DJ Hero 2 Updated Hands-On
We spent some time cutting the fader and embarrassing the singer with Freestyle Games' platter-spinning sequel.
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DJ Hero 2 is less revolution and more refinement; at first glance you might not even be able to tell the difference between this game and the original. However, what Freestyle Games has done is listen to feedback from players and create a host of new game modes that build upon the core DJ-based rhythm action that made the original so fun. There are a bunch of new techniques too, ones that hardened DJs and those with an affinity for realism will come to appreciate. Freestyle scratching and crossfading both play a part in the experience, and while you can't break them out at random, their inclusion makes for a much more creative, and at times hilarious, experience.
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Most of the changes in DJ Hero 2 have been made to the multiplayer, the biggest of which is Battle mode. It lets you compete with a friend in DMC-style DJ battles, complete with special musical mash-ups that have been made specifically for the mode. Players take alternating sections of the track, trying to one-up each other by playing more accurately or by being more creative in any freestyle sections. In our hands-on we found the mode to be great fun and immensely competitive. We were always aware of what our opponent was doing and kept a close eye on their score during their solo sections. When it was our turn to drop some beats, we furiously scratched on the deck to ensure we kept in front and held onto our euphoria power to make sure we got the highest multiplier. Because of the mode's competitiveness, both players have to play at the same difficulty to ensure fairness, which means newcomers may struggle against a seasoned pro.
We also tried out Party mode, which has been borrowed from the Guitar Hero games. It lets you play a random playlist, which you and your friends can drop in and out of at any time. Each player can choose a different difficulty level, and if you've got a vocal talent in the household, they can jump in and sing along. The vocal tracks look a lot like those in Guitar Hero, with a pitch detection bar indicating if you're singing in key. Rhythm detection has also been added for tracks that are rapped, so you can't get away with dropping any whack rhymes, yo.
One of the funniest moments of our hands-on involved embarrassing the singer using one of the freestyle sections. At certain times during a track, you have the ability to cut between the two tracks and mix them together. This allows you to pull off some great beat drops, and it makes you feel much more like a real DJ. If the track has vocals and you have a timid singer, it's hilarious to simply cut out the vocal track while they're in the middle of singing, resulting in some very out-of-key warbling. The scratching is also fun, and surprisingly responsive. Each move of the platter has been mapped to a different sample of scratch, and by pulling it back slowly or rapidly moving it, you can create different sounds. It's a shame there isn’t a combination of the two freestyle sections, which would allow you to cut between tracks and scratch, though it would inevitably be tricky to pull off.
Though much of the game's focus is on the multiplayer, the single-player has also seen an update. It has been renamed Empire mode, and it now features a full narrative, unlike the original, which was simply a process of playing through and unlocking the tracks. Now you take on the role of a fledgling DJ who has to mix his way up to fame. Along the way you meet many famous DJs who offer you tips and eventually help you to play in some of the biggest clubs in the world. Of course none of that would be fun without good music, and DJ Hero 2 doesn't disappoint. Musical genres are now more balanced, with an even split between hip-hop, techno, and pop tracks. We heard an excellent remix of Justice's "D.A.N.C.E." as well as an insanely difficult mix of the Chemical Brothers' "Galvanise," so house and techno fans have plenty to look forward to.
To cap off all the gameplay improvements, the graphics have been tweaked substantially and look noticeably less like a rip-off of Guitar Hero's art style. The interface has been cleaned up too, making it much more enjoyable to navigate the menus. DJ Hero 2 is out on October 22 on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. Look out for a full review on GameSpot when the game launches.