DJ Hero Hands-On ImpressionsBy Andrew Pfister - Posted Sep 30, 2009
At GamesCom back in August, DJ Hero blew my mind. Not in the bass-blasting, trance-inducing, euphoric "I JUST GOT THIS PARTY STARTED" way...rather, I couldn't fathom how to control the little plastic slider while simultaneously scratching the turntable controller. It made my brain hurt, and I wasn't even the one playing the demo.
Between then and about a week ago, I had essentially written the game off as clearly not for me -- despite being a lover of most forms of music, and most genres of games. I wish I could say that it was because my years of experience and insight lead me to conclude that the controller was poorly designed or that the note highway was far too confusing, and that this crazy game would never work.
Nope. I was just scared.
So what happened a week ago was that Activision came by the office with DJ Hero for an X-Play demo. Since everyone else on the staff was in Tokyo covering TGS, I had no choice but to confront my fears and attempt to start a party at 10:30AM on a Monday.
I'm glad I did, because like most of the other major fears in my life (loud noises, rollercoasters that go upside-down, bees), it's really not as bad as I thought. DJ Hero's tutorial mode should be the mandatory first stop for pretty much everyone, even those who consider themselves music game pros. The basic elements of hitting colored notes at the right time doesn't change, but because the core concept of switching between tracks on the fly (and rapidly) isn't anything we've dealt with in the guitar games, understanding how to use the controller's crossfader switch is an important first step to unlocking the game's enjoyment.
After about 15 minutes worth of tutorial time, I was bobbing my head and tapping my foot while mixing Queen and Daft Punk with ease on the game's medium difficulty level. The only issue I had with the crossfader wasn't a mental one, it was mechanical: because the notch in the middle isn't deep enough to properly catch the switch, it's very easy to slide right past it and foul up that part of the song. I ended up using my index finger as a makeshift stopper...it worked, but it wasn't ideal.
The other big mental block was using the effects knob, located above the crossfader on the controller. There'll be moments in songs when the track gets an orange indicator -- that's when you can twiddle the knob and make everything sound a little bit cooler. I found myself panicking when the orange indicator lit up, unfamiliar with the controller and unsure I could get my hands back to the right places in time. But then I remember the same thing happening to me playing songs in the first Guitar Hero, and freaking out when that lone orange note appeared. It's going to be one of those things that just takes practice.
Later during the X-Play demo, I got the chance to play guitar while the Activision producer played the turntable. There was nothing too out of the ordinary with this, it's pretty much self-explanatory: simultaneous DJing and guitar. How cool the results will be depends on what songs are involved, and the ability of each player not to botch the solo on national television (a fate I was unable to escape).
I'm still not sold on needing another peripheral in my home, but as I write this at 4:40PM on a Tuesday afternoon, I still find myself ready to get a party started. (A small one).