Thursday, April 29, 2010

DJ Hero: Domination Mix Pack Review

Everyone reading this blog knows how much I love DJ Hero. Everyone. Especially if you've seen me play, and how I have without hesitation, downloaded each DLC pack without hesitation. But after the Eminem vs. Jay-Z pack, I'd assumed they were going to rest on their laurels for a while.

Color me surprised when Freestyle Games and Activision announced that there would be ANOTHER DJ Hero content pack released this month! Sure, the game doesn't exactly have a Rock Band level of DLC saturation, but the fact that Activision continues to support the game, despite the steep price and despite the (typical for a new IP) sales numbers, they keep putting them out. So far, they've been of an extremely high quality, not only in the choice of songs themselves, but in the amazing ways they've been arranged, and the technique required to master them. But does the newly released Domination pack keep up the tradition of unique, unconventional gameplay that DJ Hero is known for, or is it finally time for their first DLC disaster?

DJ Hero Domination Mix Pack (Add-On Content)
For: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii (PSN Release : May 11)
Price: 640 MS Points, 300 Wii Points, $7.99 Playstation Network
Released 4/29/2009

For starters, it's clear why they've called this the "Domination" pack, because of each of the three mixes; Beat juggles (arranged versions) of Red Mist VIP (Danny Byrd), and Wolfgang's 5th Symphony (Wolfgang Garter), and a mashup of Sandstorm (Darude) vs. Higher State of Consciousness (Josh Wink) are what's being served, and they're all going to kick your ass. Each song in this pack hosts not only a daunting length, but they all use just about every advanced technique in the game in some fashion to create a pack obviously tailored towards people who think they're the shit in this game. You'll be humbled by the time you're done, trust me.

Now to the mixes! (Ratings for each mix are out of 5, and were played on Expert difficulty.)

Red Mist VIP is the first of three mixes, a DnB/Hip-Hop song that starts off slow, gets more challenging with a tempo increase, then slows down again. It's almost like an introduction to the patterns you'll experience for the rest of the pack in terms of difficulty, like scratching amidst crossfade spikes(!!) and stretches of 2 to 3 button simultaneous taps . While it's almost completely unexciting as a mix (personally, I think it sounds too close to the original), gameplay wise, it's an above average challenge that's good for a warmup, or even honing technique. (Rating: 3/5)

Wolfgang Gartier's 5th Symphony ditches the easy introduction and immediately kicks off with frenzied crossfading and rhythmic scratching eerily reminiscent of the Groundhog (Noisia) beat juggle from the climax setlist of the original game. Hard hitting and bombastic, it's a very technical song that starts off slowly, just like the original, then completely descends into a madness that'll have you employing every technique in the game to great effect. Unpredictable crossfades, spikes, changes in tempo, believe me when I say this song had it all, and then some, It also holds the honor of being the first DLC song I didn't 5 star on a sightread, because it was just TOO MUCH, especially during the last 1/3 of the song. Easily the hardest song in the pack, and one that'll even have the most seasoned of players break a sweat. (Rating: 5/5)

The crown jewel in this pack however, is a high energy, thumping mashup of Sandstorm and Higher State of Consciousness. Aside from being a GREAT listen (I really had to stop myself from moving my shoulders, it was messing me up!), it's also a blast to play as well. It nails that perfect balance of scratching and crossfading that forces a rhythm into your hands that soon spreads to your entire body. Well placed taps, rapid multiple button scratches in succession, and minimal use of samples make for a song that not only sounds great, but feels great as well. Anyone whose ever played "Paper Planes vs. Looking At Me" from the original knows exactly what I mean by this. When balanced right, a song can feel so intuitive that the directional arrows on scratches are irrelevant because you're already moving to the beat on your own. This is it. (Rating: 5/5)

As a whole, I was very satisfied with the DJ Hero Domination Pack. The mixes are challenging, well laid out, and the fans that have been clamoring for more House/DnB in the game will be happy as well. If you're an advanced DJ Hero fan who cannot wait for the sequel to get his fix, then this content is a no brainer for you. Intermediate players may want to think twice before jumping in, though lowering the difficulty does (and will) make the experience less of a trip through DJing hell. If you've fallen off the wagon and have grown tired, this may not win you back, as it's more of the same, but with elevated difficulty. I really do have to say that the mixes again are exremely well done, and I can only hope that Freestyle continues to raise the bar even higher moving forward. To answer my question from earlier; it most certainly does keep up the series tradition of great music and unique gameplay.

(This article's also on!)

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