I’m not a huge fan of rappers. I don’t really enjoy their music and their personas (which I appreciate are often exaggerations of their actual personalities) just make them come off as pretentious divas (I do like Xzibit in the car shown though).
You might find it strange then that I’m getting so excited about a game that entirely about rappers and their music. “So why on earth are you recommending Def Jam?” I head you say. Well let me answer your question with another question. Why wouldn’t you want to play a game where you can smack Sean Paul repeatedly in the face and then through him onto a subway train track so that he gets finished off by a train?
The brutality of Def Jam: Fight For New York is simply staggering. I can’t think of any recent fighter (with the exception of the gloriously silly Mortal Kombat 9) where the action is this bleak, this visceral. Stunned fighters can be slammed against poles; thrown in front of subway trains; have their heads slammed repeatedly in car doors; get thrown into car windshields – the list of atrocities is endless and it’s simply brilliant, brutal fun.
And the sounds. Oh dear lord the sounds. Many of the arenas you fight in are lined with spectactors who will happily hand out weapons that you can main your opponent with. Hammers make contact with a sickening ‘thwok’, brooms break noisely over people’s heads, bottles sound as lethal as they look. It works brilliantly well, highlighting just how brutal and draining Def Jam is. It’s draining on the player too as most fights can often take a good while to win. This is particularly noticeable in the five-minute bouts where the crowd eventually decides the winner. Play for this length of time and you feel as bruised and battered as the fighters you’re controlling.
It’s worth noting that while the combat engine is good, it’s not spectacular and it’s easy to see why so many fighting purists like to turn their nose up at it. Created by Aki, it’s predominatenly based around a wrestling game, but introduces street fighting and other disciplines. It’s certainly clunky at times, but boy, when those moves hit you feel every last kick and punch. This is most notable with the ‘Blazin Moves’ powerful signature attacks that all the fighters have access to that can dramatically turn the game in your favour.
In addition to its exhilerating combat, Def Jam is absolutely loaded with content. The sheer amount of unlockable stuff is staggering and we can only imagine the DLC field day EA would have with this if it ever went back to the series today. There are over 70 fighters to unlock, loads of arenas (20 compared to DEf Jam Icon’s 8) a silly amount of multiplayer game modes and a genuinely enjoyable Story Mode which never outstays its welcome. It even caters for four players making it even more of a chaotic, silly experience.
Ultimately, it’s the sheer amount of stars who were willing to be beaten up in the name of entertainment that makes Def Jam such a joy to play through. While the gameplay is perfectly fine, the addition of Omar Epps, Snoop Dog, Method Man and countless others (you can even unlock Danny Treko) really tips it over the edge, creating a game that appeals not only to genuine fans, but those that just want to see the grins knocked from their smug faces. Hell, you even receive your training tips and techniques from Henry Rollins!
Don’t be prejaudice against Def Jam becuase it’s based around the world of rap. Simply pick up a copy, get some mates over and have the time of your life. You won’t regret it.