Since laying my hands on the plastic peripheral decks I have always come away a little unfulfilled from DJ Hero; however with the release of DJ Hero 2 its developers have listened to these woes and have addressed the many annoyances and issues that plagued the first game. Key missing elements have been filled and some new features have been introduced that were heavily lacking from its first venture into the DJ booth.
From the off, it is clear to see that the overall presentation has had a much needed spit and polish. I felt the feel of the first game had far too much clutter and was a bit cumbersome. The overall presentation felt like it was showing more substance than it actually had under the surface, which was basically a bunch of randomly set mixes that you unlocked the more you played. There was far too much Guitar Hero influence in the game and, if you excuse the pun, it didn’t ‘mix’ all too well. In this second outing the navigation and menu areas have been given a spray-painted, grungy flavour throughout, which captures the urban underground dance vibe fairly well. The menu is clean and simple, clearly showing the ample of new features and modes that are contained in the game. Samples from the tracks you’ll be playing in the game can be heard in the background as you navigate through the menus, which does lift you up and gets you in the mood to spin your decks in front of a swelling crowd of ravers and crotch-trusting dancers.
A number of welcoming additions have been added to DJ Hero 2. The first solves the lack of progression that was found in the previous game, thanks to the new career mode in the game, called Empire. This is where you become a superstar DJ, where you create your DJ, your brand and travel around the world playing alongside well known DJs from around the world, such as Deadmau5, Tiesto, DJ Qbert and David Guetta. There are six main venues that you play in, spanning Ibiza, London, Berlin, Shanghai and Las Vegas, and then back to Ibiza to close off the season. No matter where you travel though, the dark and neon lit venues that you play in do not ooze individuality. Your chosen brand logo does feature within each venue, but you are far too engrossed in what you are doing to pay any attention to such details. The music is key here with each venue bringing its own particular style of dance music in them; from the R&B clubby tracks in Ibiza, grungy and synth mixes from David Guetta in London, rap and R&B mixes in LA, through to the quirky Deadmau5 and Kaskade house mixes in Shanghai. A few different tastes are catered for here, from classic dance, progressive, hip-hop, house, trance and, surprisingly, even a little bit of drum and bass is thrown in too.
Doing well in each set unlocks various items, from being able to play as real-life and fictional DJ characters, through to outfits, headphones and decks for your chosen DJ. A great addition to the DJ character selection process is that you can put your very own avatar in the game. For me this has been one of the best inclusions of an Xbox avatar in a retail game. Even though the visual style is a little different to the rest of the game, it’s seeing your own character behind the decks that adds a bit of extra personality to the game over using the pre-set ones that come in the game.
The track selection in this sequel has had a lot more thought gone into it. The previous title felt like some offcuts of Guitar Hero had been placed in the game along with some rather random decision choices. Although the tracks are still rather varied, DJ Hero 2 is far more consistent, and has a very welcoming selection of dance centric mixes available throughout the game. I found most of the mixes on offer where great, Deadmau5 especially, and there are a few surprises along the way too – who would have thought Busta Rhymes’s “Put you hands where my eyes can see” would go so well with MARRS’s “Pump up the volume”. Even with the Empire mode exhausted there are still plenty of tracks here to keep things fresh when replayed, and then there is always the online store, where you can purchase the various downloadable mixes on offer. If you have made any previous purchases in the old game you will be pleased to know that you can carry these through and into this sequel too, as long as you have downloaded the free update from the store first.
If you wish to play through a single DJ’s setlist, then Megamixes is the option for you. From here you can select from each of the DJs featured in the game and play through their setlist as their digital persona plays in the DJ booth, with intros and all. This mode is great if you just want to dip into a particular DJ’s set as soon as you start the game, but if you have already completed the Empire mode then you would have already played through these mixes already. So as a result you will only really be touching this area as a quick way to get to a setlist instead of trying to thumb through them in Empire mode.
In Battle mode you face another local DJ over split-screen whilst using another set of turntables. Sadly, unlike Megamixes, this is a two-player only mode and you can’t play a battle against an AI opponent either, which you can do in Empire mode. If you do have a buddie nearby that does have a spare set of decks then you have quite a few Battle types you can choose from, such as collecting the most stars, through to winning the most checkpoints. Your preferred setlists can be created from a pool of available tracks and then away you go to Battle it out between each other. There are chances that there will not be many gamers with a second pair of turntables laying about, so I wouldn’t expect you to be visiting this area that often. Instead, you’ll be spinning your decks online…
DJ Hero 2’s online modes have been improved with some unlockable incentives for budding online disc jockeys to achieve. To keep gamers playing you can build up your DJ Grade by battling and winning against your online opponents, earning and collecting unlockable items along the way. Items such as Medals to represent you through to Tags can be unlocked here, however it is all a bit too cosmetic and visual, with no real gameplay changing rewards worthy of bothering to rank up. Online modes are limited to Battle matches between you and your opponent. It is a simple step of selecting your battle type and waiting for a player to connect, which most of the time is set up pretty quickly.
With a great set of mixes, a better line-up of artists and DJs, and with its progressive Empire career mode, there is enough here to keep your body swaying and your toes tapping. If you already have a set of decks from the first game and you are wondering if it is worth picking this title up, then I would certainly recommend it if you enjoyed the previous title – you will definitely enjoy this second outing a lot more. Newcomers to the DJ Hero franchise will get the most from this without the tarnished memories of being left short-changed by the first game. Other than introducing a two turntable pro-like peripheral, I can’t see where else its developers can go in future versions of this game. They could just get by with providing better DLC support for this game, but that isn’t going to line publisher’s pockets. Let’s just hope that the DLC support continues to grow over the coming months in order for us to keep those turntables spinning.