My outrage at the fact that a novice had scored the freestyle crossfade instead of me quickly turned to delight that DJ Hero 2 multiplayer had made me feel anything at all.
At Gamescom this weekend I had a chance to play DJ Hero 2 multiplayer at a session hosted by FreeStyle Games studio manager Kevin McSherry, who showed us how it was done before giving us a go at the DJ deck ourselves.
The multiplayer for the original DJ Hero was as plain vanilla as they come: Two DJs on two decks playing the same song, without any of the bells and whistles that made single player so entertaining.
How does DJ Hero 2 change that? Well first, they've added a singer to the mix, though quite honestly that doesn't do much for me. The demonstration featured a woman singing along with us as we played, and I kept forgetting she was there.
Party play, on the other hand, is a pretty nifty way to liven things up. Create a set list and the game will play the music on its own, allowing players to jump in and out of the action as they please. With the right sound system and a large TV flashing hypnotic visuals in time to the music, you could do much worse as a backdrop to your next party, even without the interactive elements.
But interactivity is key, not just with the player and the game, but the player and his or her competition as well.
I was paired off against a young woman who had never played DJ Hero before during my first attempt at the new multiplayer gameplay in DJ Hero 2. I figured I was a shoe in to win, but she had Kevin McSherry teaching her, while I had a guy annoyed that I kept making him switch the button controls from left to right.
The first big difference I noticed was freestyle scratching. Instead of directional arrows telling you how exactly to scratch the turntable, some scratch indicators are blank, letting you cut loose with your own patterns. McSherry said this was to give players a feel for what it's really like touching your fingers to the vinyl. It's a nice effect.
Next thing that struck me was the new functionality of the red button. In DJ Hero, the red button would play any number of predetermined sounds, such as, "Yeah, boy!" While an interesting concept, the sound effects didn't match the songs, making them seem like unnecessary extra noise.
This time around the red button sounds are unique to each song. Featuring sound clips from one of the tunes being mashed together in whatever track you're playing, the effect makes much more sense this time around.
The biggest change in DJ Hero 2 is the ability to screw with your opponent.
Take the rewind. When a player gains enough power, they can spin the platter backwards, going over the track again, accumulating more points. In DJ Hero this was left out of multiplayer, as it leaves your opponents standing there looking stupid.
In DJ Hero 2, they leave the feature in, as it leaves your opponent standing there looking stupid.
It's a prime example of the new design direction FreeStyle has taken with DJ Hero 2 in order to make it a more competitive game.
Another example is the freestyle crossfade. At certain points in each song, the left-right fader switch comes into play, allowing on player to remix the track on the fly. The other player can't do anything for these few seconds, except fumble with the slider and wonder what went wrong.
Whoever is doing better leading into these portions of the track gets control. During my session, the first several times freestyle faders came up I was triumphant, but under McSherry's watchful eye, my opponent started getting them more and more, leaving me feeling silly and a little bit embarrassed.
And that's exactly what DJ Hero multiplayer needed: chances for one opponent to flounder while the other show-boats.
I still managed to perform better overall, I still had those marks of shame on my record. I'm just glad she didn't pull off a rewind. I never would have lived that down.
I'm confident DJ Hero 2 has what it takes to make it a true party game. Whether or not rhythm game fans will feel the same way remains to be seen.
Edit: Fixed Kevin McSherry's name. I was very jetlagged.