Thursday, 29 October 2009

While my (plastic) guitar gently weeps

As I wait impatiently for The Ballad of Gay Tony to download, I have nothing better to do than share my hands-on impressions of DJ Hero with you lovely lot. I managed to sneak in a shifty 45 minute session earlier this afternoon and to sum up my experience, I would say that I am thoroughly impressed. Not that I was ever sceptical; I for one welcome any new innovations to the increasingly-stale rhythm action genre, I just felt that cutting between two records could potentially make for excruciatingly dull gameplay. I was wrong.

The soundtrack and guest stars already had me sold a long time ago: seeing the likes of Daft Punk, DJ Shadow and Grandmaster Flash blaze through setlists comprising of the Beastie Boys, Justice and Public Enemy instantly drew my attention. The presentation is appropriately characatured, and wonderfully reminiscent of Guitar Hero's golden years. DJ Hero's visual style puts GH's latter offerings to shame - perfectly demonstrating how the exaggerated, slightly cartoon-esque style should have evolved with the current generation of hardware. You also seem to have a wide array of entertaining backdrops, again, all drawn with a refreshing character-heavy style.

My experience was obviously limited, but enough to form a strong opinion all the same. Of the two stages I played, both oozed character and charm, with a hyper-real DJ culture aesthetic painting everything in sight. During the brief glimpses towards my avatar- a human tank wearing a denim jacket, big chains and a luchador mask- and observing my surroundings - a densely packed block party replete with abandoned subway cars, all lit in neon and covered in bold graffiti- I am pleasantly reminded of Jet Set Radio. Anyone who knows me, knows that JSR is my favourite game. I adore it, so anything that gets marginally close to making me feel the same way is an instant winner.

Sadly for DJ Hero, there is one thing holding it back: the price. With the standard edition going for £90 to £100 and the Renegade Edition fetching around £170, it's easy to see why consumers used to £75 guitar bundles may be hesitant to purchase. Robust and responsive though it may be, DJ Hero's superbly-crafted turntable peripheral is frightening and alien to most fans of the genre. A higher price point and a fear of the unknown has already resulted in low pre-orders. The broader spectrum of music available will help, but with the Rock Band store showing no signs of stopping with its quality and eclecticism, it's going to be an uphill struggle.

If you've got the cash and want something different, go for it. It works, way better than you'd think, something which is fundamentally linked to DJ'ing itself. With Guitar Hero and Rock Band, I still, from time-to-time, get the sensation that I am simply 'playing along'. Whilst this never ruins the rock star illusion whole-sale, it still lingers over me occasionally. With DJ Hero, I found a very distinct connection with the music, switching between tracks, using the cross-fader, dropping in your own samples and executing rewinds (rolling the record back to replay sections for added points) offers a level of control over the music that the other music games don't. At times, I felt like I was genuinely manipulating the music, meaning that the game successfully makes you feel like a DJ. For me, that is the essence of a good music game- one that makes you feel like you are the guitarist, the drummer, the singer, or now the DJ.

If I can persuade the missus to pony up the cash to get me the Renegade Edition for Christmas - party over mine!


Jon Davies said...

go team ben's missus!

vandalworks said...

i'm intrigued even though te music isnt really for me, although hearing you mention the beastie boys is a nice thing. i'd love to have a go but i very much doubt i'll purchase, especially as theres some decent rock band material coming out, rob zombie and wolfmother packs... whoop!

Bojack85 said...

id just like to say that as a single player experience this is alot more fun to play than guitar hero and rock band.Its probably one of the original and most rewarding gaming experiences ive had since guitar hero 1. Illy be looking forewarde to a DJ battle come xmas!