The PlayStation is trying its hardest to become more that just a games machine - no doubt part of Sony’s masterplan to become the cornerstone of home entertainment. In recent years we have seen a divergence in genres and ancillaries to drive this change. DJ: decks & fx is the latest in the line of music ‘games’ available on the PS2. We tried to mix it up and spin some tunes.
Considering the past attempts at creating music games, I was somewhat sceptical about decks & fx. To my surprise, I found that they’d taken the ‘no fluff’ approach to this. No cartoon characters, no dancemat style voiceovers. No, its got technical, and this is not so much a game as a dj simulator. Your main screen features a set of turntables, cross-fader, equalizer, loops and effects units and a sampler.
I had to take the tutorial because I’m a virgin on the decks. The tutorial guides you through all the main features explaining how to do things. What it doesn’t provide you with, however, is a good sense of rhythm or an ear for a tune. No, in fact, the first few tracks I mixed together sounded like a train crashing. The only saving grace was the automatic features that are done for you, like levelling the BPM on different tracks. This is optional, and can be switched off.
Recording samples and loops is easy, meaning that you can really add a personal touch to your tracks. I was happy to get two tracks that sounded good when mixed, let alone all the rest. It was dawning on me that being a DJ is not just about playing music, but there is a great deal is skill to get a decent sound. The level of analogue control makes a difference here. Rather than clicking through pre-sets, you can turn the dials and sliders to where you really want them to be with the analogue stick, so you get just the right sound. You also need to plug in that USB headset so that you can get things just right. We used the SOCOM headset and it worked perfectly well, and gave that classic feeling of being a club DJ spinning white labels (or something).
So it all sounds good right? Well, yes, it is a very accomplished result. But it’s not perfect. Of course, because it’s a virtual deck, you have to navigate your way round it, which means selecting different areas and then doing what you have to do. Then you have to back out, and do the next bit. Essentially this means that you can’t get two hands on at the same time. You can’t for example start a loop and a new record at the same time. There are some automatic features for cross-fading, but these are more to make life easy than provide a route to a musical climax.
There are multiple game modes - studio, party and pro. There are also over 50 licensed songs to mix. There is a hints and tips feature to guide you along. The resident DJ will also show you how it’s done and put you to shame. But it is important to remember that this is a game and best suited to sitting at home with your crew and a smoke through cold winter nights, after all, it’s better than hanging out round the bus stop. Whilst it was an eye-opener for me, I don’t think I’ll be revisiting the decks, and that’s probably the biggest thing to realise: this DJ sim will not suit everyone’s taste, but should find a following in the (sub)urban jungle if it can win over the garage composers who cut their teeth on the Music series.