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Previews

DJ Hero exclusive hands-on

We go hands-on to see if decks beats guitar in the battle of the plastic bands

There's always a moment of uncertainty before you get your hands on a music game.

That tough-to-pin-down feeling of connection to the music - something that the Guitar Hero series has always nailed - can't be spotted in screenshots or even identified during a video. It's not until you get your paws on the peripheral that you can truly make a judgement.

DJ Hero has a bigger hill to climb with newcomers than its rock-based brethren as well. Everyone knows the basic functionality of a six-string, and can do a decent air guitar impression, whereas the purpose of a cross fader remains a mystery to most people.

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So it's a surprise, and a relief, too find that it works. Grabbing a track, using either the green for the left or the blue for the right, and scratching away feels totally natural. Plus, despite the lower difficulty levels allowing you to be off the rhythm, you find yourself instinctively scratching to the correct beat. If you step it up to Hard, you actually have to pull the record in the right direction and perfectly in time. By Expert you're essentially performing the same hand movements as the DJ that recorded the track. Even on Medium, switching between scratching the left and right tracks takes plenty of dexterity.

The crossfader works extremely well too, and comes into play at medium difficulty and above. When it's in the centre, both songs are playing as part of the mashup.

Sliding it to the left at the correct time cuts out the right-hand track to emphasise the left-hand track, and vice versa. Occasionally when the tune gets really complex, you feel like you're playing a sort of musical version of Pong, as you frantically chuck the music back and forth from one track to the other.

While it's less tactile, cutting sections out of the music has a more profound effect on the overall sound than just scratching over it, so the crossfader moments are often the most satisfying parts of a song.

The other elements of the device are largely used to freestyle and bump up your score. While there are set times when you have to hit the red effect button that sits between the two track buttons on the platter, you mainly use it during freestyle sections where it can be hammered as many times as you want. Of course, it's easy to get distracted by this and screw up the beginning of a scratching section because you're trying to fit as many samples into a five second freestyle section as possible.

The dial to the top right of the crossfader allows you to select different samples on the fly and parts of the tracks can be temporarily warped for extra points by twisting it at the right moment. Finally there's the Euphoria button, which adds a neat effect to the entire track, whacks a multiplier on your score and even flashes to let you know when it's armed and ready to use.

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If this all sounds daunting, like you'll spend most of your time staring at the peripheral rather than the screen, don't worry. The game has an excellent tutorial, narrated by Grandmaster Flash himself, which runs through the basics and allows you to practice them. It's that rarest of things, a tutorial that's fun in itself, and after the first four lessons, most people will be well prepared for easy and medium difficulty.

Any fears we initially had about the peripheral or the feeling of connection to the music have completely disappeared. While we only had a tantalisingly short play on the wheels of steel, just like Guitar Hero before it, DJ Hero definitely delivers on the fantasy of being a world class performer and offers challenging and rewarding play to boot.

Add this well thought out mechanic and controller to that extremely impressive original soundtrack and you have a very exciting prospect indeed.

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