Reviewed for: Playstation 3 and
Xbox 360. Also available for
Playstation 2, Nintendo Wii
From: Freestyle Games/Activision
ESRB Rating: Teen (lyrics, mild
By Billy O'Keefe
It's been only four years since "Guitar Hero" first took the planet by storm, but an oversaturation of incremental sequels, offshoots and competitors' products has made it feel at least twice as long.
How nice, then, that "DJ Hero" has the gall not only to freshen up the landscape, but do so with greater concern for achieving its vision than trying to please everybody the way its spiritual predecessors so often have.
"Hero" shares structural similarities to its guitar-based cousins, and during the first tutorial lesson, it appears to be the same old game with a new controller and soundtrack. Notes slide toward you down a track, and you need to press the correct buttons in time with those notes. Been there, right?
But then different tracks call for you to scratch the vinyl on the controller — sometimes indiscriminately, but other times quickly and precisely in very specific directions. Then the path of track bends, and you need to slide the cross-fader dial to follow the track — sometimes for a bridge, other times for a single beat and back. An effects dial allows for some freestyling, a euphoria button activates the game's version of star power, and certain portions of songs have you banging the red button at will to spice up the track with a sample of your choosing.
When "Hero" is cruising at full speed — tossing different arrangements of notes and tracks your way while you scramble to quickly but precisely manage all the different buttons and dials during a frantic four-song set with no break between tracks — it's an exhilarating, exciting challenge that transcends "Guitar Hero's" simpler casual leanings. The game ships with five difficulty settings, and the easier ones make "Hero" as much of a casual party game as any of its rhythmic contemporaries, but you'll want to play it on at least medium difficulty — which tests your turntable mettle without feeling unfair — if you want to see it really sing.
Whether the turntable justifies "Hero's" inflated price is a matter of personal taste, but for whatever it's worth, it's a sturdy and elegant piece of hardware. Lefties can rearrange the button layout to suit their orientation, and all the parts feel made to last. Some will find the cross-fade slider looser than they'd like, but that looseness comes in handy once you have made acquaintance with the layout and need to navigate it without hesitation. "Hero" includes support for two-player, two-turntable local and online play, and in a nice nod to interoperability, also allows a second player to jam along with a guitar controller.
Considering it was produced specially for the game, "Hero's" 93-mix soundtrack — each track mashing together two popular songs from all over the radio dial — is as impressive an achievement as the game itself. The soundtrack draws its material from 102 songs, which means some songs are used multiple times, but the sheer technique employed in constructing these mixes makes that mostly a non-issue.
(c) 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.