Monday, 17 August 2009

DJ Hero Preview

First impressions are important; they forge people’s opinions – often permanently. When you go for a job interview you want to come across as hireable not as the Skeletor type with a side line in baby strangling. You may ask where I am going with this, well by now you’re probably aware of Freestylegames’ entry into the Hero video game series – DJ Hero scheduled for a North America release on October 27th, 2009. I am and my expectations are lower than President Bush’s Intelligence Quotient.

Before I start the preview it should be noted that this is the first time I’ve examined a game, and I found it harder then reviewing a movie since you have to focus on the more technical aspects of the product. So please bear with me as while I manage to adjust my style.

The attention on DJ Hero is aimed at the fact that the game will be simulating Turntablism, a first for the series. Those of you who have seen the new controller will have noted it looks like a set of Bathroom Scales. The controller itself will have a rotatable turntable, three stream buttons (Red. Blue and Green), a cross fader, effects dial, Euphoria button, and hidden buttons which allow the player to control the console outside of the game.

The gameplay looks frightfully complex in comparison to Guitar Hero which is worrying when the main Demograph for this will be people who are interested in becoming a DJ (who would benefit from actually learning instead) as well as fans of the genre who typically have the complexity of silly string. The gameplay may look more complex but it is obviously adapted from GH; the score attack system returns however this time there are just three buttons – the Green and Blue represent the current notes in the songs and the Red is used for the sound effects. There are other things to master such as “scratching” by turning the turntable in the direction of onscreen arrows. Also the cross fader must be adjusted to match onscreen symbols. While this may help simulate being a DJ to achieve the mentality of one it may be best to hit yourself in the head with a hammer a dozen times.

The Euphoria button activates this game’s equivalent of GH’s ‘star power’, which is built up by hitting notes consecutively. Which leads me to the ‘rewind meter’ this meter builds up much like Euphoria and allows you to go back and fix errors you have made in your song. I’m sorry but I don’t remember Moby Quantum Leaping back to put right what once went wrong in his songs, though it would have made his performances more interesting.

As for your modes you have: Single player career, Co-op, DJ versus DJ, Jukebox – or Jokebox as it literately lets you watch the computer play your game for you. However the mode with the most potential is DJ versus Guitar, which lets DJH players go head to head with GH players on select songs. GH players will have an advantage however since their controls are simplified and are backed with a potential seven games worth of experience whilst DJ players will still be learning their art. Mind you I suppose this inadequacy is what the typical bassist feels. The innovation of this mode could lead to interesting developments in the interoperability of the entire series.

This leads me on to the music selection, which is the game’s most important aspect. The selection is more contemporary then GH’s soundtrack with genres covering Grunge, Soul, House and virtually everything in-between. There is purported to be over 100 songs mixed into 80 two song DJ mixes. As cynical as I am towards this project I’ve got to admit this could be interesting such as the ‘Beastie Boys – Sabotage versus Foo Fighters – Monkey Wrench’ mix. Even the Gorillaz and Marvin Gaye mix has potential. With other artists such as Nirvana, Queen, Blondie, Beck, The Black Eyed Peas, 50 Cent and N.E.R.D the soundtrack will be as broad as the space between a prostitute’s legs on a typical working night and just as accessible. Then reality comes crashing back to Earth like the DOS 2 space station, when I discover there will be a Rihanna versus Motorhead mix. I gasped when I saw this because (in nerd terms) it’s equivalent to mixing Potassium with water, or for the layman; mixing honey with wank.

Graphically it looks similar to World Tour, maybe just slightly refined, but essentially it makes no difference as it’s purely cosmetic. The only thing it really affects is what the characters look like and I suppose Freestylegames did a decent job since the characters don’t look like a SNES renditioning of the Elephant man. Apparently you can play as ‘famous’ DJs such as Grandmaster Flash (Flash Gordon’s Granddad) and DJ AM, so called because you have to be up at 3am for his music to be enjoyable.

When DJ Hero was first announced many people expressed shock at the expensive price tag, which will be in the region of £94.85 – 107.99 (with Activison’s recommended price at £107.99). However I wasn’t shocked by this price tag at all considering it is published by Activison the patron saints of expensive games. While the game shows new innovation in the series which is running out of rock songs to milk, and has the potential to reach a wider audience it does make you wonder where it will all end up. First Guitar Hero, then DJ hero, what’s next Flute Hero? Maybe Triangle Hero? One thing is for sure I think will see Bass Hero when Frosty the snowman opens an ice fishing business in Hell. In conclusion I feel this could be an improvement to the series, though I have never been a fan of GH to begin with, and it defiantly has potential. However the odd mixes, complex controls and the type of game in general mean that on release day I will approach it with more caution then what women display when I’m talking to them.