DJ Hero 2 is a unique game in the fact that there's little to compare it to, and therefore it's instantly a leader in its own branch of the music industry. The first iteration of the game set the standard, introducing both a different style of music and a different way to interact with it. Taking part in activating the beat, lyrics, and sound effects in a similar way that one plays the guitar in Guitar Hero was what made DJ Hero so much fun the first time around. But it was enhanced by the alterations you could make to the songs along the way. All those things translate wonderfully into the sequel, and what's even better is that FreeStyleGames has gone the extra step in taking those customizations further. So is it a solid sequel? Absolutely, but that doesn't mean it's without its own flaws.
One of the best parts of DJ Hero 2 is how the game wastes absolutely no time in getting into the music. Quick play offers a wide variety of songs to select right off the bat and the alternative modes are just as quick and to the point. Most importantly, the game features a lot more multiplayer options, which the predecessor sorely lacked. DJ battles add a level of competitive play that should be fun for anyone looking to test their skills online, and the Megamix option lets players roll with a group for as long as they'd like to.
Empire (the game version of story mode) is just as quick to enter, and certainly is easy to navigate, rewarding players with new songs by beating the tracks in game. Unfortunately, anyone that enjoys more than just playing music will find themselves disappointed by the 'story mode' selection. Much like the other games in Activision's Guitar Hero strain, too much emphasis has been put on the funky backgrounds, poor character design and detail where just some general flashy lights would have sufficed just fine. There's no real point in offering half-hearted character customizations in a game that doesn't plan on fully exploring any of it, leaving Empire mode feeling almost neglected by the developers.
Fortunately, the game's soundtrack makes up for this in every single respectable way. Anyone who claims to be a fan of dance music, popular or otherwise, should have a blast running through tracks. A smartly arranged collection of songs drives forward a game that under normal circumstances feels a little underwhelming in the options department. Discovering which new remixes show up replaces the normal hunt for new character items, or other potential gimmicks, which is perfectly fine.
DJ Hero 2 also has an impressive level of difficulty to it, which sits perfectly on a line that can only be described as equal parts fun and challenging. The tutorial does a great job cluing in new players as to what exactly needs to happen, but doesn't entirely prepare players for some of the most complex on-the-spot elements of freestyle portions. It can be a little punishing at first, but in a good way, and never too out of control.
Unfortunately, the controller still thoroughly disappoints as it is still almost impossible to play with on anything but a flat and level surface. This perhaps seems like a ridiculous statement, but the turntables' design is fragile enough that anyone looking to play on anything less sturdy than a table will often find the 'scratch' portion detaching from the side with dials. The design is extremely convenient for left or right handed players, but a little more weight (and a solid locking system) would turn the peripheral into something truly awesome. Instead it can be an inconvenience for anyone who doesn't have a reasonable surface on hand.
The sound quality in the game is nothing short of fantastic, and DJ Hero 2 takes advantage of this at every opportunity. One of the best features would be the new Party Mode, which starts up a playlist that randomly moves through every song in the Quick play menu. Players can pick up the game, enter and exit at their complete leisure, setting up specific difficulty levels as they feel like participating. It's a fantastic mode for anyone looking to set up an interactive party, as the soundtrack in-game is solid enough for most social occasions that would qualify as 'chilling'.
DJ Hero 2 surpasses the first game on every level, but still feels like it could have gone that extra step further. It would be nice to see those reused Guitar Hero character designs completely tossed out the window for something fresh and unique, and perhaps a more fleshed out single-player mode to encourage more play. But these things don't detract from the overall experience, instead leaving a lingering feeling that there could be more. As a stand alone game, it does brilliantly, and even without any competition in the 'DJ Videogame' field, it presents a solid experience for most music fans. Anyone who doesn't enjoy dancing, club music, or remixes really need not apply. Everyone else is in for a massive treat.