Just about everyone in the world has at some point attempted to play a guitar, bashed around on some drums, or at the very least sung along to their favourite song. The same cannot be said for vinyl decks; and it was this I was most worried would prove to be DJ Hero's Achilles heel. I was wrong. In true Hero fashion the game shatters the barriers to entry, making it not only surprisingly intuitive to play, but seriously enjoyable from the moment you begin.
There's no denying that the release of so many Guitar Hero games has meant improvements (shy, perhaps, of the microphone and drums) have been relatively minor. Ultimately, you're still playing the same guitar in the same way to what may as well be the same music. DJ Hero, however, blasts fresh, accessible (and metaphorical) air in the face of what is fast becoming a stale genre. The music alone is so rich in variety and so vastly different from the standard band sound that, when coupled with the new turn-table controller, you get consumed by the experience.
Fans of the Hero franchise will be familiar with the set up, but even newcomers will get their heads around DJ Hero with relative ease. Grandmaster Flash (a real life superstar DJ) is your host for the tutorial, and although his patronising voice grates during his 20-odd minutes of instruction, you will come away wondering how you would have ever managed without it. Even cocky musical know-it-alls would do well to pay attention.
Sadly you won't be creating your own DJ, though that didn't stop us having a bit too much fun coming up with such unforgettable titles as DJ Jugs-A-Poppin' and DJ Moose Knuckle just for fun. Instead you slowly unlock a mix of fictional and famous DJs based on your success with the various tracks. You're awarded stars (up to five if you really nail the mix), and it's these that accumulate to unlock all the new items such as outfits, decks, headphones, performance venues, and most importantly DJ sets (groups of tracks).
It can look intimidating, but all you need is two hands and a scrap of rhythm to let your inner DJ blossom.
There are 24 sets in total. Each houses between two and six mixes. Most include a Bonus Beat that can be unlocked if you get over three stars on at least a few of the songs - nothing particularly challenging on all but the hardest setting. Tunes in a set roll in one after the other without any loading, keeping the music playing almost constantly. Changing up the difficulty won't kick you back to the menus, either. Instead the game drops you back at the beginning of the mix. A sizeable chunk of these mixes have been lovingly crafted by the likes of DJ Shadow, DJ Yoda, Daft Punk and DJ Jazzy Jeff, but most have been produced in-house by FreeStyleGames. Fear not though - the quality of their rhythmic creations easily matches anything you would find on a retail album.
Roughly every second set is produced by one of the contributing DJs, and you'll be defaulted to playing as their character in-game. The Bonus Beats at the end of these sets are specially designed to reflect their style. My highlight is the Daft Punk Megamix, which mashes together about eight or nine of their more famous works into some kind of amalgamated chunk of awesome.
DJ Hero boasts an impressive 93 original mixes with over 100 licensed music tracks, but you won't fail to notice a few of these tracks pop up in mixes more often than others. Gorillaz' Feel Good Inc seems blended with just about everything, although I must admit the mix with Marvin Gaye's Through the Grape Vine is one of the best tracks DJ Hero has to offer. I don’t usually get into rhythm games to the point where I feel compelled to do more than tap my feet, but after about an hour of playing DJ Hero I noticed that I was full-on dancing to some of the more techno/electronic mixes. Credit must go to several of the tunes that managed to get the team listening and playing. Some, even, got several repeated requests.