Along with using the slider, you will also have extended notes that require you to "scratch" the record. Everybody has seen somebody do this move in a music video; the idea is to quickly move the rotating carousel up and down. Occasionally you will need to do this while using the fade button. Hard and expert players will discover that some notes will need to be hit while moving the carousel in a specific direction. This adds to the already challenging gameplay, creating a sometimes flustering experience that is not for the faint of heart.
Like Guitar Hero, this game offers a number of ways of customizing the sound. Throughout each song you'll find a bunch of extended areas that you can tweak using your effect dial. This dial can also be used to add various shouts whenever a freestyle section comes up. And of course the game features a type of "star power," a bonus mode that allows you to extend your multiplier up to 8x. This mode is called "euphoria" and it works almost exactly like it does in Guitar Hero.
I was surprised at how satisfying the actual turntable gameplay is. I won't say that the gameplay is intuitive, but once I got the hang of it I found that I was having a really good time. I've never tried DJing in real life; I've only seen it on TV and in the movies. However, even with that limited exposure the game ending up feeling just right. The game does a good job of setting down a new set of rules that work well with the turntable, and it all feels about as natural as you can expect from a DJing simulator.
The problem is that it's not as interactive as games like Guitar Hero 5 and Rock Band 2. Sure you can bring on a second playing with a turntable, but that isn't as much fun as rocking out with a guitarist, singer and drummer. What's more, the game isn't very interesting to watch. Watching an avatar stand behind a bunch of electronics spinning records isn't as compelling as watching people play guitar and sing. To make matters worse, the graphics are kind of dull and the art design isn't very attractive. I found most of the characters to look more creepy than inviting, and some of the female avatars are simply appalling. Throw in only a handful of levels and you have a fairly boring game to observe.
Activision has done one thing to bridge the Guitar Hero and DJ Hero divide, and that's allowing a very limited crossover where you can bring a guitar into the mix. There are exactly ten songs in the game that allow you to pair a guitar with a turntable. Sadly these rock songs are the weakest of the bunch, featuring a downright offensive combination of the Foo Fighters and Beastie Boys. The fact that only 10% of the game's soundtrack allows guitars makes it an almost insignificant gimmick, but it's nice to have. I hope that future Guitar Hero games will try and incorporate this turntable control.
It's clear that a bulk of the development time went into making the turntable device work and creating the music. The sad truth is that there isn't a whole lot for you to do in DJ Hero. The "story" mode is basically you traveling from one challenge to the next taking on a bunch of songs. From time to time you'll have to play as a celebrity DJ, such as Grandmaster Flash, DJ Shadow, Daft Punk and the late DJ AM. Oddly enough these aren't the kind of battles we've come to expect from the "Hero" franchise, though a DJ battle wouldn't be completely out of the scope of things you might expect. Personally that kind of sounds like fun, but alas it's not meant to be. Instead you basically just play a batch of songs that represents that celebrity.
Once you've completed the various challenges you can either choose to move up in difficulty or make your own set list in the quick play. That's about all you have left to do. You can try to earn five stars and the achievements, but don't expect a world tour or anything more substantial than a list of songs you need to play through. I'm sure that these additions will come in the inevitable DJ Hero 2, but for now I'm disappointed that the actual package is so limited. Even the multiplayer feels like an afterthought.
It's hard to compare DJ Hero to the more robust games like Guitar Hero and Band Hero. This is very much in line with the start of a game series, which is unfortunate given the game's $120 price tag. Outside of the price, the game is a lot of fun and should be experienced by anybody who likes the music game genre. I can only hope that Activision will continue this franchise and add much more value to the product. There's a lot of potential in this package, enough to lead to a solid recommendation. DJ Hero proves that there's still a lot of new avenues to explore in the music genre.
DJ Hero proves to be a solid music game that tries something new and mostly succeeds. Unfortunately the price tag and limited content may turn some gamers away, but if you can get past the steep learning curve you will find an enjoyable game waiting for you. Best of all, it feels completely different from all of Activision's previous "Hero" titles!
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