DJ Hero 2 (X360) Review

The Short


– Same strong gameplay with marked improvements

– UI is dramatically improved and the new clean menus are an improvement

– Much stronger soundtrack drawing from modern bands

– Two player DJing

– Ditches the Guitar Hero brand

– All songs start unlocked

– Overall graphical improvement for characters, backgrounds,  and…just about everything


– Still insistent on “mixes” in quickplay rather than single songs

– Difficulty spike from Medium to Hard is still high

– Wish there were more songs

– Can’t import songs from DJ Hero into DJ Hero 2

You can still sing and play guitar. For some reason.

Time to get back to “da club!”

The Long

DJ Hero was an interesting experiment where I felt the developers were too tethered (probably due to pressure from daddy Activision) to the Guitar Hero brand to really branch out and do something unique. DJ Hero 2 is the game that completely fixes all the problems present in DJ Hero, giving the series it’s own fresh look along with some great new gameplay tweaks. It also, unfortunately, marked the end of the DJ Hero franchise, as both the first and second games sold horribly and are considered (along with the absurd oversautration of Guitar Hero) to have brought about the death of both the music game genre and the “let’s buy plastic toy versions of real things to play video games with.”

The one perk from this is that I was able to get DJ Hero 2 along with the wireless turntable for a measly $10 bucks from Toys R Us a few years back when they were clearing them out, which was the only way I would ever have paid money for this game. So, in the end, I guess it ended up ok. As long as you weren’t the developers. Rough gig, that.

The new menus ditch the “street cred” stupid look for a clean, modern interface.

I already reviewed DJ Hero so if you want background on how the game works, that’s probably worth glancing over. What I will say is that there are a few minor gameplay specific differences between the two (that is, differences involving the actual highway of scratches, taps, and whatever else) that should probably be mentioned, and all are for the better.

The biggest improvement in that regard is the introduction of “freestyle” segments. Basically, in the first game you had a few rare instances were you could tap the red/middle button at your own choice to make the game yell obnoxious sound bites at you (“BOOYA!” “HERE WE GO AGAIN!”) in some attempt to let you “freestyle.” Now, however, that has been expanded in a fairly decent way. The red freestyle segments are back but replaced with actual sounds from the track, and the game gives you bonus points with how well on beat you tap them. In addition, segments allow you to slide the slider back and forth and actually pick how much of each mix plays at one time, again judging you based how well on beat your sliding is. In terms of point generation it’s kind of just there, but it really makes you feel more like you’re actually in control for parts of the song, rather than it being some ham-fisted addition.

Aside from that, the gameplay is virtually identical. You have scratches, directional scratches, slides, taps, that horrible 2x knob thing, and all the other stuff in addition to the rewind, the overdrive, and so on. One thing I will point out is the graphics actually do look HD in this one (unlike the kind of “low def” look of the highway in DJ Hero), and they slightly altered the colors to give more contrast to the notes, which is appreciated. Overall, it looks better, it plays better, and the songs are constructed better since they had one game to cut their teeth with and now they actually can put notes down in ways that are more fun.

The new UI is considerably better.

In addition to that, the UI for how stars are displayed, overdrive is displayed, multipliers, etc. is all redone and done much better. Rather than the weird “light bulbs” for stars, now it’s a filling vertical meter on the left which is very easy to read and the combo is much easier to just glance at. As a bonus (not in the screenshot), if you are online it’ll show a leaderboard on the star ranking so you can aim to beat your friends or your past score, which is a cool touch (and something Harmonix borrowed for Rock Band Blitz‘s star interface).

in addition, the menus are so incredibly improved it’s like night and day. Gone is the awful “cover flow” view with bad art, replaced with an extremely clean white/black style interface that’s super easy to read, navigate, and play through. Sorting options for songs are also improved, and songs better display what makes them difficult (number of slides, taps, etc.) before you play.

The only downside is that it still doesn’t have a “difficulty ranking” that is easy to read, like what Rock Band 2 nailed early on. As such, it’s hard to know how hard a song is contrasted to another, even sorted by difficulty. Also, that jump from medium to hard is still astronomical, so be warned.

It’s about time we got some Deadmau5 in here

Speaking of songs, that is also a marked improvement. Rather than focus on weird mixes of classic rock with modern hip-hop, DJ Hero 2 goes all out with the majority of songs being mixes of modern bands (Daft Punk, Lady Gaga, and the aforementioned Deadmau5, who are my personal favorite out of that group) and even a few original works. The mix of Riding Dirty with Superman (Soulja Boy) is particularly fun, but lots of other great mixes and even straight up unmixed songs are there for you to play.

To be fair, some of the appeal of DJ Hero‘s set is you usually knew at least one half of the mix (be it the classic side or the modern side), and with DJ Hero 2 if you aren’t into club music the setlist is actually worse. However, these songs were made to be used with DJs (unlike whatever nonsense was used in DJ Hero), and even if you aren’t familiar with the songs they translate much better to the gameplay overall.

The VS mode is actually kind of fun

The single player has a few marked improvements, including “battles” with popular DJs which basically are just playing segments better as you “mix off.” This also translates into either a competitive (as in you play to do better in segments) or just basic vs mode (where you just play to get more stars), both of which are well done and added additions. The segment competitive mode is particularly good, where you switch off parts and whomever gets a better percentage gets a bar. First one to the top before the song ends (or who has the most when it does) wins. It’s basic, but good.

I unfortunately don’t have a second turntable so I can’t say either way if playing against actual humans is fun (does anyone in the world in this day and age own two DJ Hero controllers still?), but based on the mechanics presented I’m going to say it would probably be enjoyable if you both already have fun with the game.

Nice glasses, NERD.

As a final thing that should be mentioned on the graphical front: the DJs look phenomenally better. Again, pulling away from that “plastic nightmare toy” look that Guitar Hero loved for some reason, now DJs still look cartoony but not scary. As a bonus, on the Xbox version you can use your Avatar to spin some discs, leading to a hilariously dis-proportioned monster with a massive head and hands leading a club of somewhat normal looking people. I highly suggest doing this. It’s pure stupidity.

DJ Hero 2 keeps the solid, dexterous, challenging gameplay from DJ Hero and cleans up the interface by with you interact with it, all while tossing in a handful of much better songs. It’s a downright shame you can’t import DJ Hero‘s tracklist into DJ Hero 2‘s interface like you can with the later Guitar Hero games (and all the Rock Band games), but considering how badly both games sold it’s not a huge surprise that it wasn’t offered. DJ Hero 2‘s greatness was, unfortunatly, completely overlooked as most people had decided the games were garbage after not buying any copies of DJ Hero, making this sequel seem like one of those games that was already developed before sales figures for #1 actually showed nobody cared.

Regardless, I’m glad it exists, if only because 1. Now I can use this stupid turntable for two games and 2. DJ Hero 2 is actually a lot of fun. If you have a thing for hard music games that require complex, quick responses (such as Rock Band Blitz) and can pick it and a turntable up for a low price (say…under $20), I’d say it’s absolutely worth checking out. It’s a damn shame Guitar Hero kept going long after it’s prime (and after Rock Band thoroughly destroyed it with Rock Band 2 and 3) while DJ Hero got thrown to the dogs, as I’m convinced that DJ Hero was the superior music series from Activision. Oh well.

Four out of five stars. 

DJ Hero 2. For all your thug life cat’s needs.

Author: Nathan Major

Spirit Shark: Hammerhead. Retro game collector, true ginger, and SNES fanatic. Goal in life is to become Karnov from the NES game Karnov.

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