Activision’s much-touted Hero franchise has returned in time for the Christmas season, with perhaps the most intriguing addition to the series yet in DJ Hero. DJ Hero has been years in the making, encountering numerous legal and developmental issues en route to introducing a challenger for Konami’s Beatmania series. So how does Activision’s latest foray into the musical gaming genre fare?
Unpacking the rather dauntingly sized package, players find a turntable controller with wireless receiver, an instruction manual, the game disc and, of course, the $249.99 price tag. Despite the contents of the package, $250 is pretty steep for a single game. Right off the bat, DJ Hero has the stigma of costing a mere $100 less than a new console attached to it.
One would expect that the primary piece of equipment your $250 is buying, is the DJ turntable. The wireless controller features a moving turntable, three stream buttons, a cross-fader lever and a euphoria button among other more standard inputs. As a whole, the device feels disappointingly constructed for the steep price. The materials are lightweight and while it remains to be seen, I have little faith in the durability of the mechanism. This is particularly true for the cross-fader lever, which feels flimsy straight out of the box.
As with all of the games from Activison’s Hero line, DJ Hero is all about timing. Players will need to follow the rhythm and perform the corresponding movements on the turntable as they appear on the screen. In DJ Hero, these movements can take the form of scratching the record, tapping one of the three coloured buttons, adjusting the cross-fader or adding some individuality. This can get hectic pretty quickly, but DJ Hero does a superb job of gradually adjusting the difficulty as players move through the levels. This allows the game to accommodate all levels of plastic-instrumented musicians.
One of the keys to a successful music title is obviously its repertoire of music, something that’s a real strength for DJ Hero. All of the tracks are a mix of two different songs, so there’s a decent range to use. Featuring a stunning collection of artists, there’s a track in here for everybody. Players can mix everything from Queen and Marvin Gaye, to Jay-Z and Eminem, and even Daft Punk and Dizzee Rascal. In total there are more than 90 mixes and one can only expect this to increase with DLC sooner or later.
One of the interesting features implemented by Activision in DJ Hero is the ability to cross over on certain songs with Guitar Hero. The ability to use the Guitar Hero controller opens the door for multiplayer action and flowed particularly well in the songs the feature was present in. While it’s only currently available in about 10% of the stock mixes, these crossovers, along with the potential inclusion of other instruments from the Hero world, would be a welcome addition in DLC or future releases.
As those familiar with the franchise have come to expect, the presentation in DJ Hero is flawless. The colour palette is eye-poppingly bright and contrasts excellently with the locations at which players are performing. The DJs themselves are fantastically modelled, producing a range of personas. Particularly memorable though are the two Daft Punk MCs, who look fantastic and add much to the game’s credibility.
But while there’s no denying that parts of DJ Hero are excellent, the negatives weigh in quite heavily. The innovation is there, the tracklist is there, but the flimsy controller coupled with a prohibitive price tag will prevent many from realising this. At the end of the day, DJ Hero is very good, but sadly, it’s just not $250 good.