The world of rhythm gaming is rife with some absolutely excellent titles: Um Jammer Lammy, Rez, Space Channel 5...the list goes on. But I'm greedy, and I want as many as I can possibly have. So when a new franchise or even an established one hits the scene, I'm raring to go. Enter DJ Max Respect V, the latest iteration of a music gaming series that's been around for over a decade. It's appearance on PC marks an exciting new installment for fans and newcomers, as it features a wide variety of beats to bump, modes to play around in, and musical goodness to totally lose yourself within. Is it worth your respect? In a word, yes!
Lose yourself to dance
If you're unfamiliar with the rhythm genre, there's a whole host of different mechanics explored within. You've got games like Dance Dance Revolution, where you're meant to physically dance along with arrows that appear onscreen. Then there are games like Rock Band or Beatmania, which feature notes flying down a set path that you must press the corresponding onscreen button to match. That's how the DJ Max series operates.
You choose a song, and then you're presented with a fairly utilitarian interface that requires you to follow along with the notes that appear onscreen. Visuals that accompany your chosen song will play int he background, and it's your job to complete as many notes on the beat as possible. It's all a very rudimentary setup, but it's done quite well. Pressing buttons along to the beat feels natural and accurate, and you feel like you've truly accomplished something when it's all said and done.
DJ, turn it up
Even though the game is super simple to pick up and understand and enjoy (even if you're not too rhythmically inclined), there is plenty of challenge to be had here. Beginners will want to start on a lower difficulty, and maybe four buttons instead of five to keep things from being too intimidating. Confident players can incorporate eight buttons, which makes for a stamina-crushing, ridiculous time that experts will revel in playing.
Even with four buttons, however, things can ramp up pretty quickly, even on lesser difficulties, which can complicate matters a bit. With over 150 songs to choose from, there are plenty of different tunes to play along with, but some of them end up being a little harder than they should be – this might frustrate some players, especially newbies. And when DJ Max Respect V wants to challenge players, it truly does.
When you decide to tackle more difficult songs than what you're used to, however, that's when things get hairy. This is a game that'll punish you if you're out of your element, but if you're an expert, you'll find the challenge refreshing. You're scored on how well you hit each note at the end, as well as your combos and your tempo scores, alluding to how well you remained on the beat.
Along the way, you'll have to work to unlock additional songs as well – they aren't all available at the beginning of the game, which may come as a disappointment to people who just want to jump in and hone their skills. But with so many songs on the line and so much content to unlock, I didn't mind having to be required to play and explore new songs to be rewarded with new ones. However, while there are plenty of tunes to sling, I did catch myself wishing there had been more well-known rhythm gaming standards or licensed songs other than the ones that were included.
The same variety afforded to the 150+ song list extends to the selection of modes available to play in. You can opt to opt to play Air Mode, which lets you play along with a random set of streaming songs, for example, or Freestyle, which requires you to be on point as often as possible. All of these will test your prowess as a player, so it's important to be on top of your game.
Spin the disc
DJ Max Respect V is very much a game created for the rhythm gaming elite out in the world. It isn't a new Dance Dance Revolution and it's not even the work of rhythm game great Konami, but it's a venerable franchise just the same with a slick new title on PC that should satisfy just about anyone who loves tapping buttons along to their favorite songs. It could use some more "popular" songs added to its arsenal, and it can be a bit frustrating even on lower difficulties. But overall, it's an expansive, responsive, and exciting new addition to a genre that rarely gets any new games these days.
Plus, it's satisfying in a way where, if you end up brushing up on your skills often enough, you'll find your fingers positively flying on higher difficulties. And that's the hallmark of a true rhythm master. Until we get another game like PaRappa the Rapper, this is about as good as we're going to get for now, folks. Luckily, it's pretty awesome.
This review is based on a Steam download code provided by the publisher. DJ Max Respect V is available now on PS4 and PC.
DJ Max Respect V
- Massive collection of songs.
- Challenging rhythm gameplay.
- Easy to pick up and understand.
- Could use more familiar and licensed songs.
- Occasionally harder than it should be even on lesser difficulties.
- All songs not unlocked initially means you'll have to grind a bit.