Previews

DJ Hero 2

Hands-On: A more eclectic mix

DJ Hero wasn't a failure. That's the first thing that's drilled into visiting journalists' heads when we pop into FreeStyleGames' HQ in the DJ capital of erm... Leamington Spa.

But you'd forgive us lot on the Eastern side of the Atlantic for assuming Activision only managed to flog its plastic turntables to two men and a dog - because the series' 2009 debut was, overall, a bit of a North American-focused affair.

While the tracklist was very eclectic, DJ Hero put the focus on more urban tunes - with Jay-Z special editions and Grandmaster Flash parading around the tutorial. Naturally, this led to boxes moving off of US shelves - as if we'd notice - but taking a little while longer (and a price cut) to do the same in the UK.

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DJ Hero 2 has, thankfully, toned down the US focus a bit.

The developers at FreeStyle are first to point out the more 'European' feel of the sequel - with electronic DJs David Guetta and Tiesto fronting the bill. A meaty single-player campaign called 'Empire' mode embraces the big brand, super club DJ culture we're more familiar with over here.

That's not to say the Hip Hop and RnB tracks aren't in there, but through its menus, solo game and cast of real and fictional characters DJH2 feels a lot more mass-market - on both continents. Which makes everyone happy, really.

Getting behind the deck reveals the changes in this year's game come from further afield than just the marketing team, though. A complaint we made in our original DJ Hero review pointed out that - apart from when playing in expert mode - your actions on the DJ controller didn't feel in tune with the mixing going on in the game.

This has been addressed in DJ Hero 2 with the introduction of freestyle elements - including freestyle scratching strips, which occasionally appear in a track, giving you the opportunity to go at it with the deck platter making your own unique noise.

Even better is freestyle sampling, which allows you to play various samples taken from the track in any fashion you wish (samples are now embedded into remixes to cater for this).

The final freestyle element comes with cross-fade. Certain sections allow you to manually fade between two tracks in the mix - be they Kanye West, Deadmau5 or David Guetta - with the cross-fader at any time.

The game will rate you on your custom 'mix' based on rhythm and beat. But the most enjoyable use for the freestyle fade section is to switch to the instrumental track - and screw over the now exposed and word-less vocalist player (what's he doing rapping over the top of a video game anyway?).

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On the subject of singing, we watched someone braver than us and it looked fairly decent. The game changes the pitch of your voice so you don't sound completely out of place over the top of The Prodigy - but we can't promise you won't still come off as a bit of a prat.

Anyway. Simply put, DJ Hero 2 does a better job of making you feel like a DJ than its predecessor - and it's not 90 per cent Hip Hop either. That's an extra half-point on last year's review already, but another promising addition to number two comes in the form of its competitive multiplayer modes, which are excellent fun.

Battle mode has you and another player competing through a mix, with you scratching through a section of track and then your opponent following suit, with the best player bagging the points.

By far our favourite, though, is Accumulator mode, which has two players competing simultaneously through a mix trying to 'bank' the highest streak. For example, if player two manages to string together a streak of 17, you'll then have to build up a bigger one and 'bank' it with the euphoria button.

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