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DJ Hero PS3 Review

30/05/2010 Artistic Soundtrack Gamer Review
Guest author: John Rivers
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DJ Hero PS3

DJ Hero



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DJ Hero hooks right into the world of joyously inappropriate mash-ups. Although it is the fader rather than the turntable that is the star of the show, the peripheral works well as a whole. DJ Hero popularises what the mix mag tribe has known for some time - there's some rich pickings amongst today's similarly paced pop anthems.

There was a time when DJs were the new guitar heroes, creating a party atmosphere wherever they went. As the massive club culture of the 90s collapsed under its own weight, and names like Cream, Ministry of Sound and Gatecrasher became vague recollections, the hysteria around the DJ seemed to calm down.

However DJ culture never quite seemed to go away. It was only a matter of time before there was a rhythm game based around the task of 'rockin da house'. The idea of scratching along with a beat sounds easy enough and not too far from hitting the right buttons in Guitar Hero. But to get the real essence of DJing FreeStyleGames and Activision borrowed a musical idea from the first decade of the twenty-first century: the bootleg.

DJs have always used samples, laid acapellas over instrumentals and used the Incredible Bongo Band's Apache breakbeat over, well, pretty much everything. As home recording technology became more prevalent it enabled many bedroom producers to start 'mashing-up' different songs to create something completely new.

Here Richard X was a key player, who mashed Adina Howard's Freak Like Me with Gary Numan's Are Friends Electric to create We Don't Give A Damn About Our Friends. This mutant offspring was picked up by Island Records who asked Richard X to re-record it with the Sugababes who then took their version to number 1. Bootlegging was cool, funny and sometimes produced some amazing tunes, it also was the key into making DJ Hero an acceptable game.

Although many people have focused on the Deck part of DJ Hero, next to it is the cross fader and this is where the real magic happens. As you play you're asked to switch between tracks and use the deck to scratch at appropriate points with the red, green or blue buttons.

With enough practise there is a real ascent to turntablism.

The clever thing though is that each track is a re-edit of the original. So in the first mix all you do is switch between Queen's Another One Bites the Dust and Daft Punk's Da Funk - guaranteed to get any party rocking! Musically it's a nice lead-in from the training session where a cartoon Grandmaster Flash explains how you play.

You begin with the guitar riff from Da Funk and quickly use the buttons to activate John Deacon's famous Queen baseline underneath it. So far, so funky. Being familiar with both tunes I began to notice how DJ Hero would re-loop certain riffs and make songs jump about. So even though Freddie's vocal comes in at what seems like the right moment it's actually quicker than in the original song.

It's powerful, fun and a little bit tricky.

By the time Da Funk reaches its stomping acid build-up, Freddie's voice has been looped over the top. It's powerful, fun and a little bit tricky. But with enough practise there is a real ascent to turntablism.

For those used to the endless variety real world 'mash-ups' offer, DJ Hero can seem a little repetitive though. Though the game comes loaded with plenty of bootlegs to enjoy, you may find that another Eminem acapella to scratch with isn't as exciting as it might be. Then you start to think about the commercial implications. One mix is Jay-Z's Izzo (H.O.V.A) vs My Name Is by Eminem, except it's really Jay-Z's vocal over the looped creeping bass sample of Labi Siffre's I Got The, used in Eminem's tune. After Eminem's heavy endorsement of the game, will Labi see any money from the royalties of his sample?

But DJ Hero doesn't want you to think too hard about such things. It would rather you jumped into another bizarre fusion of rock, pop and dance. 2pac vs the Arenbee Pop Symphony Orchestra, maybe. It's right there in the game, with the dead rapper dropping science all over an instrumental cover of Bittersweet Symphony, we can only assume The Verve said no.

The gaming equivalent of Glee, rather than Lips or Singstar.

DJ Hero is like being in a teenager's bedroom where he or she is cutting back and forth between pop records cos they're more or less the same speed, rather than being in a club. Sometimes entertaining, often irritating. It's the music you know, re purposed. In that respect, it's more like the gaming equivalent of Glee rather than Lips or Singstar.

Guest review by John Rivers

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John Rivers wrote this Soundtrack Gamer article under the watchful eye of Cat Spencer.

"Video game soundtracks are often overlooked and frequently missunderstood. For me though, they are as much a part of my gaming experience as the games themsevles."

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