38th game played so far
We may be jumping a little late into the music game franchises by taking on DJ Hero, a spin-off title from the bestselling Guitar Hero series, but when both the game and a controller are available on the cheap we just had to do it. It is also a fantastic welcome back for my new Xbox 360 with this being it’s first outing on the blog.
Having had a lot of experience with Guitar Hero when playing in a 360 band called Hardcore Street (hi Mike and Prerna!) this is a game I have been looking forward to playing this ever since it came out.
Do you feel funky? Surely there is a cooler way we can start this. I mean for the first time in my life I actually feel rather ‘with it’. I’ve been trying to find one for the past half hour while you were selecting the picture.
Since you have mentioned that you should be good at this game because of the abundance of successful Dutch DJs would you like to give the first topic of discussion? Yes, with DJ Tiesto, Armin van Buuren and other large names being Dutch, this game is obviously of high cultural significance to me, similar to how the Brits would appreciate a good game of Queuing Tycoon. And this game certainly works incredibly well for what it tries to do.
First, the gameplay is similar to try and remember – there are a couple of options, but there’s not much that happens, all of this comes from the reflexes required to do well. Reflexes that can be combined with the music, as the controls follow it and drag you in. Combine that with a large crowd dancing to your music and the lights and all that changing in response and you get an immersive, fun game.
Of course the most important being the controller, being an actual similar turntable. Well the game itself would be utterly impossible if it was not for the controller. Yeah, true, but that actually adds to the immersion. You have to hand it to the guys behind the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises since they really raised the bar for gaming peripherals. Making the games more expensive (yay for a 25 pound discounted set at HMV), but helping immersion a lot. They really have been selling off a lot of music game controllers… may have to invest in a drum set and guitar in the near future. So expect more of these games soon.
Aside from special controllers there is one thing that really makes or breaks music games: the soundtrack. All the fantastic gameplay in the world cannot save a music game if you aren’t enjoying the music itself. DJ Hero has it more difficult than more conventional games in the same genre since the tracks are all remixes. It really helps that professional DJs such as Daft Punk, DJ Yoda and Grandmaster Flash are involved since they have so much accumulated know-how on which songs work together that neither FreeStyleGames nor Activision could possibly lose. With the last of the three also being your voice through the tutorials.
Very well done tutorials they were too, I mean it was actually fun learning how to play with the turntable controller. You were basically pulled in, DJing from the start. This really helped with building a beautifully executed difficulty where you felt confident trying out some of the harder songs almost from the word go. Granted you would still not too well on them, but it sure is great fun to give it a go. Although due to the progressive star system, you can give them a go early on and get some nice results on it, and you get better when you go back to the songs later on.
The star system works very well since there is a whole wealth of unlockables including character customisations, new set lists and levels. Aside from the obvious Sprite product placement in one stage (Sprite: Quench you Thirst Now!) there is a great variation which allows you to really make the experience all the more personal. Yeah, and while only the set lists really matter to gameplay, the visuals (when the game allows you to pay attention to them) look so good that they’re a reward into your own right. Getting new headphones might not matter as much, but the DJs and stages look gorgeous and make a major difference. I think the customisable turntables are fun; I liked spinning vinyl on radar displays. They were interesting and well, and very futuristic.
I guess one thing that I would have liked to have seen was a ‘career mode’ which can be found in the original version of Singstar as well as Guitar Hero. It would have been really cool to pay as a DJ who rises the rankings to become the next headliner at Ibiza. This was something actually added in DJ Hero 2, so I look forward to seeing it’s placement on the next edition of the 1001 list.
One thing that saves that for me is that there are plenty of set lists that allow for crossover with Guitar Hero by having you scratch decks as a friend rocks on their guitar. Granted this option is not universally available but enough songs have it to make it a worthwhile feature. The Guitar Hero addition makes me curious about playing that, and seeing how well it integrates, but it looks interesting – just as the multiplayer DJing possibilities we haven’t been able to try out – we haven’t had a second controller to do so.
Summarizing all that, we’ve had a great time playing the game – in turns, finishing sets together or competing with each other, marvelling at the visuals, but mostly enjoying the music and feeling you’re actually being the DJ in the club.
As the cultural (though not actual) DJ Hero on here, I can say that this is a game that makes you feel like one – probably not if you’re actually a DJ, but that’s similar to how you probably won’t normally crawl down pipes to save a mushroom kingdom. The visuals are gorgeous – extravagant for a game where they’re no more than just the background – and the gameplay is exciting and fun. It feels right and plays well, with lots of nice unlockables. Most important, there is a great collection of music and the game makes great use of that through the mixes it offers.
Music games may not be for everyone, and our judgement is probably influence by how unique the game is, butthis is a worthwhile game in the genre. I’ll be looking forward to the next one we get to play.