Allow me to catch you up to speed if you aren't familiar with the series. DJ Hero 2
is to club music as Guitar Hero
is to rock music. Instead of a plastic guitar or plastic drums, you play on a plastic DJ turntable with buttons and sliders to control the action on-screen along with the music. There is an in-depth tutorial available in-game if you want all the finer points, but it boils down to tapping one of three colored buttons when prompted, turning the DJ platter to "scratch" particular songs, or using a crossfader to switch between the two song mash-ups.
It was obvious that the focus of this year's efforts on DJ Hero 2 were well spent and there are three areas that received noteworthy attention: Online, Party Play, and Empire Mode. I will start with Empire Mode first because it replaces the Career Mode from last year. In much the same way as you did before, you start as an aspiring DJ and you earn stars based on your performance through a series of venues and set lists to claim your own growing DJ empire. Each venue now has boss battles with unlockable characters and your skills can earn you new equipment that can make life easier for you throughout the game, like a special DJ deck that doubles the points you earn from tapped notes or a deck that allows triple the amount of Rewind action you can have in a single song. During the boss fights with rival DJ's, you can experience some new game types like a Checkpoint Battle, where each DJ is ranked on a song mix section-by-section and whoever is the first to win 8 checkpoints overall wins the game. There is also the standard Duel Mode where two DJ's battle for highest score, and overall star count, to claim victory, but I think the most time in multiplayer will be spent during Party Play.
Like each Hero game that came before DJ Hero 2 in the last year and a half, Party Play is a drop-in, drop-out karaoke style experience that simply allows groups of players to have fun at their own pace. Gone is the pointless guitar connectivity from the first DJ Hero as it is now replaced with microphone support for aspiring back-up singers or rappers hanging out in your crowd. You can select your difficulty on the fly, as well as the next track in the set list and the seamless integration of each instrument as it drops in is smooth. Freestyle sections of songs allowed us to add our own personal touch by either adding custom scratches or sound effects. Playing with a large group of my friends, we found DJ Hero 2 was much more fun for us when we could pass the wireless turntables around the room without penalty, but we still got worked up over competition in the Online play too.
The Online play may look like a mere extension of the standard local multiplayer, like head-to-head battles and the checkpoint matches I mentioned before, but like the recent Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, DJ Hero 2 includes addictive online profiles that reward skilled and persistent players. Your online DJ can gain new levels, earn medals and mottos, and even issue challenges for specific songs to anyone on your friends list. With Hero Feed, you can stay up to date with your progress or your friend's through Facebook and Twitter support. The special powered equipment you earned from Empire Mode can even be used in special online game types too. I don't think there will be much longevity to the more experimental online modes to anyone but the hardcore until the online song store is active (it was unavailable during the review process), but the regular online play is still fun enough to offer good practice for building your next high score.