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DJ Hero 2

Don't call it a comeback.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Like those packets of bacon that come with sandwich-destroying pictures of the farms the meat originated from, it would be interesting if annual videogame releases carried some sort of visual insight into the mental health of their development teams.

DJ Hero wouldn't be doing at all bad, by the looks of it. One game in, and Freestyle still seems to be running on genuine enthusiasm - the designers haven't fallen out of love with the music yet, and they're still managing to wring new ideas from the established mechanics.

Sure, you can't help wondering if the DJ developers shoot occasional glances over at the Guitar Hero 8 (9? 10?) stand on the other side of the room and suffer nightmare premonitions of the Ghost of Christmases Yet To Come. But so far, the plastic turntable business appears to be treating them well.

DJ Hero 2 takes a distinctly Apple-like approach to iteration. The first game laid down the framework and now the second is adding slight - but extremely desirable - extras. Presumably this means the third DJ Hero will be super fast, and the fourth will be left in a bar somewhere and sold to a man from Gizmodo.

It's a conservative update, then, but quite a promising one. The single-player takes on a bit more shape with the addition of Empire mode - this is essentially a very light campaign structure that sees you rising through the ranks from rhythmless nobody to club-owning DJ superstar nobody - but the bulk of the additions are about coming up with new ways to play with others.

Two turntables and a microphone.

DJ Hero 2 is a far more sociable game than the original, a trend that is visible most obviously in its use of the microphone. Singing was supported in the first game, but it was volunteer work, a bit like helping out at Boy Scouts or, a few years from now, ganging up to run your local comprehensive.

In the sequel, the vocal tracks are now fully marked up and scored: it's a proper part of the game. Because of the range of songs you'll be performing, and because of the fact that you don't really sing rap and hip-hop (I wish someone had told me this before the night I debuted alongside Warren G at the Viper Rooms), Freestyle's game detects the beat and rhythm of your performance as well as pitch.

The developers have doubled the ways in which you can suck, in other words. DJ Hero 2 aims to be compatible with all gaming microphones, but will draw the line if the tech isn't up to it, meaning your laggier hardware - such as Lips - won't make the grade if it can't do the job properly.