Game Review: DJ Hero


When I first heard about DJ Hero, I couldn’t have been less interested. As the months passed, more of the song list was revealed, and I became more intrigued.

Last month I got my hands on a demo unit at a local retailer, and thought it had some potential. I pre-ordered.

Now, you get my review.

Do you remember the first time you played a Guitar Hero game?

If it was anything like my experience, it went something like this…

I failed on ‘I Love Rock N Roll’. On Easy,

I could see the game MIGHT be fun, I just sucked at it. With a little practice, I knew I could turn it into a good time, and before long I had stomped on the learning curve and was having a good time.

DJ Hero is EXACTLY like that.

The game (at least superficially) resembles a Guitar Hero title. Cartoony characters, special guest stars, notes traveling down a highway… the big difference is DJ Hero takes a LOT more coordination.

Fortunately you have a variety of difficulty settings, each dramatically different than the other, each introducing new physical feats along the way.

In fact, stepping through the difficulties will not only demonstrate how the game plays, but also the insane amount of manual dexterity required to play the game on Expert.

Beginner level only requires you to mash a button on the turntable in time with the notes. It doesn’t matter which one, any button will do. And don’t worry about scratching, you won’t be spinning the turntable.

I suggest this difficulty for children… very young children. Like preschool aged.

Easy mode introduces scratching the record, rotating an effects knob, and rewinding (spinning the record counter-clockwise a full turn).

Medium adds the fader, a sliding switch on the left side of the turntable. The fader has three positions, and sometimes the notes will slide to the left or right of the main path… you’ll need to move the slider to the appropriate side (or middle), in time.

Hard introduces directional scratches and multiple buttons being held on the turntable at the same time. Directional scratches must be moved precisely in time and in the right direction.

By the time you reach Expert you’ll need to master a wide array of moves. Your left hand might be required to move the slider into several different positions, crank the effects knob, and punch the Euphoria button (it’s like star power) in less than a second.

Meanwhile your right hand is essentially playing three button Guitar Hero, scratching back and forth to an EXACT pattern, and spinning the turntable 720 degrees.

Watching it in action is kinda scary, and a little funny at the same time.

The only substantial problem I have with the game, other than the price, is the damn fader.

Like a real fader, it glides smoothly from side to side, with a small ‘click’ at dead center to let you know it’s the middle position. Real turntables have a similar switch, and I can appreciate FreeStyle trying to inject some realism… but getting the switch to hit dead center and STAY is problematic.

Realism be damned, it makes the game unnecessarily hard at times.

Besides, if realism had been that important, why have buttons on the turntable at all?

The other gripe I have only applies to Trophy/Achievement junkies.

There is one Trophy/Achievement that requires you to play a multiplayer game locally… using only turntables. Either you must have a local friend who also owns the game, or you have to buy two controllers. At $120 each, I hope you have deep pockets or aren’t concerned about getting all the Achievements or a Platinum Trophy.

I wouldn’t have even brought it up, but I think it’s a cheap shot, and Activision and FreeStyle need to hear it.

Those little annoyances aside, the game looks good, sounds great (one of the best rhythm game soundtracks to date) and if you can get past the first couple of hours of practice, plays incredibly well.

Oh yeah… there’s also a guitar mode that lets you play two-player with a guitar and turntable. It’s not that fun, and it feels incomplete. Then again, the multiplayer in the first Guitar Hero was lacking, so maybe DJ Hero II will improve on the concept.

djheroratingShould you buy this game?

I think it’s grossly overpriced, and is in no way an entry level title.

If you’re already playing rhythm games on Hard or Expert, you like hip-hop, and the price tag doesn’t immediately turn you off… yeah, you’ll have a good time, and it’s a new challenge that pays off big once you’re mastered the skills.

If you’re just curious, not into music games, or easily frustrated… save your money.

Buy DJ Hero Bundle with Turntable
Buy DJ Hero Renegade Edition Featuring Jay-Z and Eminem


2 thoughts on “Game Review: DJ Hero

  1. Matt.. Great review.. I was a bit leary about getting one but decided it was worth it after reading your review. Everything you’ve hit on has been spot on, even on the Wii version(well except for the trophy stuff). I found that as I use the slide fader I rest my finger/thumb in the middle to help center it when I slide back it definitely helps.

    I do have to say though that I really was never into Guitar Hero and only played Rock Band if I could sing but the learning curve isn’t too bad so far, although Dawson is getting it more than I am. Speaking of sing.. I bet we’ll see something like ‘Hip Hip Band’ or something similar, dual DJ turntables and a Mic soon.

Comments are closed.