In recent years we've seen two releases from Sony which have widened the appeal of the PS2 console tenfold. Rather than now just being a hardcore gaming machine, it is very much a mainstream piece of equipment and has had the software peripherals such as Singstar and Eyetoy to back this up. Later this year the next phase of mainstream software will hit the Playstation 2 and while it won't come with a piece of hardware like the previous two mentioned games it will let players create some hot tunes to share with their friends and allow them to dabble in their creative music side.
The primary aim of DJ Decks and FX is to allow you to get your hands on some highly expensive equipment. The demo code we played states that the game will give you the opportunity to use equipment worth twenty five hundred euros, virtually of course. However despite the fact that it is only in a virtual world that you will be hands on with this high end equipment, it appears from a quick play test that the results will be the same albeit on your TV screen.
DJ Decks and FX will ship with three game modes; party mode, pro mode and studio mode. In the code we played only pro mode and party mode were available and didn't seem to have much different about them other than the fact that in pro mode you can actually have the resident DJ fire things up, and in the party mode hand over to another DJ, we will go into these options in more depth further into the article.
In both modes you are presented with a full set of DJ equipment including two turntables, an equalizer, cross fader, loops with sound effects, sampler and effects unit and with this you can mix two songs together and create your own style of dance tune. The tutorial which is included is highly in depth and while when you first start the game it is a bit of sensory overload with all the equipment, by the time the tutorial is complete you will be able to mix at least a fairly basic tune of two songs compiled together. Within about ten minutes of playing we had created a tune that sounded decent to us, however after enabling the resident DJ noticed that there is so much to mix up and change to create a truly great club track.
The great thing about the control system is it gives you almost the same amount of customization of the songs that a full actual deck system would. For instance rather than just press buttons to move a notch a certain amount, you can actually take control of the notch and move it slowly with the analogue sticks giving you a great deal of control as to how loud you want one of the turntable tracks to be or how crossfaded you wish them to be. The game also provides handy hints to amateur DJ's about when the best time to mix new tracks and sounds in is and considering all the sections of the set is labeled, fiddling around is fun rather than looking at pages and pages of a large manual you may find with a more traditional style of mixing program. However the icing on the cake in terms of the control system will be the headphone support via USB allowing you to mix like a real club DJ.
Sony is promising fifty songs right now in the final version (number is yet to be decided) to mix your club tunes with but the game will also allow you to put some of your own music in to sample into some tracks giving you an almost unlimited amount of music to play around with. In the code we played, this feature was not available but Sony does show some of the licensed music that will be available to mix in full such as Rockin Music by Martin Solveg and Stuipiddisco by Junior Jack as samples included in the demo code. They also provide a small sample of sound effects that will be available to gamers in the final code and from what we can see it will be a vast array of effects and tunes to create your ultimate club/party track. If you just want to sit back and relax and see what the game can mix up then the resident DJ will show just how powerful the decks available in the game is, and perhaps burst your ego if you think you've just made a hot club track.
The visuals of the game are pretty much made up of the set of DJ equipment however when you leave your mix going for a little while or enable the resident DJ it does switch to a different camera showing the decks in different camera angles. Hopefully by the time the game ships, Sony adds some cool visual effects that you can link to your club track. The sound of the game is already sounding great and the way that the speakers replicate the current mixing your doing sounds quite authentic. It is easy to tell when something changes and what that change has done such as changing the bass or volume. One thing that we are a little puzzled about at this stage is how the tracks are saved. The final version will allow tracks to be saved to a memory card, but after putting a lot of work into a track some people may actually want to record it. Unfortunately due to copyrights it is unlikely Sony will be able to allow this feature to exist when licensed music is used. Another great idea would be for Sony to set up an online section of the game where people can trade mixes and rate them, again copyright will probably prevent this ever happening.
DJ Decks and Fx should widen the appeal of mixing club music due to its easy to use interface and in depth tutorial. The fact the game is going to ship with numerous licensed tracks to fiddle around with will give the game a sense of familiarity and the ability to rip your own music should allow amateur DJ's to come up with some incredibly good tracks. DJ Decks and FX is currently set to ship before the end of 2004 only on the PS2 console.