Music video games are particularly close to Boston’s heart.Music video games are particularly close to Boston’s heart. Our very own developer Harmonix pioneered the unique genre with definitive titles such as Frequency (PS2 2001), Amplitude (PS2 2003), Guitar Hero (PS2 2005), and the superlative Rock Band series that has appeared on nearly every current platform. The high standard set by Harmonix means that its signature addictive gameplay formula, blending rhythm action and killer tunes, is endlessly aped.
The DJ Hero series, developed by FreeStyleGames, has given gamers even more reason to invest in plastic toy instruments. DJ Hero has no direct relation to Harmonix Studios other than the identical gameplay concept, but their DNA is embedded and immediately recognizable to fans of their oeuvre.
DJ Hero puts you behind the turntables and serves up a full platter of music mash-ups.DJ Hero puts you behind the turntables and serves up a full platter of electronic, hip-hop, and pop music mash-ups. DJ Hero requires a special turntable controller that comes bundled with a copy of the game. The controller is surprisingly weighty and sturdy and can be adapted for right or left-handed players. (The controller is required to play the game, though thankfully, the controller bundled with DJ Hero 1 also works with DJ Hero 2, and vice-versa.)
Gameplay consists of crossfading, tapping out beats, and scratching. The difficulty settings do a good job of building and integrating these facets organically. The easier difficulties have you tapping beats out on the three colored pads, à la a drum machine, and occasionally scratching. As you increase the difficulty, the game incorporates directional scratches, left/right fades, and complex drum patterns.
It’s terrific fun to be absorbed by the fantasy of spinning house music in Ibiza.Moving your hands and fingers between the crossfader, the platter, and the pads does a pretty good job of mimicking the actual coordination that DJs possess. It’s terrific fun to be absorbed by the fantasy of spinning house music in Ibiza. DJ Hero allows you to feel moments of music gaming bliss as you mix tracks and drum sequences. Like nailing an Iron Maiden guitar solo in Rock Band, DJ Hero similarly amps up your heart’s BPM.
Obviously, for a music game to succeed it needs a raucous, catchy track list. DJ Hero 1 has standout tracks from Daft Punk, Dr. Dre, Beastie Boys, and tons more. With a little more than 90 mixes from 100 diverse tracks (some tracks appear in multiple mixes), DJ Hero 1 will certainly keep you busy and entertained for a long time.
As an offshoot of the Guitar Hero franchise, DJ Hero 1 includes a half-hearted integration of guitar parts that can by played with guitar controllers. Only a handful of tracks support the guitar peripheral, though you’ll likely disregard the guitar gameplay entirely. DJ Hero 2 eschews the limited guitar support for microphone and vocal backing, which is far more fun and relevant to the music in DJ Hero 2.
With 83 mixes from over 100 songs, DJ Hero 2 shifts its focus from the electronic/mash-up genre to a broader pop and hip-hop focus. Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, 50 Cent, Nas, and the indefatigable Kanye West are heavily featured. Not all the hip-hop is contemporary, and fans of older tunes will delight in finding Afrika Bambaataa and Public Enemy among the track list.
Serious techno fans will be excited to see the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, and deadmau5.French DJ David Guetta and Scottish producer Calvin Harris contribute multiple tracks, blending infectious house beats and pop vocals. Serious techno fans will be excited to see the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, and deadmau5. An array of pop hits, from Lady Gaga and Rihanna, to vintage Jackson 5 round out the stellar selections. There is truly something for everyone in DJ Hero.
Most of the mixes found in the DJ Hero series are done in-house by the producers at FreeStyleGames, but there are a select few tracks composed and mixed by some seriously big name DJs. DJ Hero 1 has personal mixes from DJ Jazzy Jeff, Grandmaster Flash, The Scratch Perverts, and DJ Shadow. DJ Hero 2 furthers the high-profile names and features rip-roaring mixes contributed from Tiësto, Z-Trip, Diplo, RZA, and turntablism pioneer DJ Qbert.
Nearly every track in the series offers something fun and unique.Despite only a relative few mixes contributed by major league DJs, nearly every track in the series offers something fun and unique. It’s a testament to DJ Hero’s consistent high quality that the professionally produced tracks do not stand out—the mixes produced in-house at FreeStyleGames are just as fun to play and listen to as the sets produced by DJ Shadow personally. As an added bonus, you can boot up either game and simply listen to your favorite tracks.
DJ Hero is a great game to play on rainy days, and does a great job of replicating the thrill of mixing live music. DJ Hero is no substitute for real audio mixing, as it is still a rigid video game, but it proves a fun diversion from games with detailed gun models and military banter. Because DJ Hero came at the tail end of the music game mania (2009), it is relatively inexpensive, even when it’s bundled with a controller. DJ Hero and its sequel are highly recommended for any gamers who enjoy the music/rhythm genre, or simply those who appreciate quality music.