GameCube
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Published by: EA Games
Developed by: AKI Corporation
For: PS2, Xbox, GC, and GBA
Version reviewed: GC
ESRB Rating: M for Blood, Violence, Sexual Themes, and Strong Language

Def Jam Vendetta was an amazing game, not in graphics, nor in control, but in the sheer brutal stylization of the game itself. No wrestling game had ever made moves that looked so violent, especially with close-ups of the unfortunate victim falling. Bones snapped, cartilage was torn, and tendons were strained, all in the name of the American dream?no, scratch that, the thug?s dream: Money, Power, and Respect. And while the story was not something to write home about, the game itself put most WWE titles to shame, such as Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain, Wrestlemania XIX, and even recent Xbox offerings, which mostly includes WWE Raw and its sequel Raw 2. Well, it didn?t manage to bring classic N64 grappler No Mercy to its knees, mostly because of the lack of a cohesive (or any) create-a-wrestler. The fighting engine was mostly up to snuff, but the crucial lack of a create-a-fighter, a tournament mode, or even a relatively good multiplayer mode didn?t hold up to any of the games that had come before it. Still, excellent collision detection, pretty good game play, and some pretty awesome controls helped to create a brutal game that was focused on one thing: kicking the competition?s rear. Def Jam Fight For New York fixes all of that. In fact, it isn?t even a wrestling game. Don?t go into it thinking that. FFNY is a fighter, a brawler, or whatever you want to call it, just not a wrestling game. Sure, there are grapples, but they are used mostly to throw the opponent around the arena, not to perform body-crushing moves on. There are still wrestlers, however, so don?t completely count wrestling out. See, five styles of moves make up the fighting in Def Jam FFNY, of which you can choose one to start out with, and then purchase two others. These are (description of fighting style taken from game manual): --Street Fighters: They might not be the most disciplined fighters, but with their powerful punches and kicks, street fighters can be some of the most dangerous. Their Haymaker attack (L+Y) is the most destructive attack on the circuit. --Kickboxers: The name says it all. Getting kicked by a kickboxer is like being smacked with an aluminum bat. In close, they use their deadly cinch maneuvers to grab opponents and unleash a flurry of elbow, fist, knee and leg strikes. --Martial Arts: What these agile fighters lack in power, they make up for with insane quickness. They are masters of the environment, and can use anything around them, like walls, posts, fences, and speakers to let loose an unpredictable knockout blow. --Wrestling: A combination of showmanship wrestling and technical grappling, these powerful fighters can use their incredible upper body strength to bring the pain with throws and body slams. Even though they are kind of slow and susceptible to quick strikes, they are extremely deadly in tight situations, and their grappling abilities are the most lethal in the game. Submissions: These guys wear down specific body parts to leave opponents open to painful submission attacks. Although not the fastest or most agile fighters, they use power and an arsenal of joint attacks, locks, and holds to make opponents scream for their mommies. For my first character, I chose Street Fighting as his first style, and then chose Kickboxing and Martial Arts, respectively, next. My second character had Submissions as his first fighting style, followed by martial arts and kickboxing. The cool thing is that my characters both play almost completely differently; my first character depended more on speed and brutality, while my second character uses every aspect of his body to perform attacks, and relies more on pummeling the opponent with every attack in his arsenal. Completely different play styles came out of two different characters with only one move set in difference, which is quite amazing. Each new style of fighting adds to the already-deep move sets that most of the fighters have, allowing for truly unique experiences every time you fight against a new opponent. This is perhaps the biggest appeal of the game; not one fight is exactly the same.

Graphics

The graphics are absolutely amazing. Even the crowd is 3D and interactive, which is definitely a new thing for a game like this. In fact, the crowd acts as the rope, but also helps your character out when need be. Lip-synching is spot on, as is hit detection, so that every hit, every slam, and every breaking body is as realistic and as over-the-top as possible. Another thing that drives the illusion of bodily harm home is the real-time facial damage, which shows bruising, cuts, and swelling on the faces of the fighters. Not only is this well implemented into the actual game, but it also allows for multiplayer matches to have an added degree of trash-talking allowed. The characters that you create translate perfectly to the game?s cut scenes, and they shine with the same graphical precision that the other character models do. Even their lips are almost perfectly matched up, their jewelry glitters and sparkles, just like every other fighter?s, and their movements, though almost tragically faux-hip to a fault, allow for a sort of cheesy fun that isn?t around in most other games. Really, the character creation is what makes this game shine the most. It puts other new game?s create-a-characters to shame, such as Tony Hawk?s Underground 2, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005, and, better yet, some of the more recent wrestling releases, like WWE Day of Reckoning (GC). While there are no customization options for the fighter?s entrances (what entrances? There are none.), the game slowly unlocks every possible customization option through the single player story mode, such as tattoos, hair styles and facial hair styles, jewelry, and clothing, which all add an extra incentive to play through the story mode. Equally well done is the animation, which, though much the same most of the time, shows just how meticulously crafted every aspect of Def Jam is. Special moves are very well done in this respect, with smooth flowing leaps, and slams that make the so-called WWE look like child?s play. Every collision has a reaction, and the detail is so amazing that there are even facial expressions that occur during special moves.

Game play

Really, this is one of the only games that I have played through completely twice (I?m actually going through for the third time). XIII (GC, XBX, PS2, PC) was another, as was Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (GC, XBX, PS2, GBA). In addition to the customization, which, as mentioned above, allows for almost unprecedented unlockable items and character creation, the game is just fun to see how challenging it gets when you crank the difficulty up to Hard. This is, actually, one game I would recommend starting at Medium difficulty on, because the Hard difficulty is brutally challenging, and allows no room for error. The opponents, especially harder ones like Danny Trejo, will literally crush your character?s body, and then taunt it after beating it to a senseless, not bloody, pulp. This is one hard difficulty. The story takes a backseat to the game play itself, which mostly takes place in various underground fight clubs, a chopshop, garage, basement, and rooftop being notable examples. Each environment has different environmental aspects that cause the game play to be altered and allow for a new experience each and every time. The crowd reacts differently to the variety and flair of the moves that you use, allowing for double-teams on the opponent (or yourself, which is not too cool), weapons thrown out into the ring. As well, different pieces of the environment can be used to your advantage; for example, pushing an opponent into a wooden post and then pressing the grapple button will do a different move that uses the opponent?s body as a battering ram, eventually breaking the post. There are multiple such environmental interactions in each stage. One level, called The Limit, allows you to slam your opponent into a jukebox, while another, called the 125 Street Station allows for you to slam an opponent into a soda machine, eventually breaking the machine itself. Multiplayer is one aspect of this game that is never lacking, and, indeed, never really gets old. In fact, it seems that it is almost a requirement for there to be multiplay because the story mode is more of a honing area for your multiplayer skills, despite the story being well-written and with tons of good voice acting. This is, however, one of the only games to successfully combine two different modes of gaming and make them both equally enjoyable.

Sound

The sound in Def Jam: Fight For NY is absolutely phenomenal. Not only is the soundtrack excellent for people who love rap and hip-hop (much better than True Crime: Streets of L.A.?s soundtrack, which mostly featured sub par hip-hop from defunct rappers and rappers who were only looking to make a quick buck?Snoop Dogg, I?m looking in your direction), but the voice acting is near-Hollywood quality, featuring notable voice work from such rappers as Xzibit, Sticky Fingaz, Ice-T, and Busta Rhymes, but it also features a supporting ensemble that isn?t slouching in any way either, by having actors Omar Epps and Danny Trejo (Con Air) providing really good voices that suit their characters perfectly. And if you?re the type that enjoys?ahem?ambience in your fighting games, then Def Jam doesn?t disappoint in this area either. Every hit has a loud smacking sound, every submission has a bone that cracks, and every arena has a crowd that cheers, and yells various taunts at your opponent or yourself, depending on who has the most charisma and the best moves. In short, every possible interaction that the player can perform, as well as all those that can?t be performed by the player, is done exceptionally well. The music that plays when fighting isn?t the mindless, generic rock that is usually played in wrestling games, shouting ?Are You Ready?? and then making pulse pounding beats that repeat for the entire playing experience. Most of the music is looped tracks without the vocals, making the entire experience cohesive and sounding quite good.

Control

I have to admit: the control in Def Jam is some of the simplest, and most difficult, I have ever had the pleasure of coming across. It?s like this. Each and every button performs one or more context-specific moves that only occur in that context, and never at any other time. This allows the controls to be incredibly responsive, and ultimately intuitive. The one problem that I had with the controls is that the reversal system is excruciatingly hard to use. The R button on the Gamecube controller blocks, but to reverse, you need to tap the R button and press the analog stick towards the opponent at exactly the right time, or the reversal won?t be used. This is too hard, but it sure beats some of the reversal bouts I?ve experienced playing some wrestling games. If this could be fixed, the controls would be picture perfect for a fighting game.

Appropriateness

There are some very basic problems in Def Jam in terms of appropriateness. First and foremost is the violence. While I find the violence in this game to be less offensive than that of Second Sight, I do see that the game is violent and bloody. Face bruise, environments are adversely affected due to bodies hitting them in various ways; in short, the game is brutal and gritty, and not recommended for any player under the age of sixteen. Language is another problem in Def Jam. While there are not many incidents with the Lord?s Name used in vain, Busta Rhymes says ?I?m gonna break your godd*** neck!? This is, actually, one of the only times that this word is used in the game, and so while this is offensive, it?s better than some of the Teen rated games that use the same language. F***, b****, and s*** are also words that are used with frequency in Def Jam; the F-bomb isn?t used as much as the other two, but it is used much more frequently in the latter half of the game. Def Jam?s content descriptors also mention Sexual Themes. This isn?t really evident from what I?ve played. Most of what I?ve seen should have been called Suggestive Themes, based on classifications used in other similar titles, notably WWF No Mercy. One of the female characters has a visible thong, and Carmen Electra is basically only wearing lingerie, even though it (sort of) passes for clothes. Games like No Mercy and the Playstation SmackDown! series all have video of the so-called Divas (basically female wrestlers) all dancing around in lingerie and skimpy swimwear, and they only warranted a Suggestive Themes descriptor. Yet another example of the ESRB?s hypocritical rating system. There is also a special move called the Lap Dance, which is kind of weird and doesn?t do much damage or serve much purpose. During a cutscene, one of the women who serves as your character?s girlfriend, asks you if you want to come home and show her how much energy you have left. Believe it or not, this is actually less explicit than the E rated title Banjo-Tooie, which had a machine that had buttons that said Suck and Blow on it.

Conclusion

I found this game incredibly fun, and am playing the story mode over and over again because I enjoyed it so much. It?s fun to create a character and then see how good you can get with different combinations of fighting styles. Multiplayer is also a blast to play, and most anyone will get a kick out of playing a novice and getting schooled in Def Jam. This is an amazing game that any fighting or wrestling game fan should pick up.

Final Ratings

Graphics A+ Game play A+ Sound A+ Control A Appropriateness D-

Overall 85%

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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