DJ Shadow and Grandmaster Flash launch DJ Hero
- Damien McCaffery
- 4 November 2009
DJ Shadow and Grandmaster Flash talk to Damien McCaffery about DJ Hero, the latest bit of kit from the team who brought us the world conquering Guitar Hero
Why did no one connect DJing and video gaming sooner? Both involve single-minded obsession, blinding dexterity, copious alone-time, and – potentially – serious carpal tunnel damage. Fortunately, Activision made the connection and expanded their Guitar Hero franchise with DJ Hero. At £99.99 (or £139.99 for the ‘Renegade Edition’ featuring Jay-Z and Eminem) it isn’t cheap, but this is no standard shoot ‘em up.
The game’s unique controller is modelled on a turntable and mixer: the platter even spins to simulate scratching. An ‘Effects Dial’ unleashes samples, and the ‘Euphoria Button’ earns double points when activated. With settings based on real-world venues from Ibiza to Hollywood, the game is visually dazzling. And if you’ve given Guitar Hero a try or three, the tap-this-now-toggle-that rhythm will feel familiar but fresh.
One of the thrills of DJ Hero is the in-game tutoring phase. None other than Grandmaster Flash – who’s also a playable character – harangues you through the fundamentals. ‘They told me, “Flash, we need you to put the cool on this game”,’ explains the legendary DJ. So the Grandmaster came aboard to get the details right. ‘It was an honour just to be asked.’ And seeing his avatar for the first time blew him away. ‘To see myself animated and almost get the way I do shit when I’m in my zone? These guys wrote me in a program and they damn near got me!’
DJ Shadow got involved when asked to do a mix, but eventually joined as another kind of consultant. ‘When Activision played me music they wanted to use, I said, “Have you thought about clearing these samples?” And they just looked at each other. In the end they cleared hundreds of songs.’
And Shadow didn’t like his avatar’s ‘blankness’. ‘I said I don’t really want my pupils in the game,’ he laughs. The solution? Blue-smouldering pits, inspired by Shadow’s favourite superhero, Dr Strange. ‘I mean, I don’t really have a hook; I’m not the “Scratchmaster DJ”, I’m not the “Rock Guy”, I’m not the ‘Famous One’. I thought it might set me apart in case they put 15 other DJs in the game.’
Ultimately, Activision wound up using six celebrity DJs, including Daft Punk and the late DJ AM, all of whom contributed exclusive music to DJ Hero’s 93 mixes.
No one will confuse the game with actually spinning records, but as Shadow says, to complain that playing DJ Hero isn’t DJing misses the point. ‘This game may not inspire everyone to buy turntables, but some will. Same thing with Guitar Hero. I can’t imagine some eight-year-old playing Guitar Hero and saying, “I love this game, but it really makes me want to play guitar less.” Ultimately, I’m just glad somebody is celebrating music, in whatever way.’
DJ Hero Xbox 360/PS3/PS2/Wii (Activision) is available now.
With the launch of DJ Hero, Henry Northmore looks at a selection of music related games hitting the shelves
PSP (Rockstar ●●●●)
Hip hop superstar Timbaland has signed up with Rockstar (the company who brought us Grand Theft Auto) for this portable beats generator and music maker. This isn’t really a game as such but a pocket music making application with loops, samples and beats to create your own tunes. An amazingly user-friendly interface with great results.
The Beatles: Rock Band
PS3/Xbox 360/Wii (Harmonix ●●●●)
If you are a Beatles obsessive, this is perhaps the greatest game you’ve ever seen. While the Rock Band format is always a great laugh as per usual it’s the song list that makes each release.
PS3/Xbox 360 (EA ●●●●)
Perhaps not a music game in the strictest sense but steeped in rock lore as you step though the looking glass into a world ruled by the legends of heavy metal. Jack Black provides the voice for Eddie Riggs a roadie destined to become the ultimate rock god, armed with his trusty guitar and an army of headbangers.