Hey, Mr. DJ
DJ Hero may not resemble deejaying, but it's still a hell of a lot of fun.
With a fridge full of Miller High Lifes and all the fixings for pork and shrimp tacos, I host a panel of DJs—steady-gigging locals Dani Deahl, Intel, Popstatic and Matt Roan—at my Ukrainian Village apartment one recent night. Our objective: to take the DJ version of Activision’s immensely popular Guitar Hero for a spin. As we pile onto my couch, the shit talking begins immediately. “You’re going down, pretty boy,” Deahl tells Roan.
“Surely they could have made it more like actual deejaying,” Popstatic says, shortly into our inaugural run. Since we never have to mix one record into another, DJ Hero’s not a whole lot like club play—just as Guitar Hero won’t turn you into an overnight virtuoso. But that doesn’t stop us from having a blast.
Like its video-game sibling, DJ Hero’s controller has color-coded buttons; both games have the same style of play. But this controller is shaped like a mini turntable with a rotating record platter and a crossfader that has us cutting back and forth between songs, scratching and hitting buttons on cue. “It has all the fun of Guitar Hero but with a little more street cred,” Intel says between bites of chips and guac, adding, “The Grandmaster Flash narration is hilarious, although I’m not sure if that’s intentional.”
At a time when slumping unit sales threaten the music industry, music-based gaming has become big business. In August, during the Beatles: Rock Band mania, The New York Times reported that Rock Band and Guitar Hero have earned more than $3 billion and that a song’s inclusion in either game can yield a ten-fold increase in iTunes sales. The paper also noted that bands such as Pearl Jam are releasing records for games at the same time they release them traditionally.
Doing its best to embody the concept of mixing records, the DJ Hero library consists of 93 exclusive mixes, pairing songs that the player juggles before a crowd of adoring, digital clubgoers. The catalog of song combos is impressive, mashing up the massively popular, like the Killers’ “Somebody Told Me” and Rihanna’s “Disturbia,” and the more underground, like Dizzee Rascal’s “Fix Up, Look Sharp” and DJ Shadow’s “Organ Donor.” The game appeals to both the DJ layman and the industry vet. “Lord knows I’ve done these two songs together in my day,” says Roan, chopping up Benny Benassi’s “Satisfaction” with Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow.”
Comical avatars sporting Afro puffs, full-length leather trench coats and foot-tall spiked Mohawks make the visual element over the top—and irresistibly enjoyable. “It gets bonus points from me for having a chick avatar with pink hair,” says Deahl, whose signature ’do of jet-black locks with hot-pink streaks would be right at home in the game. Like today’s music videos, each song places the player in an outlandish club setting, ablaze with a rainbow of lights and a DJ booth that, more often than not, bears more resemblance to a spaceship than any club we’ve ever seen. But hey, that’s part of the charm.
“I can’t imagine sitting at home by myself, jamming on this mini turntable,” Deahl concludes after battling it out to Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” and Rick James’s “Give It to Me Baby.” “But add drinking, some side betting—I so bet you you can’t hit the scratch and the siren at once, dude—and it sounds like an a-okay night to me.” Roan nods as he sets the game on its hardest setting, adding, “I murder at Guitar Hero, but this is no joke. My hand hurts!”
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0028Y4PVG?ie=UTF8&tag=timeoutnewyor-20... " target="_blank">DJ Hero ($119.99) is out now for Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Wii.