Last year, Activision attempted to expand upon its Hero brand by introducing DJ Hero to the mix. The DJ themed Hero title was well received critically but was met with rather tepid sales figures. Speculative reasoning rained down from above as everyone attempted to put their own two cents out there for all to see and hear. Was it the over-priced turntable peripheral? Was it a reluctance to play a DJ themed game? Or was it just further proof that the current era of music based games was beginning its twilight? Whatever the reasons were, enough people still bought the game that a sequel was put into motion and that is where we stand today.
DJ Hero 2 returns us to the club scene where players are tasked with playing along to over 80 new mixes created by some of the hottest names in the industry. The new music is exceptional and features mixes of some relatively new tracks but, as is natural with any music themed game, the soundtrack is only going to be good if it matches one’s own personal taste. If someone doesn’t like Lady Gaga or Kanye West, a chunk of the soundtrack is going to be neglected. Even so, I still feel confident that there are a good variety of tracks that will allow nearly anyone to have a good time.
The new music is by far the most important piece of the DJ Hero 2 puzzle but there are also a handful of new or revised features. Gone are the sloppy tagger themed menus from the first one and in their place is a more sterile looking system that properly reflects the electronic nature of the mixes. It is a nice aesthetic choice and it makes the game more accessible right off the bat. Aesthetics, though, do not a game make and DJ Hero has filled one of the biggest issues with the first title here in the sequel.
The Empire Mode replaces the simplistic and relatively boring single player experience of DJ Hero, with a full on single player campaign complete with DJ battles and Megamixes. The Megamixes are mixes put together by the featured DJ’s and run a handful of mixes put together to run as one continuous “mega” mix. These mixes are quite fun and present both a challenge from a difficulty standpoint as well as a physical one because they are movement intensive and, in a manner of speaking, they are long. The DJ Battles require you to face off against either the generic employee DJs or the featured DJs. As one would expect, the featured DJs present the biggest challenge and while I personally found the AI to be a bit unfair in these battles, they still presented quite a bit of fun.
In addition to the revamped single player, there is a revamped online multiplayer component. Borrowing a bit from the highly successful Activision shooter Call of Duty, DJ Hero 2 has a variety of labels and icons that can be unlocked as you gain experience and level up your online persona. Once again it is little more than just an aesthetic choice but it also adds a bit of depth for those that get into the online DJ battling. The game modes themselves are all standard fare that will be familiar to anyone who has played a Hero brand game before. Head to head scoring, star gathering or accuracy checkpoints are all fun to play if you can get into a match. The issue with DJ Hero 2, and fringe titles in general, is that the online community tends to evaporate quickly. This is not a denouncement against the quality of the title itself but it is a very real issue for people that pick up the game.
Game modes, aesthetic choices, and any other frivolous features are all just the butter to the bread that is the gameplay and DJ Hero 2 has some stellar gameplay. For those that have played the original title, DJ Hero 2 will seem immediately familiar. Do not take that to mean that there are no new aspects to the formula, though. Much like Empire Mode answered the biggest complaints about how the game was formatted, the gameplay has also been changed to address the biggest complaints against it.
As much fun as playing along to the mixes and mimicking the movements of scratching as a DJ were in the original game it was just that, mimicking. Being an actual DJ is heavily based on personal creativity and the format for the original game did not really have a way to showcase this aspect. As was mentioned earlier, DJ Hero 2 is very similar in terms of the gameplay formula but there is a little more wiggle room to express your creativity this time around. It is not much, as players will still be playing along to mixes created by real DJs, but the inclusion of freestyle fader portions and custom scratch pads add a touch of personalization, albeit a small one, to the game.
From a technical standpoint, DJ Hero 2 runs and looks better than its predecessor. The game has alleviated most of the small frame rate issues that would sometimes plague DJ Hero. DJ Hero 2 also looks more impressive. The animations look less stiff, the character and environment models are far smoother and the inclusion of Avatar support adds a touch more personalization to the package. And like any quality music game should, it sounds fantastic.
DJ Hero 2 is technically sound and one of the best music titles available on the market but even so it is hard to recommend the game without some caveats. If one already has the turntable controller and enjoyed the first game, then DJ Hero 2 is a no brainer. However, if one is only interested in the idea of the game I would recommend hunting down the original with a turntable at a bargain price and gauging your interest from there. The game is an excellent title but it is not quite as revolutionary or as fresh as the original even with all the marked improvements.
4 out of 5.
Originally published at Hooked Gamers.