The original DJ Hero had a lot going for it, and it mostly succeeded at bringing a new kind of music game to the market. It set itself apart, despite a few flaws, and managed to bring some life back into the music game genre. DJ Hero 2 isn’t quite the breath of fresh air that the first game was, but it still has a lot going for it and manages to improve upon the original fairly well.
The presentation has really remained generally the same from the original, although that is far from a bad thing. The look of the game is pretty basic, but it works, and the sound quality is excellent. The music selection itself is quite varied, mixing up the usual rap and techno songs with some nice alternatives as well. Ever wanted to hear Kanye West and Metallica remixed? Maybe not, but it’s done here and done very well.
The gameplay has remained as solid as ever, but with some significant improvements. You still hit notes, scratch, and use the crossfader to switch between tracks just as before. In addition to being able to hold down notes now, there are now freestyle sections which allow you to tap, scratch or crossfade on the fly. It gives the player more freedom, and although it’s only during specific sections of songs, it still gives a better idea of how the “DJ” part in DJ Hero really works.
The career mode, now called Empire Mode, has been completely overhauled for the better. No longer will you be navigating the same cluttered menus, as you can now access all of your career options in one place. The mode is what you would expect: you go through different locations playing mixes of increasing difficulty as you earn stars to unlock new locations, mixes, and gear for your playable character of choice. It’s nothing new, but it works.
Scattered throughout the career mode are DJ Battles, which offer a nice break from playing setlists of songs. You and your AI opponent compete in a “checkpoint battle” which amounts to who can do the best in each section of the specific mix. The one who wins the most checkpoints is declared the victor. It’s simple, but it works, despite the AI being pretty cheap at times.
This mode is also available in multiplayer, along with many others. The multiplayer itself has been completely re-done for the best, offering six different ways to battle your friends both online and off. For the DJ Battles specifically, there are special mixes that you unlock throughout the career that you can replay with friends. There is also Star Battle (who can earn the most stars), Checkpoint (as explained above), and Streak (who can get the longest note streak).
It’s clear that DJ Hero 2 was made with multiplayer in mind first and foremost; it’s a lot of fun and way more enjoyable than the previous game’s very meager offerings. On top of these modes, you also can track your friends’ scores to try and beat them by sending them specific DJ challenges for each individual mix. It gives the player a lot of incentive to play the game online with friends, which is exactly the sort of thing this game needs.
One unnecessary addition to the multiplayer is the ability to sing (or rap) along with certain mixes. While you may be familiar with the individual songs, the mixes themselves are completely original and pretty hard to sing along with, especially on your first try.
Unless you take the time to learn the rhythm of each mix, there is no point in this option. If the team at FreeStyleGames really wants to make this a game anyone can jump into, adding vocal support for these unorganized song mixes is not the way to go about doing this.
While DJ Hero 2 is not as amazingly innovative as its predecessor, it still manages to become the complete music game experience that the first should have been. A solid career mode, addictive multiplayer and a stellar list of original mixes make this a game that manages to surpass the original in every way.
Pros: Varied list of catchy mixes; small, but significant gameplay refinements; free style sections add a lot of depth; completely new and addictive multiplayer; basic gameplay is still a blast
Cons: Opponent A.I. during DJ battles tends to be a bit cheap; “singing” is not the least bit enjoyable