The new music franchise is off to a great start, but there's still plenty of room for improvement.
December 21, 2009 - A sequel to DJ Hero, one of the most exciting music games in some time, hasn't been officially announced by Activision (although it has been hinted at). But we're gonna' go out on a limb here and predict that in fall of 2010 we'll be cutting and scratching to DJ Hero 2.
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, after all, is fond of his made-up word "annualizable," referring to franchises he can crank out sequels for year after year after year. Sure, this usually results in degradation of quality over time. But DJ Hero is anything but a cheap cash-in on DJ culture, so here's hoping Activision lets developer Freestyle Games continue making quality iterations. In the spirit of the holidays, we've put together a wishlist of new features and fixes we'd like to see in the sequel:
A Career Mode
DJ Hero distilled music games back to the original formula of just working through increasingly difficult tiers of songs. That was a refreshing change for the first installment, but we're ready to hit the road and develop our own created character. Let us customize our DJ, buy our first turntables, start out playing house parties, and end up DJing a New Year's Eve party at a hot Las Vegas nightclub. Rock Band's system of touring the world and earning fans is addictive and could make DJ Hero even more engaging.
Don't perform well enough in the clubs and you'll be kicked back to the wedding circuit, forced to play nothing but YMCA, the Electric Slide, and the Chicken Dance until you can earn your way back into hipper venues. Talented mixmeisters might be able to come up with some slick mixes using cheesy wedding standards and fresher songs from the soundtrack.
Mixing Multiple Songs Together into an Extended Set
One of the oddest bits of DJ Hero's design is that you only play one mash-up at a time, whereas real DJs obviously mix song after song after song together into an extended set of hours or more. It would be cool if players could select a set of songs with similar BPMs then play through them all seamlessly in a mix. This might require a few new game mechanics for players to cue up the next song and do some beat matching. In other words, if two songs don't have the same BPM, players would need to adjust the pitch of one to get them to line up. It might sound complicated, but developer Freestyle Games did a nice job simplifying other DJ tasks in the first game, so it's still possible.
A More Engaging Multiplayer Game
The first DJ Hero let two players hook up two turntables and compete for the highest score. But they both played the same part and same notes, making for a pretty shallow experience. For many editions of Guitar Hero we've been able to play lead guitar and bass guitar in multiplayer, and DJ Hero needs something similar. There are DJ crews out there that perform with multiple turntables, each DJ scratching their own part of the song. Allowing players to contribute something unique to the mix would make for a more engaging experience. The guitar and turntable tracks were also a fun novelty, so we'd like to see that mode expanded.
DJ Hero had some pretty cool real-life DJs making appearances, like Daft Punk and DJ Shadow. Notably absent was DJ Qbert, probably the greatest scratch DJ walking amongst us. We're also big fans of Beastie Boys' DJ Mix Master Mike and melodic turntablist Kid Koala, both of which would be great additions to the game. The former may be wishful thinking since Mix Master Mike endorses Numark turntables, and Numark created the peripheral for rival game Scratch: The Ultimate DJ. But we can dream.
More In-synch DJ Animations
The first DJ Hero had great presentation with swooping camera angles during a song and good looking DJs. Only problem was that sometimes the DJs' movements didn't match up with what the player was doing. You might be furiously scratching while your avatar has both hands in the air. Better synched animations will make for a more polished game.
Guitar Hero has a handy practice mode that lets you slow down a song and isolate certain sections that are giving you trouble. DJ Hero desperately needs this feature. The hardest songs are insanely difficult and the blazing speed at which the scratches and crossfades fly at the player make it hard to practice.
More Frequent DLC
Since the release of DJ Hero we've only gotten two downloadable packs of songs and Activision has yet to announce any future DLC. We realize there is more work that goes into creating a DJ Hero mash-up than just the licensing required for most music games. But the regular release of downloadable songs has kept people hooked on Rock Band all this time after its launch. DJ Hero may have been a modest hit, but Activision should show the fans (and there are quite a few of us) that it is dedicated to supporting the game.