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DJ Hero - A Review from a DJ

Matt G

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Well, when I say DJ I don't want to put myself out there as a professional or anything - it used to be a hobby but my decks are packed up in the attic now. I was never that great but put a lot of research into the techniques used even tho I didn't get to that level myself.

So that said, this game has been quite a mixed bag - I think that out of almost any rhythm action game I've played it's about the only one where the Medium difficulty level I started on still remains fun to play even after you've moved onto Hard and Expert. There isn't that feeling that half of the song is missing and there are still tricky sections that feel just like what you'd do as a DJ, some of the beat juggling sections for example were a total joy as it wasn't something I could ever master myself.

At this difficulty, the only place it falls down are the individual mixes - I don't really have a problem with any of the guest DJ mixes (Grandmaster Flash's are a bit crap tho) but those done by Freestyle Games vary wildly in quality. And as you move up the intensity you start to get ones that are less listenable and less like DJing, it starts to fall back into feeling just like a game, with the amount of buttons you're having to press being artificially increased. I know that this is the same in the Guitar Hero games at times, the Slipknot track in GH3 I remember in particular being no fun at all and being told by guitar players that it was much easier in reality. Almost all of the Guitar bonus mixes are awful as well and having the guitar track taken off what you're playing with leaves you with much less of an idea of what sounds are made by your decks. The variety of music is kind of weird as well as I don't really feel it would draw many more people in - this is the ideal game for turntablists and some of the bad mixes are probably only likely to put them off. There's only maybe one or two mixes with what I would consider dance music that are any good - regardless of whether you like the music or not it's just not mixed in a way that makes a good dance mix at the end of the day.

I've made my way up to Expert now, I've decided to stick with it even though I haven't 5 starred all of Hard, and that's where I'm finding a lot more stuff that rubs up against what I know about DJing. Generally I find the scratching very inconsistent, to the point that the same sounds are charted differently in different songs. Even the most basic ><>< scratches screwed me up for a while until I realised it was failing me for doing ><><> - to me it seems odd to cut off the scratch before the final forward as in real life you have to push it forward again so that the record speeds up and carries on playing. So I now have to really think about those scratches and make sure I make a bigger motion of pulling back and letting go of the button. Some songs however have the ><><> pattern with no noticable change in the sound.

Another one that gets me is multiple stabs like > > > >, which can be part of one long scratch section or an individual one for each. I have more problems with the long sections as it seems uncertain whether you're supposed to keep the deck stock still during the empty sections - in reality you'd be pulling the record back with the fader off so that you were in the right position to use the same sound again but I'm not sure if the game penalises you for doing this. Sometimes I'm sure I've had my streak broken for continuing to move but this could just be my scratch not being quite accurate enough. Weirdly you can actually let go of the button during the empty sections (that the game clearly states should be held down) and not have your streak broken, A bit buggy I think.

Overall the notation for scratches is quite vague and very hard to sight read and with the inexcusable lack of a practice mode to slow it down it's very difficult to see how you can learn them. It's difficult to tell whether a different method of describing them would work better but in my mind I always think of scratches as being written as one continuous line, representing the forward and backward motion you are making on the record and I think there are real dj's who write their routines down a little like this, there was a video on youtube once but I can't find it now. I would have loved to have seen Expert mode having some proper scratch routines involving the fader too, it just seems weird that you sit there doing these backward forward motions on the deck with the fader constantly in the middle, in real life that would be moving as much if not more than the deck. I think this is where the hardware reaches it's limit though, I've tried to do scribble scratches in some of the free scratch sections and it counts as a fail as I assume you are moving so fast that it can no longer detect the motion and the notch in the middle of the fader makes the transform fader spikes very hard to do (unless you can eventually wear the notch out, I'd be happy with that). I'm also surprised that they didn't let you freestyle scratch in the free red sample sections, there's only so many times you can bear to trigger "Yeaaaah Boyeee!" but if you could have scratched those sounds it would have been a lot of fun - even Frequency allowed you to do that to a point.

Overall I've found this a great game, the fun I've had with it largely outweighs my picky criticism of the DJing aspects but that doesn't mean that I wouldn't love to see a better overall package for DJ Hero 2 - more great mixes and an Expert level that feels as close to the real DJing experience as possible.

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Even the most basic ><>< scratches screwed me up for a while until I realised it was failing me for doing ><><> - to me it seems odd to cut off the scratch before the final forward as in real life you have to push it forward again so that the record speeds up and carries on playing.

Glad I'm not alone in noticing this. Oddly counter intuitive, I thought.

Good review, man.

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