Games for Lunch: DJ Hero 2

Posted by Kyle Orland (October 29, 2010)

Games for Lunch chronicles the first hour of a different game every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each hour ends with the answer to the only question that matters at that point: Do I want to keep playing? For more information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions.

Developer: FreeStyleGames
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Oct. 19, 2010
Systems: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Wii
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site

In a nutshell: A smooth remix.

0:00 I liked the original enough to buy it when it went on sale for $40 recently, but not before that. Iíve been told this sequel is much better, but I find that hard to believe -- what can they possibly add?

0:01 This being a PS3 game, of course there’s a version 1.01 update to download already. At least my firmware is somehow up to date. The 6MB file downloads and installs rather quickly.

0:02 Headphones bounce on a white floor. The headphone wire flies through a white expanse, creating colorful abstract art as it does. It plugs in to the DJ Hero 2 logo. Nice, simple and quick... Iím a fan.

0:03 A remix of "Crank That Souljah Boy" plays over the menu as the game logs in to the DJ Hero 2 server. I am not a fan. The game asks if Iíve played DJ Hero before, and also if Iíd like to hear about new features in the sequel. How considerate!

0:04 The tutorial starts by telling me to spin the record to rewind the music, which I already knew how to do. I thought I told you I played DJ Hero already...

0:07 The first actual new feature is a "held tap." Basically you just hold the appropriate button without scratching. Barely seems worth a tutorial lesson. I do like the way the audio breaks down on these notes, though. Also, why do all these rhythm games let you hold these notes for longer than necessary. On a real DJ deck, Iíd have to raise my finger at the end of the note, yes?

0:12 The freestyle sampling sections now let you activate sound effects and music notes instead of things like Flava Flav screaming "YEAAAAAAH BOYEEEEEEEE," as in the original game. This is a vast improvement.

0:12 The new freestyle crossfading sections let me pick which of the two tracks I want to hear for a few measures. Hopping back and forth is lots of fun, especially when I time it with key parts in the lyrics. "Another one bites the... *BOOM BOOM PSHHH*"

0:16 "I think we can agree that freestyle sampling and cross fading are pretty awesome." Indeed we can, nameless announcer. Freestyle scratching, on the other hand, is a little less precise than Iíd like it to be. I like what theyíre attempting -- letting you choose the speed of the record scratch -- but the execution seems a bit off.

0:18 I skip the final lesson on the gameís new vocal mode because a) I know how karaoke video games work and b) Iím not going to be singing in my first hour.

0:20 On to Empire mode. I choose the afroed Layla Flame from among the six selectable DJs. Letís go with Medium difficulty to start.

0:21 "Ibiza is the melting pot of talent -- time to launch your brand and set the world on fire." So the story mode is focused on branding? How... inspiring?

0:30 OK, Iím taking a pause here because it looks like Empire mode may never actually break in between songs. So far Iíve played two mixes, and already the experience is much more enjoyable that the original game. The crossfader is MUCH more forgiving about finding the center, which is good because you have to find the center constantly. The freestyle crossfade and sampling sections let me mix in just the right amount of creativity into the well-packaged mixes.

0:31 My only complaint so far is the game seems a bit too touchy about making me stop my scratches on a dime. If I continue scratching for even one beat past the end of a scratched note, I mess up my combo. Overall, though, Iím really getting in to the groove here.

0:33 Holding down a button to produce the "Aaaaaw" part of "Aaaaaw FREAK OUT!" is what buttons were made for.

0:35 The game finally gives me a break after the third mix in a row. My DJ throws up her hands in triumph, reminding me that the backgrounds have been utterly ignorable so far, even though the sparse Medium difficulty note patterns left me plenty of time to look if I wanted to. I hit 96% of my notes, got 15/15 stars, pulled a streak of 98 notes at one point but... only ranked a B on freestyling? Screw you, game, my freestyling skills are awesome and you know it!

0:37 Neither of the new set lists Iíve unlocked are driving me wild with their song selections, so I crank the difficulty up to Hard to maintain my interest.

0:42 While Iím between mixes, I want to emphasize how much of a difference the forgiving crossfader makes. The fact that I donít have to find that little nub for the exact center of the fader is means I can focus on the rest of the game much more cleanly. Thatís good, because Hard mode is throwing a lot of stuff at me at once. I have to hit notes as I crossfade and hold notes as I hit other notes and generally maintain my attention on three things at once. Iím managing to keep up, but just barely at points. Thank god Iíve got a lot of rhythm game experience.

0:47 I love that the freestyle samples let me mix in dogs barking and the word "G" on Snoop Doggís "Who am I?" track. I wasnít familiar with the song playing opposite it, but the way the beats are intertwined is still entrancing to me. The repeating rhythtms and slight variations on the theme that get built into it show some incredible skill.

0:51 I only rank three stars on the final mix. I blame the song selection: Nellyís "Hot in Herre" is a terrible song and I canít quite find the beat on the song playing opposite. Plus the note patterns were just that much more overwhelming than previously. I actually found myself getting mixed up with which button corresponded to which finger at points, which is sad because there are only three buttons. And I have more than three fingers!

0:52 On the last three mixes I only hit 90% of my notes, earned 11/15 stars, and maintained a maximum streak of 65, but the game now recognizes my freestyling skills with an A ranking. Moral victory!

0:53 Moving on to a DJ Battle with DJ QBert, who I assume is a well known actual DJ? The game explains that I have to hit more notes than QBert between each checkpoint.

1:00 That was really interesting. Like a game of Horse, almost, as I watch the computerized QBert play a section, then I play a variation on that section. Most of the time the digital DJ is just a little bit better than me, but during one section I actually beat his 100% performance with a better-timed 100% performance of my own. Still, my floundering on some crossfaded scratches costs me the match, which he wins seven sections to five. I could see this being really exciting as a real two-player battle. If only I had anyone else to play with...

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? Mesmerizing remixes, more polished controls, extra freestyling sections -- whatís not to like?

This review was based on a retail version provided by the publisher.

Check out hundreds of archived Games for Lunch reviews on the official Games for Lunch blog.

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