Activision Publishing/RedOctane's latest entry into the world of music based video games expands on the concept of their flagship brand, Guitar Hero, and brings the club scene to your gaming console with DJ Hero, the latest title in the music game family. DJ Hero features innovative game play, a soundtrack that is second to none, and a rich experience that puts both wannabe DJs and regular folks literally right into the mix.

Instead of living the rock star fantasy through "Guitar Hero" by performing in a virtual band, this time we take it to the turntables - where mixing, scratching, crossfading and beat-matching are the name of the game. Much like DJ Hero's predecessor, which introduced a new style of play through a guitar controller; this time a turntable/mixer control - about the size of a laptop computer - was specially developed for the game.

Image © Activision / RedOctane

The turntable is actually quite simple - a button, a knob and a crossfade slider are featured on the left side, and a spinning platter on the right - about the size of a 45 rpm record (lefties can flip the configuration). Three stream buttons (green, red and blue) sit on the disc and function similarly to the fret buttons on one of the "Guitar Hero" guitars, press the buttons at the right time when corresponding beats crosses the 'hit zone' at the bottom of the screen, and score points and keep the music playing.

The gameplay screen looks a bit overwhelming at first glance, but the in-game tutorial - about 20 minutes or so to run through (and highly recommended) - will have you spinning like a pro in no time, and once you get the gist of the basics you'll be having loads of fun. In fact, the little tease of what's to come during actual gameplay will have you itching to get into the game and get busy as this quick instructional mode features a mashup of Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" mixed with Daft Punk's "Da Funk".

Folks familiar with any of the guitar/band-based games may adapt quicker than first-time players that are new to this style of gaming, but this tutorial is a fantastic introduction to help get acquainted with how the controls work and to learn some of the basic terminology. A couple of quick spins on the easier levels and you should be moving right up to medium or even hard rather quickly. And who else could possibly instruct players on how to be a DJ Hero better than Grandmaster Flash himself?!

Image © Activision / RedOctane

The play area on the screen spins in the arc of a record, and has three trails that correspond with the colored buttons on the turntable platter. The streams on the left (green), and right (blue) represent the two songs in the mix, and a freestyle stream (red) runs between them where song samples and sounds can be added during portions of each mix. As the record spins, numerous different DJ techniques are used to keep the music playing and, naturally, the difficulty level chosen by the user determines which techniques are used and how frequently.

The knob on the controller is used to change between five different samples that can be played in the freestyle stream. Sounds like whistles, bells and even Flavor Flav's signature "Yeaaaah Boyyy!" and "Check This Out!" are available for this function; and you set that up when choosing your play options before playing a song set. The knob also doubles as a bass/treble fader and during certain points in the song can be used for a neat effect that pulls out either the bass or treble from a song, giving some great results if timed correctly.

Once you've picked up the gameplay and how the controls work (seriously - after about 20 minutes) it's all about the music! 93 original mixes were put together using over 100 songs ranging from 70s era soul to today's electronica and hip-hop beats and back again; and most of the songs you'd want - and even expect - are on DJ Hero. A few favorites include Cypress Hill's "Insane In the Brain" vs. Classic IV's - "Spooky"; Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" up against none other than MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This!" The Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic" mashed up with Blondie's classic, "Rapture"; and Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" vs. "Feel Good Inc." by Gorillaz.

The most common techniques you'll use in the game are scratching and crossfading. Scratching is done pretty much the same as in real life - simply moving the turntable back and forth to get the desired effect; only in DJ Hero you'll have to press the button of the corresponding track being scratched and hold it until the scratch is finished. This is relatively easy to get the gist of as the turntable platter has a really nice, authentic feel to it. Crossfading is probably the most important aspect of the game, as the crossfader is what's used to either mix or isolate music tracks. It's also the trickiest part of the game - a slight groove in the center helps to keep from accidentally moving it into the other track once a fade is made, but there are plenty of places where you fade from one track directly to the other, and back again. It does take a little practice to get the feel, but the frequency of its use should give gamers plenty of practice using it.

Image © Activision / RedOctane

Scoring is similar to other music based games - hit all the notes through a highlighted section of the music tracks and get 'Euphoria', which is basically the equivalent of Guitar Hero's 'Star Power'. In DJ Hero the Euphoria Button must be pressed to activate it, after which one of the benefits is that all crossfading will occur automatically during Euphoria mode. The Euphoria button will glow read when it's charged up and a prompt will come onscreen to let you know that it's ready.

And like most other games in the music category, the more consecutive notes you hit in a row, the more points you'll score as every so often your score will increasingly multiply until you finally reach one of the more fun parts of a song: Rewind.

Rewind is exactly what it sounds like. Build up enough rewind energy by not missing any beats and a green double-arrow will light up. At this point, simply spin the turntable platter backwards (all the way around) and the song rewinds to an earlier point, prolonging the music. Unfortunately you can't utilize this feature to keep mixes going on endlessly, but after all, it is only the first version of the game!

Image © Activision / RedOctane

In Career Mode, the more you play and the better you score the more content the game unlocks, like bonus DJ characters and turntable designs. Where one of the nice features of Guitar Hero is the ability to get a cheat code and unlock all the songs in the game and play them at will, DJ Hero is actually more fun if you don't go straight to the unlock and play it through in career mode, as it's rewarding to unlock new mix sets and all the extras little by little. Each set in career mode is 3 or 4 songs long with a quick little pause between them. Once a set is over, the game brings you back to the main screen where you can move on to the next set, play other sets that you've unlocked, or create a custom set list. The custom set lists in DJ Hero can hold up to eight songs in each one, and whatever songs you add will remain there until you change them.

Some of the songs in DJ Hero can be played with a guitar in addition to the turntable controller, either in single player mode or with a friend; and in addition to the two custom set lists, there's a guitar set list also. The tracks available for both guitar and turntable are limited, but it's a solid bet that DJ Hero is going to be around for a while.

Image © Activision / RedOctane

There's tons to unlock and hours of fun to be had and DJ Hero is a solid addition to the Guitar Hero/music gaming family; and it's a must-add for your holiday wish list! Two versions of the game are available, the Turntable/Game combo and a "Renegade Edition", which features a case for the turntable controller which doubles as a stand. There's also a bevy of additional Jay-Z and Eminem extras that come along with this version.

Whether you're spinning solo or if you've got a house full of people to entertain, DJ Hero is a vast game with a fantastic soundtrack and enough to keep the party going all night long - after all, the clubs do have to close some time.

Check out more about DJ Hero, including the full song list at!

Image © Activision / RedOctane

Story by Kevin Blair
Starpulse contributing editor