Harmonix and RedOctane came together back in 2005 to release “Guitar Hero,” a game that would reshape the gaming and music industries in a span of a few years.
At the time, the companies made a big gamble that gamers would buy plastic instruments to play along with popular rock music. Obviously, that gamble paid off, as the initial console release has spawned a number of sequels, spinoffs and copycats.
The newest step in rhythm gaming is Activison’s “DJ Hero,” which was released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2 and Wii on Oct. 27.
In “DJ Hero,” gamers use a turntable to play 93 different original mixes created just for the game. The soundtrack includes mixes with Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer, Jay-Z and The Jackson 5, Queen and the Beastie Boys, Marvin Gaye and David Bowie, and many others. The game licensed 102 different tracks to make up the 93 mixes.
The gameplay is pretty similar to that of “Guitar Hero.” There is a note highway, except in this game it’s on a revolving record rather than on a fretboard. To successfully play the mixes, you must tap buttons (like in the guitar games), use the crossfader and scratch the platter back and forth.
Learning to play the game is both easier and more difficult than I thought — the basics are easy to get down, which lulls you into a false sense of security when the much more difficult mixes come along.
I’ve never actually scratched, but I imagine that using the “DJ Hero” turntable doesn’t resemble an actual turntable setup. But the turntable is incredibly easy to use and, more importantly, doesn’t take up nearly as much space as the other plastic instruments. I think it’s RedOctane’s best designed instrument peripheral.
The turntable and broad selection of mixes are the highlights of the game, but it also has quite a few other strong points.
The developers did a good job of making the game stylish in its artwork, cinematics and the unlockable extras. Some of the biggest names in the genre are in the game, including Grandmaster Flash and Daft Punk.
One of the biggest selling points for rhythm games is the creation of a party atmosphere.
It’s easy with “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band,” because you have a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and a singer. “DJ Hero” could be a hit at parties too — the music included in this game is definitely party material — but the gameplay is limited to a DJ, although you can have an emcee, and a fraction of the songs also have guitar parts. You take the gameplay from four players — and as many as six for “The Beatles: Rock Band” — to one or occasionally two.
The game is also stripped down — there really isn’t an elaborate career mode.
But those are really the only knocks on the game.
“DJ Hero” is another crowning achievement in the advancement of rhythm-based music games.