DJ Hero 2

Where It's At

DJ Hero 2's realigned focus on two turntables and a microphone was actually designed to be more than fodder for games journalists everywhere, who will now make coy references to Beck's "Where It's At" at every possibly opportunity from now until launch. Look, I just did it. Still, it's the one thing FreeStyleGames is determined to get across for the (first) sequel: DJ Hero 2 has two turntables and a microphone.

The cynics will probably point out how, actually, DJ Hero 1 had support for two turntables and a microphone. But the microphone's now been made a proper part of the game, with its own scrolling lyrics indicator and scoring system, instead of something you can sing into if you fancy it. You might as well have just used a hairbrush last year.

It's easy to imagine nipping round your mate Dave's place and belting out Jon Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer in Guitar Hero: World Tour. It's harder to imagine performing karaoke in a custom DJ Hero mix with pauses, rewinds and the lyrics you know being cut into another track. I can picture FreeStyleGames looking enviously across the room at the Activision staff parties, their jealousy of Guitar Hero's naturalistic co-operative experience uncontainable. Note: Jon Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer has not been officially announced as part of the DJ Hero 2 tracklist, nor will it ever be. Probably.

But with the vocal experience featuring plenty of spoken word lyrics, and with a game having a scoring system based on beat and rhythm alongside pitch, actually being the person on the microphone looks set to be a whole different kind of experience than it is with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Crooners need not apply, presumably, and those with a musical bone in their body will be delighted to see a game that's about sticking to the beat instead of missing all the high notes on Don't Stop Believin'.

As for the two turntables, there's now a new suite of multiplayer modes to add some longevity to the DJ Hero parties FreeStyleGames would really like you to be having this Christmas thank you very much. DJ Battles have players duking it out on their decks with call-and-response sections, and open freestyle sections promote gratuitous showboating whenever possible. For those that like their rhythm games a little less outright competitive, which I'd wager is probably most of us, there's also the regular co-op mode with added checkpoint battles, where you aim to get the highest score during certain parts of the song.

Hardly groundbreaking additions, perhaps, but a clear sign FreeStyleGames is refining a mould they established with last year's release. As the first sequel in the series, DJ Hero 2 can afford to err on the side of safety - the game is still in its exciting novelty stages, and last year's instalment was priced so high it excluded many potential fans from the game. We're promised a more competitive price this year, and now that FreeStyleGames is settled with their game engine they've been given the opportunity to assemble a more adventurous soundtrack.

On display at the moment are the Chemical Brothers, Dr Dre, David Gueta, 2 Pac, Kanye West, Pitbull, The Pussycat Dolls and MSTKFRT - all excellent choices for the game. The headlining artists are Lady Gaga and Deadmau5, with a mash-up of Just Dance and Ghosts N Stuff being promoted in the game's trailer. Deadmau5, complete with resplendent mouse head costume, will be playable in the game, and fingers crossed Cleetus Cuts will also appear in a Kermit the Frog outfit.

We're promised over 85 artists, which should help overcome the first game's tendency to dip into the same tracks over and over again. The increase in musical variety - with more of an emphasis on including genres other than hip-hop - should mean the game feels heftier and more diverse even with the same amount of mixes as before.

Controls and input have also been reshuffled, with the freestyle sections receiving the most radical overhaul. Now players are given far more freedom and ability when it comes to these sections, allowing those who know what they're doing to seriously show off. Freestyle samples will also be chosen on a track-by-track basis, so the sound of Y-Y-Y-YE-YE-Y-Y-Y-Y-YEAAAA-Y-Y-Y-Y-YEAAAA BOOOOOI will no longer ring out.

For the single players, the Empire Mode is an effort to freshen up the career mode and offer something outside of picking tracks off a list. It's a quintessential zero to hero story, taking the player from amateur DJ wannabe - presumably the type who's oeuvre consists of dubstep remixes of the 'I Hate Iceland' guy on YouTube - to ritzy club-owning superstar. It is unconfirmed whether, as owner of the nightclubs, you'll become bogged down in administration and fears of the staff pinching off with bottles of Bacardi. I imagine not.

DJ Hero 2 is adding in another turntable instead of trying to reinvent it, which is probably a good thing: I doubt many of DJ Hero's current owners would be overjoyed if they were encouraged to purchase another peripheral. It's the natural sequel to a game that wasn't properly appreciated, and the changes and additions are minor but significant - it's about giving people more of what they want.

FreeStyleGames has painted the game into a corner with DJ Hero 2, however, because despite the attractive new features, two turntables and microphone they've already used "Where It's At" in the first game. Will they be brave enough to bring it back?

E3 Trailer