DJ Hero 2

DJ Hero 2 on Xbox 360, PS3 and Nintendo Wii features an amazing soundtrack including titles from Justice, Basement Jaxx, and MSTRKRFT, Kanye West and Notorious B.I.G!

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Activision DJ Hero 2
  • Activision DJ Hero 2
  • Activision DJ Hero 2
  • Activision DJ Hero 2

Pros

  • Stellar soundtrack, expanded multiplayer and single-player modes

Cons

  • Still a steep learning curve, turntable controller is still difficult to use at times

Bottom Line

Expanded single-player and multiplayer suites headline Activision and FreeStyleGames' second foray into the spin-savvy mash-up scene.

Would you buy this?

Activision and FreeStyleGames' first DJ Hero title had a lot of potential, especially taking into account its terrific library of mashups, but the interface and proprietary turntable controller still had some kinks that needed to be ironed out. The sequel attempts to pick up where the first left off, and it's evident that the series has taken substantial steps towards becoming a legitimate Guitar Hero-sized contender.

Song selection is the meat of any music game, and in this area, DJ Hero 2 is nothing less than stellar. Where the first game featured plenty of mash-ups of pop, rock, and hip-hop, the sequel fine-tunes its focus a great deal towards music that feels more authentic to a club DJ experience — namely, recently released hip-hop hits and electronic music. You'll see names like Kanye West and Notorious B.I.G. alongside house music luminaries like Justice, Basement Jaxx, and MSTRKRFT. The mixes feel much more appropriate to the style of the game, and in the course of review play, I rarely heard a dull track in the bunch. These mixes are aggressive, groovy, and punchy, and while this may sound hyperbolic, in my opinion FreeStyleGames has created one of the most dynamic and engaging videogame soundtracks in recent memory.

Gameplay modes have also been greatly expanded from the original. In lieu of the simple single-player mode of DJ Hero, there is now an Empire mode that follows in the footsteps of the Career modes common to guitar-based rhythm games. It features plenty of unlockable characters and content as well as a good number of celebrity DJs. But rhythm games thrive on multiplayer, and DJ Hero 2 benefits greatly from a substantial overhaul to its multiplayer features. You now have access to several different types of head-to-head DJ battles, each of which emphasizes a different gameplay mode. You also have the option of playing at a different difficulty level from your opponent, which does a solid job of leveling the playing field in cases where you're outmatched by a more seasoned player.

Because the game uses the same turntable controller as the original, any complaints noted by players about the device are bound to still ring true. In particular, I found it difficult to gain leverage when spinning the platter while holding the face buttons simultaneously. Players may have to experiment with different styles of gripping the platter before finding a comfortable hand position for scratching.

The game itself also has a high learning curve — higher perhaps than its guitar-based brethren. Much like other rhythm games, new players can start with the "Easy" modes and slowly work up the skills and muscle memory to skilfully execute the more technically complex functions of the game. By the time "Medium" mode rolls around, DJ Hero 2 will be asking a lot of your dexterity, requiring you to skilfully manipulate several different controls with both hands simultaneously. It's a difficult juggling act to get down, but once you do, the game really gives you the feeling of being a skilled DJ at work. The addition of freestyle scratching sections also adds to the immersion.

Ultimately, DJ Hero 2 is a solid and polished sequel, and hopefully an omen of even greater turntable-based games to come. The soundtrack is worth buying on its own, but the game surrounding it has all the right stuff to generate the same addictive social experience that recent rhythm games have become known for. Though there are still some small hurdles to accessibility, that shouldn't deter anyone interested in rhythm games or hip-hop and electronic music from giving this very solid game a spin.

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