Here's the most important thing you need to know: DJ Hero 2 is still awesome. Activision and developer Freestyle Games gave us a near-perfect music game last year and they didn't mess anything up for the sequel. They have added a few new features that make scratchin' and crossfadin' even more fun than before. Here are our five favorite additions to DJ Hero 2.
Just as in the first DJ Hero, each song is an original mix of two tracks that range from '70s disco to '80s hip-hop to '90s RnB to modern electro. Terrific new additions are several
Megamixes that keep the music going seamlessly from mix to mix. In the first game each song in your set list would be self-contained and there would be a short pause in between mixes. The Megamixes blend three or more songs together, beatmatching everything so you might not even realize you've moved on to the next song. There are only six Migamixes in DJ Hero 2, but they're one of the best new additions.
You can still trigger effects at certain points in a mix in order to boost your score but your arsenal of effects is noticeably increased. Instead of just a filter and phaser, you now can twiddle the turntable controller knob to create futuristic delays and chop effects.
For the most part you still crossfade and scratch by following the onscreen indicators. But now there are "freestyle" sections that let you get creative and manipulate the tracks with more freedom. Freestyle crossfading is fantastic. In each mix you basically have two records playing, right? In these sections you can move the crossfader back and forth however you like, isolating each record at will. The tech is quite impressive and it makes you feel that much more like a real DJ. I have to admit, though, that freestyle scratching leaves something to be desired. You can push and pull the turntable back and forth, but without the crossfader you're limited to baby scratches. At worst it sounds like a mess and at best you'll sound like a beginner DJ -- I'd rather just hear the pre-recorded professional scratches.
The two-player head-to-head mode was kind of a miss in DJ Hero. Each player received the same note stream and simply tried to get the higher score. The sequel has a much more robust versus mode with six different games to play. Easily the best is "DJ Battle," which finds each DJ taking turns in unique mixes. It's sort of a call-and-response session with both sides trying to outdo the other. Great stuff.
Lots of Unlocks
A load of unlockables will be dropped in your lap after every set. From new songs to new venues to playable DJs to outfits to gear, you're constantly being rewarded in DJ Hero 2. Sure, you unlocked stuff in the first game, but there are noticeably more rewards here.
Bonus Improvement: Avatar Support
There are 20 playable DJs in the game, most of which have to be unlocked. But on the Xbox 360 you can also mix it up with your Avatar. Surprisingly, the Xbox Live Avatars don't look as silly in DJ Hero 2 as you might think.
Of course, another big addition to DJ Hero 2 is the vocal part. But we're not sure yet if this is an improvement or unnecessary feature. Greg Miller, our resident Sing Star, has detailed impressions of his time on the mic here.