DJ Hero can’t live up to the real thing

By Erik Hinton & Dave Beitzel

Dave Beitzel

What do you get when you combine Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Karen O and Isaac Hayes? A… Dave Beitzel

What do you get when you combine Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Karen O and Isaac Hayes? A boring video game.

“DJ Hero” is Activision’s attempt to capitalize on the success of its “Guitar Hero” franchise.

The game gives players a mock turntable to scratch and crossfade their way through 93 mashup tracks.

It sounds more fun in theory than in execution.

The mashups are predetermined. You cannot pick which songs to combine.

Once the novelty of these mixes wears off, players are still stuck with them like the traumatic memory of that time you liked a Smash Mouth song. Even when the mixes still feel fresh, the controls are sloppier than a BBQ sandwich in “Billy Madison.” The fade has three distinct settings. It’s hard to scratch on the turntable, especially with your feeble ring finger, and because the table isn’t self-propelled or self-correcting, momentum from scratching throws off rhythm.

Plus, unlike “Guitar Hero,” the controller doesn’t have a lefty switch, despite the fact that leftys are statistically proven to be much better at video games and life.

Possibly, the worst part of this boondoggle is the effect button. This prompts a DJ to incessantly yell stock phrases like “Yeeeeeah” and “Here we go again!” It’s like getting verbally molested by Funkmaster Flex.

“DJ Hero” robs players of the most exciting aspects of realistic mixing. Players can’t improvise, and they can’t create their own Frankensteins.

After I bought a real guitar only to realize it didn’t have buttons, I understood these kinds of games weren’t supposed to be true-to-form recreations.

But “DJ Hero” is not even a fun facsimile.

Erik Hinton

Before I give my take on “DJ Hero,” there are a few points to keep in mind about the game:

1) The ________ -Hero franchise is almost as tired as jokes made about hypothetical new editions to the franchise.

2) “DJ Hero,” — although similar to DJing only in the vaguest sense — gets players closers to mixing than tap-waggling a plastic guitar gets players to shredding. After only a few hours of “DJ Hero,” fundamental ideas about performance, such as the use of a crossfader, will be retained.

3) There are two buttons you must press intermittently when scratching. One is on the outside of the record. One is on the inside. Whereas the outside button is easy to hold, scratching on the inside hurts.

Furthermore, the game suggests that even a beginning DJ should expect to play to 1,000-person clubs with small armies of go-go dancers on retainer — I propose the first 50 percent of the levels be changed to spare bar attics with a baker’s dozen of dudes in leather jackets nodding enthusiastically.

These points aside, “DJ Hero” is rampantly mediocre. I applaud its efforts to appeal to a wider demographic than white-hatted bros screaming Bon Jovi well after the console has been shut off.

I salute its efforts to push user interface technology beyond simple buttons and awful accelerometers to include a turntable that, although not a direct drive, actually spins all the way around when flicked.

Finally, I applaud “DJ Hero” for a more awesome move than anything seen in previous iterations of the fake music playing games: the backspin. I promise you that no matter what other ennui and forearm strain you have to endure, the backspin makes it worth it. You will feel like a real DJ. You won’t be, but it doesn’t matter.