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Last year, DJ Hero charted a new course in the rhythm genre by letting you tap, scratch and crossfade along with uniquely energetic songs, creating what proved to be a very entertaining experience. DJ Hero 2 improves on its predecessor across the board, offering an even better collection of songs, creative new gameplay mechanics, a slick new interface and expanded online competition. There are even some new ways to play the game, though the ability to be scored on vocal tracks takes a backseat to the excellent Party Play mode that lets you enjoy the music and the game in a relaxed, social environment. Cutting it up with the turntable peripheral is not only more enjoyable but also more affordable with DJ Hero 2, thanks to more-reasonable-than-last-year pricing that lowers the barrier of entry. Though it is still a bit pricey for newcomers, DJ Hero 2 justifies its price tag, not only because the music is so good, but also because the game is so relentlessly fun to play.
Plug in a USB microphone and you can sing while you spin. (Credit: GameSpot)
The core gameplay of DJ Hero 2 remains largely the same. Using a plastic turntable peripheral, you play along to a song that is a mix of two different tracks. You tap buttons, crossfade between tracks and hold buttons while moving the platter (the circular platform) to scratch. As you move up the gentle difficulty curve, your actions get more and more closely attuned to the flow of the song. An isolated tap at the beginning of a phrase becomes a series of taps that follow the beat throughout the section and your crossfading evolves from intermittent slides to bouncing rhythmic bumps that more actively correspond with the mix. DJ Hero 2's set list is so good that practically every song will have you dancing in your seat. But when your movements are synchronised with the music, you feel like you're helping craft the mix yourself and you enjoy the experience that much more.
DJ Hero 2 takes this feeling of participation and builds on it, giving you some concrete creative control in certain sections of each mix. Freestyle scratch sections function much like normal scratch sections, only instead of merely moving the platter and triggering pre-recorded scratch audio, the music conforms to your actions. You can use short, darting movements to scratch along to the beat or use longer, slower scratches to get a little funkier. These sections are much more engaging than normal scratches because you gain the satisfaction of putting your mark on the mix. Freestyle crossfade sections allow you to be even more creative, giving you control of the balance between the two mixed tracks. Jabbing into one track to create a pulsating beat, bouncing between tracks to highlight certain lyrics, or sticking with one track for all but a few key moments are just some of the ways you can alter these sections to your liking. Of course, your results may not always sound cool, especially if you are trying to keep up with a challenging mix. Fortunately, there are segmented bars in the display that show you good places to cut in and out of a given track. These creative sections heighten the excitement of playing along with a great mix and the satisfaction you get from scratching out a sweet rhythmic pattern or deftly crossfading at just the right moment is novel and invigorating.