Continuing on from the success of the Guitar Hero series, Acitvision have produced yet another fantastic interactive music game and with it an ingenious new wireless DJ turntable peripheral.
I was interested to see just how sturdy the turntable was as under the duress of some frenzied mixing, the moving parts, in particular the cross-fader switch will need to stand up to a fair bit of punishment. More on this a little later.
Initially, you will be asked to set up the turntable to your liking. Whether you like the coloured buttons on the left or right – it’s up to you. The game will adjust the colour of the onscreen colours to suit your configuration.
Starting up the game it definitely pays to run through the tutorial first. The legend himself, Grandmaster Flash (sounding like a man thirty years his junior) walks and talks you through the many techniques you’ll need to master to succeed. It’s a little daunting at first, when you see the sheer amount of tutorial steps, but they’re introduced in compounding increments so by the time you’ve completed the final lesson you’re feeling more than confident enough to take the game on.
From here comes the obligatory character selection screen where you have a choice of a small handful at first with more being unlocked as you progress. Of course the character is irrelevant in the great scheme of things unless you’re a spectator watching someone else play, because when you’re in the heat of the action, there’s just no way you can take any notice of what’s going on in the background with your character.
To begin with you get one club to perform at, but more quickly become available. Here you perform a set of three songs (some clubs have bigger sets). Your job is to mix two tracks together to create one club mix. Artists include Jay-Z, Eminem, Daft Punk, Queen, N.E.R.D., Tears For Fears, The Killers, M.I.A., Beastie Boys, 50 Cent, Black Eyed Peas, Young MC, 2Pac, Vanilla Ice & MC Hammer to name but a few. There’s 102 hits melded together into 93 original mixes from the likes of Grandmaster Flash, DJ Shadow, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Scratch Perverts, DJ Yoda, DJ AM and more. How good those mixes actually sound is entirely up to you, although you can set the game to just play through the mixes by itself – which is handy for parties.
Just like Guitar Hero, you tap the coloured buttons as the descending corresponding colour enters the ‘hit’ zone. But unlike Guitar Hero, there’s only three buttons – don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security though, as there’s a lot more to it than that. One song scrolls down the right hand track and the other scrolls down the right, the middle track finds the neutral ground between the two and lays down the cross-beats. Every now and then one of the tracks will jink out to the right or left and then back again which is your key to slide the cross-fader switch in the respective direction then back to the middle.
But wait, there’s more. When prompted you must ‘scratch’ the turntable back and forth according to the direction of the scratch arrows. Usually it’s back and forth, but on occasion it could be just up or just down. I found that the movement needs to be about a 30 degree turn for the game to pick it up every time as anything smaller can be hit or miss. There’s nothing worse that aiming for that 100% song and a scratch movement doesn’t register because it was too small.
The coloured buttons, on which your fingers rest all the time, are indented to help with fingers gripping the turntable when scratching, but even so, I had to keep repositioning my fingers, especially after frequent scratch breaks. I would have liked to have seen some kind of ribbed grip or textured surface as well as the concave buttons, just for that extra purchase in the heat of the action. The cross-fader switch works well, but I have my doubts as to how well the mid-point will stand up to constant playing or vigorous play. It’s not a very ‘clicky’ mid-point and finding it is essential. Not too far down the line I wouldn’t be surprised if the mid-point becomes impossible to find. A more definite click would have made life much easier and would be worth looking at in future versions of the peripheral.
Occasionally, when your rewind meter is full, you’ll get to spin the turntable backwards 360 degrees (or more if your meter is full enough) which rewinds a section of the mix so you can replay it, adding to your score.
Guitar Hero’s “Star Power” is represented here by “Euphoria” but works in exactly the same way. Thankfully you don’t have to jerk the turntable up in the air to activate Euphoria – just a simple press of the conveniently placed button will do. During Euphoria your score really cranks up and is further boosted by turning the Effects Dial (which either isolates the bass or the treble) or adding pre-chosen samples into the mix. These constitute sampled vocals or sound effects and are sectioned off into themes. My favourite is the Flavor Flav selection – let’s face it, just like adding bacon to any meal makes it better, adding YEEEAAH BOYEEEE or YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS to any song just makes it that much more awesome.
Progressing through the game unlocks plenty of new clubs, tracks, DJ’s and costumes. There will no doubt be plenty of new mixes to download before too long a-la Guitar Hero, Rock Band and SingStar.
If multiplayer is your thing, then DJ Hero caters for you too with two player head to head or co-op and online with 2-4 player co-op. If you don’t have two turntables then the game will allow two players to play if you have a Guitar Hero guitar, adding a guitar track to the mix too. Unfortunately it’s something I hadn’t tried at the time of this review –but I would expect this mode would be as polished as the rest of the game is.
DJ Hero is simple to pick up and learn, but also difficult to master. I am yet to get a 100% score on Medium Difficulty, and I think I’m doing quite well.
Ultimately, this is going to sell like hotcakes this Christmas.