Let's have some fun. This beat is sick. I wanna take a ride on DJ Hero 2.
DJ Hero 2 is even better than the original, which I personally found to be a pleasant surprise, despite not caring much for DJs or DJ culture. The gameplay was engrossing, and the way the music integrates with the game is unmatched in Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The sequel adds a much better interface, a good online mode, and a few gameplay tweaks that make this sophomore effort from Freestyle Games one of the best rhythm games of the year.
The game's interface is simple, which is a big improvement over the previous game's convoluted menu system. In addition to Quickplay and Party Play (the latter of which allows you to jump into a random song right away), there is also Empire, a full-fledged single-player mode. Empire puts you in the shoes of a rookie DJ who has to go through several cities to make a name for him or herself.
While most sections of this mode are the standard "do the best you can in this set list and get five stars," there are also several boss battles that make sense in the context of the game, and are fun and challenging. They borrow from the multiplayer, which is intrinsically fun, and you have to beat a rival DJ - real or fictional - on different sections of a mix.
Empire mode is more or less required if you want to play every mix, which some might call a travesty in this age of rhythm games. However, it works in DJ Hero 2 as a nice reward for playing through the mode. Mixes unlock quite often – as do new characters, outfits, and decks – and they are almost always fun to hear and play the first time through. I personally enjoyed the set list, though it definitely has a lot songs and mixes I don't care for. Like every rhythm game, the set list is subjective, but maybe mixes by RZA and songs from Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and Snoop Dogg will make you interested. Hell, it even features "Axel F" by Harold Faltermeyer!
DJ Hero 2 also mixes up the gameplay with new freestyle sections that allow you to improvise, providing areas where you can scratch and crossfade to your heart's content. You do get scored for how well you freestyle, which means you have to scratch hard and crossfade coherently. The on-screen display shows your star progression and the next highest score.
The multiplayer is improved, with an array of competitive turntable modes, such as Checkpoint Battle, in which each player tries to win pre-determined sections. You can also hook up a microphone for certain mixes and sing along; though this is a little more challenging, because the mixes are unfamiliar at first because the game bounces back and forth between songs. However, the on-screen presentation makes it easier to follow along, as it shows you the next line, and each song is color-coded so you know which one you're singing from.
The online mode is good, with a perks system that lets you collect DJ Points that earn you levels and different bonuses. The only problem with the online mode is that it's hard to find a match, even though it's less than a month after the game's release. I could never consistently find matches, but when I did, there was no discernable lag.
DJ Hero 2 is an excellent sequel. It takes the solid gameplay the original game laid out and offers vast improvements. There are new gameplay quirks, a great new single-player mode, fun multiplayer, and solid online play if you can find someone to challenge. If you enjoyed the first game, I can't recommend the sequel enough. If you never played the series at all, what are you waiting for? It's totally awesome.