DJ Hero 2 is a game that's too cool for us. While some of us are still dressing in promotional t-shirts from the launch of Halo 3, the characters that command the decks here are dressed in achingly cool gear.
While we frantically gyrate in a dark basement in South London, the venues here are seven-floor superclubs filled with part-time models. And while the CDs on rotation in our office include 'Spiceworld', almost every mashup, track or megamix in DJ Hero 2 is a stone-cold, dancefloor-filling classic.
But that's the joy of the game - we can bask in its reflected glory. As soon as we get our hands on the bespoke controller, we're slapping the crossfader across with verve, bobbing to the beat, and very occasionally gesturing to the imaginary crowd that we are sending wild. That fantasy of being a DJ was there in the original game, too, but in DJ Hero 2 the scale and ambition is far larger.
Feeding that fantasy is the addition of Freestyle sections, which we'd argue are the single most important new feature the game. For these moments, you're given free reign of one of the controls, allowing you to add a personal touch to the otherwise carefully choreographed tracks.
Okay, initially you'll expose your lack of timing and musical ability, but they'll be audibly your mistakes and you will improve the more you play the game. The necessary ability to claim a freestyle section and shut out the other player in multiplayer makes it all the more satisfying as you steal control of the song. If anything, we'd like to see larger chunks of the track given over to freestyle sections - especially given that the game still keeps track of your timing when you're in control.
Mash it up
As you'd expect, the music selection is both beautifully judged and varied. While there's still a hiphop influence, there's also a greater representation from other areas of music, including dance, trance and Top 40 fodder. The mashups also feel even more playful this time around - we often found ourselves laughing out loud at how beautifully the lyrics meshed together to create entirely new sentences.
Astonishingly, the mashups are so masterful we're even prepared to listen to Major Lazer's Pon De Floor for the zillionth time, but only if it's been mixed with the Axel F theme from Beverly Hills Cop.
You'll be more motivated to unlock new tracks as well. Empire Mode is a slightly more substantial offering than last year's Career, and it's been married to a cleaner, more logical interface. It also includes the epic Megamix tracks, which are a run of tracks all mixed together like a proper DJ set.
The Career actually opens with one of these, and it's a stonking way to kick off your world tour. Later you'll perform as one of the star DJs such as Deadmau5, the RZA and David Guetta, who have put together their own megamixes for the game. Even during a regular set, the waiting around has been trimmed down, with the next song arriving immediately. The entire thing is slicker than a mobster's hairdo.
While lonesome players are fully catered for, the real fun comes when you've got a couple of turntables and a microphone. The original DJ Hero was criticised for being a solitary experience - multiplayer was underdeveloped and few people had more than one deck at their disposal. This time around there are bespoke battle matches designed to accommodate two DJs, and the call and answer format works brilliantly. It reminds us of the fun we used to have with the multiplayer in the original Guitar Hero games, before it became all about the band.