, if you have an interest in DJing then DJ Hero offers a decent glimpse into the lives of the humble heroes of the nightclub. The style and culture of the DJ scene is well represented in DJ Hero’s visual design, art and attention to detail, so people familiar with the genre will find the game authentic in many respects. It is obvious that the developers either did a lot of research or spent their college days living it up after the sun went down, so the intent is genuine and appreciated. It will take a while for ardent guitar heroes to shake off what they’ve learned about music games and the turntable’s flaws don’t make it any easier to adjust, but otherwise DJ Hero is a solid product with good intentions and a lot of franchise potential.
DJ Hero is tough to quantify. The gameplay is unique and engaging for those interested in it, if marred by some control issues. There's a lot of content and personality here and a well built game, but guitar heroes probably won't fall into the groove right away.
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