I didn't really understand the draw of "DJ Hero" until I played it. While I liked the new style of music, I couldn't help but feel burned out on rhythm games which have, lets face it, gotten a little stale in the last year or two.
But, in playing "DJ Hero" I found a renewed interest. And it's not 'cause of the music, or the presentation (even though both of those factors are quite solid). It's, very simply, the gameplay. Even though it's a rhythm game, it feels "new," and that's what grabbed me.
Since it's the gameplay that brought me into the fold, I figured I would try to describe what it's like to play "DJ Hero." You can get the visuals and the music from trailers, but the gameplay is much harder to grasp. So here I go...here's hoping you can follow me!
Step One - Hitting Individual Notes
By far the easiest element of "DJ Hero" is the one that's closest to "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band." Colored notes stream down on the on-screen record and you have to hit the appropriate button (one of three) when they hit the bottom. Doing this on time will play that portion of the track, just like most rhythm games.
Step Two - Scratching
This looks more complex than it really is. You know those sustained notes in "Guitar Hero" where you just hold down the fret? Same thing in "DJ Hero," but instead of just holding down the button, you're holding it down and scratching back and forth on the turntable controller. On easier difficulty levels you can scratch in any direction, but on Hard and higher you'll have to scratch in the direction of arrows that appear in the sustained note, making it much more involved.
Step 3 - Cross-Fading
This is where the game loses most people, as it's the biggest departure from "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band." Throughout a song you'll see a line appearing on an on-screen record. Usually the line is in the middle, but sometimes the line shifts to the far left or right. When the line shifts, you need to push the cross-fader (basically a toggle switch you hold in your left hand) in the direction of the line. When it moves back to the middle, you move it back to the middle. It's that simple.
What makes it complicated is that, while you're following the line, you're also scratching and hitting notes, so new-comers will feel a bit overwhelmed with everything that's going on.
The developers wisely ramp up the difficulty, though. Each new difficulty level introduces a new gameplay element, so it really lets you take your time to master one feature before bringing more in.
Having never played it before, I was able to move myself up to medium half way through the first song. I think most rhythm game veterans will find this to be a good starting place. Grandmaster Flash, keep in mind, is not a rhythm game veteran, as evidenced in this video:
With all that in mind, you can probably sort of imagine what it's like to play "DJ Hero." Personally I found it refreshing, and I couldn't help but feel sorta talented standing up in front of a crowd of video game journalists. I full admit that I'm not talented, but it's always a good sign when I game makes you think otherwise.