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DJ Hero

DJ Hero

DJ Hero

DJ Hero is a music video game, developed by FreeStyleGames and published by Activision as a rhythm game spin-off of the Guitar Hero franchise. It was released on October 27, 2009 in North America and on October 29, 2009 in Europe. The game is based on turntablism, the act of creating a new musical work from one or more previously recorded songs using record players and sound effect generators, and features 94 remixes of two different songs from a selection of over 100 different songs across numerous genres.

To score points, the player must press buttons to activate accented beats, adjust their crossfade between the two songs, and "scratch" the turntable on the game's custom controller in time to marks that scroll on the screen to score points and perform well for the virtual crowd. The game features both a single player Career mode and cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes. The game also features a mode for selected songs for a DJ player to play alongside another player using a Guitar Hero guitar controller. Many DJ and mix artists have contributed to the game both in the game's development, the creation of mixes, and in lending their images for playable avatars in the game; these including DJ Shadow, Z-Trip, DJ AM, Grandmaster Flash, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Daft Punk.

DJ Hero was generally well received by game journalists, praising the departure from the Guitar Hero series-style of gameplay, the use of the turntable controller to simulate the motions of a DJ and how the game's difficulty curve helps the player to become skilled on it, and the game's soundtrack; several smaller issues were identified as potential improvements for a possible sequel. However, the game did not perform as strongly as expected by industry analysts, believed to be due to the waning interest in music games during 2009; regardless, DJ Hero is stated by NPD Group to be the highest-grossing new intellectual property of 2009 in North America.

DJ Hero Gameplay

DJ Hero primarily simulates turntablism, a musical style used by disc jockeys to create a new mashup song by incorporating one or more previously recorded songs played on record players along with sound effect generators. The game features score attack gameplay similar to the Guitar Hero games. The controller consists of a wireless deck consisting of a movable turntable that supports 3 "stream" buttons, an effects dial, a crossfader, and a "Euphoria" button; a hidden panel contains additional controller buttons to interact with the gaming console outside of the game. A portion of the controller can be detached and reattached to adapt the unit for left-handed players. Notes travel in an arc across a spinning record on screen, and the player holds down one of the 3 stream buttons to play notes; two buttons reflect the two songs used in that particular mix, and the third represents samples to add to the mix which can be adjusted with the effects dial. The player must also constantly adjust the crossfader to match onscreen symbols, which alters the relative volume of the songs as to bring one song to the forefront of the mix for a short time. Certain tracks are shown on screen as a series of up or down arrow, representing scratching sections, requiring the player to turn the turntable in the direction of the arrows while holding down the button to score points, mimicking the scratching of the record needle on vinyl albums. "Euphoria" is equivalent to Guitar Hero's Star Power, collected by successfully completing specific phrases in the song mix, called Perfect Regions, and can be released by pressing the Euphoria button, doubling the player's current multiplier as well as automatic crossfading when active. There is also a "Rewind" meter that builds through consistent successful playing, and once full, allows the player to rewind the song to fix errors in their performance. The player must continue to perform well or their performance meter will drop and the music track will cut out. Failing the song is not possible, unlike in Guitar Hero games.

A single player career mode is available, as well both competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes ("DJ vs DJ"), playable locally or remotely. Ten songs have been specially mixed to also support gameplay with Guitar Hero and other compatible guitar controllers in a "DJ vs Guitar" mode. Players can also use a microphone for a non-scoring addition to the mix. A Party Play mode allows the game to automatically play the songs with the ability for a player to jump in and play at any time.

Reception
DJ Hero has received positive reviews from the gaming press, who consider the title as a fresh restart of the music genre given the large number of titles based on guitar play. The turntable peripheral was considered to be well designed to meet the needs of the game. The unit's weight, size, and shape, and ability to cater to both left- and right-handed players was commended. Many reviewers noted a need to alter the action of the crossfader, either by having better physical feedback to the player to indicate the center of the knob's track, or by reducing the width of the track to better handle the rapid crossfade maneuvers. Reviewers also noted that there was a certain weight to the turntable portion of the controller which made scratching imprecise, particularly with the inner blue button where only minimal torque can be applied. The learning curve of the game across the various mixes was highly commended by reviewers for helping players to get used to the new controller. When progressing from "Medium" to "Hard" and "Expert" levels and encountering more complex mixes, reviewers thought the game felt transformed, bringing a difficult but more rewarding experience to the player as they begin emulating every part of a real DJ's motions. Johnny Minkley of Eurogamer considered that while the learning curve is steep, with the "Easy" difficulty being "less thrilling and engaging" compared to Guitar Hero, the game was "structured fabulously to nudge you gradually closer to the summit" with each successive career set and difficulty mode. Cam Shae of IGN Australia felt that the changes in "Hard" mode over "Medium" were somewhat excessive, introducing both more crossfade effects and button-pressing, and felt these could have been introduced separately in "Hard" and "Expert" modes. Richard Li of 1UP.com noted that the inability to fail a song is both "a bane and a boon"; newer players would not feel frustration at trying to get used to the controller and would be able to quickly unlock all the sets in the game's career mode, but without knowing where they failed, they would not have an idea of where they need to hone their skills to improve their performance at the game. The omission of a practice mode was noted by Daemon Hatfield of IGN, believing it would help in some of the more complex mixes by the DJ celebrities. Reviewers believed that the small faults in DJ Hero can be easily fixed for potential sequels.

Reviewers found the on-disc soundtrack to be generally strong; Hatfield believed that "the entire soundtrack is superb and could easily stand on its own outside the game". Matt Helgeson of Game Informer considered it to be one of the "most adventurous" soundtracks of any music game, and said though it often relied too much on pop hits, it remained true to the spirit of the DJ mix scene. Minkley thought the game to have "vital, varied, surprising and vast musical content" and to be a fresh experience compared to previous music games. Other reviewers felt the soundtrack had some weak areas. Shae noted that many of the mixes felt like "random mash-ups that take disparate songs", which would be appropriate for a live DJ, but does not reflect well on the art of mixing that can be performed today. Li noted a clear distinction in the quality of the mixes between the early sets—those mostly created in-house by FreeStyleGames—and the latter sets centered around the work of famous DJs. While Ben Kuchera of Ars Technica felt the soundtrack was good, he asserted that individual songs were unrecognizable because of modifications made to them for the mixes, and that they were more difficult to adjust to within the gameplay itself.

Many reviews for DJ Hero felt the addition of the non-scoring freeform samples during certain parts of mixes were unnecessary and difficult to use, and with the limited number of samples available, ultimately would lead to overuse and make the mixes sound worse. Reviewers were critical of the game's lackluster multiplayer modes. The DJ-vs-DJ mode was considered poor as both players play the same mix, in consideration of current band-based music games where different players can play different parts of a song. This leads to minimal engagement between players, with each just attempting to maximize their score whenever possible on the controller. While some reviewers considered the DJ-vs-Guitar modes to be fun, others felt it was more a novelty due to the current tracks offered for this mode in the game. The game's graphics were also considered as a negative, often using many strobing lights and creating concerns about possible epilepic seizures that could occur while watching the game. The character designs of the non-celebrity avatars also continued to have the same Muppet-like appearances that occur in the Guitar Hero series, and are overly stereotyped.

Time named DJ Hero one of the ten best video games of 2009, considering it "the new contender for best party game". USA Today considered DJ Hero the best music game of the year. DJ Hero also won Best Soundtrack at the Spike Video Game Awards 2009. DJ Hero has been nominated for the "Outstanding Achievement in Soundtrack" Interactive Achievement Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.


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