Last year, the world was introduced to a new name in the already-overfilled land of rhythm games, DJ Hero. Despite showing a lot of promise and being the best selling new IP of 2009, the game was not without it's faults. The first half of the game was, for the most part, unbearably dull as far as the songs were concerned, not to mention a lot of repeating tracks (Seriously...how many times can you use Heard It Through The Grapevine in one game?), and a host of other minor issues kept it from being the truly great game that it could have been. However, it showed tremendous potential, and when Activision and Freestyle Games announced a sequel, everything was set for the series to realize it's potential. But does it? If the demo's any indication, then...yes. And then some.
The first and most important thing to note is that, from the initial looks of it the setlist is MUCH better. If the three songs playable in the demo are any indication, the mixes are much more solid and varied, with a bigger emphasis on dance and techno music this time around (Which was a complaint many levied against the original). Expect to see such club legends as Deadmau5, MSTRKRFT, Prodigy, The Crystal Method, and many more mixing it up with the likes of Lady GaGa, Missy Elliot, Usher, and more. Not only that, but also expect to see a lot less repeat tracks this time around- very few tracks show up more then once in a mix, and the ones that do only show up twice in the entire game, a far cry from the "You mean we have to hear Hollaback Girl AGAIN?" reactions of the first title. This also extends to the selection of playable DJs in the game, where you'll be able to choose from people like Deadmau5, Tiesto, DJ Qbert, and even RZA (fuck yeah!).
Aside from that, the gameplay itself has also gotten some massive upgrades. Another complaint against the first game was the almost complete lack of customization of the songs. In a game about the DJ lifestyle, the ability to make the track your own is almost a necessity, though in the first game you were limited to being able to use pre-determined samples at certain moments of the song and nothing more. Here, there is a much greater emphasis on freestyling pieces of the song, all of which greatly add to the experience and make you actually feel like a club-banger yourself. I've been a DJ for almost eight years, and being able to actually scratch with my own style or do my own crossfading for the first time in a mix gave me the biggest Chad Concelmo smile, not to mention make me feel like the game was actually made with a loving attention given to the DJ culture that was previously only slightly touched upon in the first game.
The new freestyling features come in three different forms- freestyle sampling, freestyle scratching, and freestyle crossfading. The first one, freestyle sampling, is probably the least impressive. It's just a continuation of the first game's "pick a set of samples, hit the red button when the red bar appears on the track", though with one slight difference- instead of picking a predetermined set of samples, it does away with that and you gain control over song specific samples. It's a minor change, but makes for a much more fluid sound then randomly hearing a snarky British guy say "Fresh" or having Flava Flav scream out "YEEEEEEEEEA BOOOOOOOI".
The second, freestyle scratching, is much more fun. At certain parts of the song, an empty rectangular area will appear on either the green or blue side of the track. Hold the button down and go to town, and listen as your scratching is added to the song. It takes some getting used to, but after messing around with it a few times you'll find yourself scratching like a pro. Lastly we have freestyle crossfading. At other points in the song you'll see two wide areas pop up on the track, which is your cue to take control. Using the crossfader, you can switch between each track on your own, cutting out the other track completely or letting each play- the choice is yours. The game also scores you at the end for how well you utilize these elements in-game, judging you on things like proper scratching techniques, creative crossfading, rhythmic sampling, and more. It adds a really fun layer to the game that ensures no two playthroughs of a song are the same.
The other major addition to this game is the inclusion of several new competitive modes. The only two I were able to play in the demo were a standard versus mode and DJ Battle. The versus mode is exactly what you would expect (Except with the ability to steal rewinds from the other player), but DJ Battle is a different beast altogether. In this mode, you battle for supremacy in the call-and-response method that the old-school MCs did back in the day. It begins with you playing a part, at which point the other player will play a part in an effort to one-up you. Your progress is scored by Checkpoints strown across each track, with whoever winning the most Checkpoints being the winner of the battle. It doesn't sound like much, but it's a really fun and exhilarating alternative to the standard versus play that's already led to some pretty epic showdowns in my house.
Aside from the gameplay, there are a couple other minor changes that make all the difference. The interface has been completely revamped and looks absolutely beautiful. It's brighter, more colorful, and does a much better job of relaying information to you then the slightly clunky version in the first game. Not only that, but the menu itself is a lot prettier then the "pick a setlist, play a setlist" menu from DJ Hero 1, utilizing the striking black and white graffiti-esque art-style present in the trailers. Also of note are the graphics themselves which, while still pretty to begin with in the first game, have also been improved with more dynamic lighting and choreographed strobe effects, taking you one step closer to that "Club in your living room" feeling the first game tried to offer.
All in all, DJ Hero 2 is certainly looking to be a definite improvement over it's predecessor, and may be the game that finally shows the potential of the franchise. While it still remains to be seen for sure (This IS just the demo, mind you), from what I've been able to see and play I'm willing to bet that any would-be club bangers will have a blast with this. DJ Hero 2 drops October 19th, so be sure to pre-order it while ya can!
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