Monday, February 28, 2011

Lost in a Dream - DJ Hero 2 Trance Anthems Mix Pack

Following news of my favorite rhythm series’ demise, It’s difficult not to write this with a bittersweet taste in my mouth, or at least pangs of regret and latent annoyance. By now, it’s no secret that Activision has officially shuttered all “Hero” game development moving forward in 2011, and with what is either a sick sense of humor, farewell gift or recouping of losses (I’m betting on 3), the existing DLC will still be available. This pack was the second to last pack released, and even though I’m admittedly a bit late, can you see why the sentiment is so bittersweet? I’ve always thought that the DJ Hero series just needed the time Guitar Hero did before the greats of its respective scene would recognize and contribute. If the release of the sequel wasn’t telling, what with its Deadmau5, Tiesto, RZA, and even Chemical Brothers shenanigans, then this Trance Anthems Mix Pack would’ve moved even the most stubborn artist. How far it’s come! Here we have Armin Van Buuren, Ferry Corsten, Paul Oakenfold, ATB, and even Paul Van Dyk in my DJ Hero. Excitement doesn’t describe. Pride doesn’t encompass the feeling.

..and yet, it’s a feeling that is hard to enjoy because the franchise is technically over. But is it any good? I’ll chew through my personal bias against their publisher’s tactics to find out, though I have little doubt..

DJ Hero 2 "Trance Anthems Mix Pack" (Downloadable Content)
For: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii (Songs sold as individual tracks)
Publisher: Activision/Freestyle Games
Price: 640 Microsoft Points, $7.99 PSN, 300 Wii points (per track)
Release: 1/18/2011

Reviewed on Expert difficulty; Individual songs on a 1-5 point scale, overall is by 10 and not an average.

Armin van Buuren - Imagine vs. Ferry Corsten – Punk

Punk is a dark, sinister sounding track with a raspy voice threatening to drag you into its abyss. By contrast, Imagine is a wondrous track that feels elevated and limitless, akin to soaring in space. I have a feeling FSG felt the same way, as the track sinks low in the beginning by rasping Corsten’s Digital Punk phrase early off, juggling its beats until Imagine intrudes, then nearly dominates the song completely until its climax. The feeling of sinking only to soar later can’t be savored however, as the song is not only high tempo, but loaded with simple scratches and fades rapid fired at you with nary a chance to breathe. Some oddly creative scratches (Down, Up, Drag down, Up, Down, Up?!) manage to sneak their way in as well, and the song really can keep you guessing by firing scratches and taps at a relentless pace from start to finish. Overall a pretty fun track, and definitely one for the reflexes as well as the sound.

Rating: 5/5

ATB - 9PM (Till I Come) vs. Paul van Dyk - For An Angel

Evoking more thoughts and feelings of wonder from me is this track. Even though it seems to favor the heavier, more side of the equation from ATB, the songs sound so similar that they practically complement each other to a tee, For An Angel actually softening the blow of 9PM’s beats. The crossfading in here is insane, choosing to bounce between tracks like mad, establishing their individual sounds before making you forget that they’re even different at all. Another interesting note is that despite more than a dozen challenging parts of its own, it never feels out of control of the player. In fact, this song has a chance to become unique between players as its LOADED with freestyle effects and crossfades, all of them sounding as superb as the turntablist can muster. The only question is really, whether or not you’re willing to endure a bit of a challenge for some creative freedom.

Rating: 5/5

Paul Oakenfold feat. Ryan Tedder - Not Over

It’s something to fear every time you’re dealing with a straight up remix in this game, but while the ethereal nature of the song is retained (helped greatly by Tedder’s lyrics), it loses a bit of that in favor of a higher tempo and wide range of effects that make the song much snappier. Distortions and samples abound, the song has an immediacy to it now that translates into its above average difficulty. For me, part of the fun of DJ Hero comes from occasionally being surprised by a difficulty spike akin to the quality of the track, and this one is one of the best examples of the rule. At every turn where you think you’ll be able to rest, there’s another tricky scratch, or series of spikes that will correct you in an instant. It’s that quality that’ll have me returning to this one again and again, honing my skills. If only the song spoke of the franchise..

Rating: 4/5

Even though I started this one one a bit of a somber note, not even the impending death of the franchise can’t dilute the amount of life it contains, and this pack is proof. Similar to the way that trance translates emotion into sound as proven by its auteurs, FSG proves time and again that they have the ability to take the works of the greats themselves and put their own mark on it, creating something amazing. Even with the music genre in a decline, it’s nice to see that similar to the way Guitar Hero put rock music back into the limelight and gave it a new audience, that DJ Hero can do the same and place turntablism in the light it deserves, recognized by the artists themseselves. Here’s to the ascent.

Rating: 9.0

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