Scratch: The Ultimate DJ First Look

Using a turntable controller, trade in classic rock for old-school hip-hop with this upcoming rhythm game.

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Plenty of rhythm games have come along in the wake of Guitar Hero, some highly successful (see: Rock Band) and some less so (see: Rock Revolution). But few games have been quite as ambitious with the ever-popular match-the-scrolling-notes gameplay formula as the upcoming Scratch: The Ultimate DJ. This hip-hop-focused game sports a turntable peripheral complete with an analog wheel, a cross fader, and five buttons that serve a similar function to Guitar Hero's fret inputs. Through the use of this turntable, you're given a lot more freedom to improvise and add your own creative touch to the game's 60-plus songs than you'll see in most games in the genre. We recently had our first look at Scratch, and it's certainly shaping up to be an interesting experience.

You'll find the screen looks familiar, with a few important differences.
You'll find the screen looks familiar, with a few important differences.

Taking a look at the screen independent from the peripheral in the hand of whoever's playing, Scratch might not strike you as terribly unique--at least not right away. Aside from hip-hop-inspired visuals and a cast of characters representing all forms of the urban subculture, the screen itself bears a good resemblance to most rhythm games. There's a note highway on the left side of the screen where color-coded notes come flowing down, and your immediate job is to match them with the buttons on the controller. But where things take a turn toward the new is in the freestyle scratching sections, which give you space to go nuts on the turntable wheel and tweak it with the cross fader to produce some really interesting sounds.

Those freestyle sections let you get as creative as you want, but you'll still be scored based on what sort of moves you pull off and how well they stick to the beat. The game understands a wide assortment of stock moves, from a basic scratch-scratch-twist to more difficult moves, and scores you accordingly. But you can also get creative with the basic buttons, because although you need to match the notes scrolling by, you can tap away on the buttons during quiet parts as much as you want, and you'll even earn points for it if it sounds good. The other neat aspect of the basic button inputs is that depending on which song you're playing and which part of it you're in, you'll play anything from drums to vocal samples to synth parts--it all depends on what the developer felt was most fun to play during that part of the song. And with all this improvising, it's a good thing you'll be able to save song replays after each session.

DJs will represent a broad cultural spectrum.
DJs will represent a broad cultural spectrum.

The actual selection of songs looks like it should be fairly diverse, with acts spanning the decades of hip-hop's life span. So far, the artists that have been officially announced include The Gorillaz, Deltron 3030, Black Eyed Peas, Eric B. and Rakim, and Kanye West. You'll be playing these songs either in a career mode that has you taking on a series of master DJs or in multiplayer modes that allow for scratch battles where you and an opponent trade off moves in rapid succession. Of course, you can also just take to making your own music in the game's recording studio, which even allows you to record vocals using a USB microphone.

So far, no price has been announced for the turntable peripheral. We're told the controller and game will fall fairly close to the price of a Guitar Hero guitar-and-game bundle, so you shouldn't expect the price to be much more than $80 or so. We'll have more on Scratch: The Ultimate DJ as the summer 2009 release date draws closer.

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