NYC Electro

DJ Hero Review PS3, by a Real DJ

Last October, Activision released DJ Hero for the Play Station 3, X-Box 360, and the Wii. It recently went on sale at Toys R Us, so i decided to pick up a copy out of curiosity. Is this game like real DJing? How does the controller actually relate to the feel of a mixer and turntables? I must say, Activision has some of the biggest DJs backing this, so it must to be good right? Read-on and lets see...

DJ Hero Box Art

As I stood in line at Toys R Us to buy this game, I felt a bit silly. I have a real DJ setup with great equipment at home so I can play out to big crowds, and here I am buying the plastic version to play in front of the TV to digital crowds. But, it was 1/2 off, so it was ok. When I got home, I started unpacking it and immediately noticed a difference.

Ok, its plastic, no surprise there, but the cross fader is not so good. It has a click-stop in the middle of the fader, and no real mixer would ever have that. Its not quite right, but you sort-of need that click stop in the game. The turntable is about the size of a CDJ platter and has no drive. No belt, no magentas, no nothin'. But that is fine because you almost never need it in the game. You are able to spin the platter forward and backward, till your hart is content,  if you are so inclined. The backspin is a special move you can do during some the songs too. Also, something different is the fact that the "record" has three buttons on it. It makes it feel less like a record and more like a controller that is on a turntable platter. I must say that when i started playing the game, all of these differences made sense.

The intro scene is pretty awesome, with cameos from some of the DJs that helped make this game, Shadow, Grand Master Flash, and some others. So, right off, i was impressed. After the tutorials, it was time to test my skills. I needed to pick a character and where my I was going to play for my first gig. Oddly, you cannot scroll through the list of characters or places with the turntable platter. You must do it with the knob above the cross fader. This is met with a bit of latency that will definatly throw you off. Plus, when you turn the knob to the right, you scroll up (and visa-versa) so that is weird too. You can scroll through your gigs using the cross fader, but that is met with awkwardness too. I decided to overlook these things and get into the mix.

The game is fun! You have 3 basic rhythm buttons to hit that in time with the music (similar to Guitar Hero or Rock Band). Also there are scratch sections where you have to hold the button and move the platter back and forth as if you were actually scratching. I found that you did not need to be on rhythm at all, just the movement of the platter was enough to complete the scratch. That was kinda lame. The table has great response. There are some directional scratches that require more precision and are harder to pull off, but they are not as common. Is it like real scratching? Kinda, only a rub, but almost all real scratches use the fader and turntable in conjunction. You never use the fader to "scratch" here.

What about mixing? I found that the mixes within the game are excellent. They even gave me some ideas for my real DJ sets. But mixing the songs is more like launching clips from a computer software program like Abelton Live or using hardware like an MPC. The game play actually much more like Abelton than using turntables. If you miss the button the song does not start, but you can catch it the next few beats or so. Basically, you hit the buttons to launch and repeat sections of the songs. Its very sequencer'ish without losing its fun. There is even a part when you backspin the platter to repeat a part if you want to be more turntable-like.

The game is set to have 3 buttons, so three rows of audio to launch in the song. The left line represents the left turntable/channel 1, the right is the right turntable/channel 2, and the row in the middle acts as your sampler. Most of the time, the middle row adds in some sounds to embellish to the existing audio. There are times when you can pick your own samples and launch them with the song to add your own flare. Launching your own samples is met with about a half second of latency, so good luck getting that on-beat. But you can put in your "yeah"s, "aahhh"s, or about 50 other fun samples. Switching samples while the song is playing is difficult and the knob you turn for it also has about a half second of latency, so good luck picking the correct sample too.

Using the cross fader while the song is playing responds great. Its not really like DJing at all, but it gives you the feel for moving the fader and interacting with the turntable platter at the same time. You can put the volume either on all left or right channel or have it clicked into the middle to have both tracks playing at once. You cannot pick what you want though, the game has that pre-programed and you have to follow along. But, its interesting to say the least. And on another note, if you were so inclined, you could work on your cross-fader ability on your couch while watching TV. Just make sure to turn off the game before working on those double-clicks.

The Good:
Its Fun. Maybe not as fun as the real DJing or plastic guitar, but fun none the less. The mixes that come with the game are great! And, the toy turntable/mixer that is comes with is fun too.

The Bad:
Latency within the game! WTF is this all about? My other controllers work fine!  The cross-fader is too clicky (if you go past the click, you lose your streak). You cannot actually scratch at all.

The Conclusion:
If you think you will even remotely get good at DJing by mastering this game, you will not! It might be able to get your rhythm right, but thats about it. So, its nothing like DJing, not to mention that you only play 1 (mixed) song at a time, pausing before the next track (I think they could have done better). But, do you think you will become a real guitar player with the other games? Nope, not at all. So, I say, if you like the other games, get this game, its fun; but do not expect to take any of the skills learned here to the club.

What I want to see:
How about a game that actually teaches scratching techniques?  Have the game track your fader and record movement and give you tips to correct mistakes and tighten your technique. Not as much fun, but it would be great to master those new scratches. DJ Qbert, you up for this task?

Here are some images I took. They are pretty bad quality quick shots from my iPhone...

Comments (4) Trackbacks (1)
  1. wow, thanks for being real about it. I just think it’s sad that you have to remind people that they will not become a real DJ by playing this game. I was nice to read a real DJ’s take on it. But now that it’s been shown, what do you think of DJ Hero 2?

  2. Well, DJ Hero 2 seems to be about the same. Looks like they added the ability to play with a friend and added a Mic. There is also something about continuous play so the music does not stop. That sounds interesting, but its still the same game basically.

  3. I’m really floored. I mean, that this game doesn’t actually leave one equipped to be a real dj?! I’d think it would have to, I mean, it says DJ HERO right there on the box! What part of DJ + HERO do you not understand? Do you really think they could print that if it weren’t true that I would myself become not just a DJ, but a heroic one by playing the game?

    Next you’ll probably be telling me that my time spent playing golden eye doesn’t actually qualify me as a secret agent. Shows how much you know.

  4. You understoot me exarctly.

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