Get your crunk and settle up the next generation of hip-hop brawling in Def Jam Icon from Electronic Arts. Not trying to shake its bad-boy image Def Jam settles up, licensing their top dawgs to the grind house of fight clubs. It’s the PS3 vs. The Xbox 360, it's Sean Paul vs. Luda in Def Jam Icon.
Ah hell, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Def Jam: Icon considering I loved Def Jam: Fight for NY as it took our Fighting Game Year of 2004 and slammed it with style. I wondered how much better could the Def Jam fighting series get on the next-gen; it was enough for me to save up the cash to slap down at the retail counter. Def Jam Next Gen, that’s enough I’m sold. Now that I’ve been through the trenches, rented the Xbox 360 version to see a difference, sadly to say, I want a re-fund. Def Jam: Icon isn’t total trash, but compared to Fight for NY, it’s a lightweight.
It’s not often that the next evolution of a game doesn’t match up to an ongoing series. The stakes are high and admittedly EA had their work cut out for them. Taking on a new style Def Jam Icon tries to ice over the gritty bad attitude of New York, without the Snoop double G. Icon is still bad ass, but not the baddest ass. In the last Def Jam fighting game it was New York that you had to conquer and now in Icon we have moved out of gang fighting to record labels, beating down the paparazzi and squaring up crooked bookers. It’s definitely not as down and dirty, there is a little more class involved, but that doesn’t mean it’s wealthier.
Def Jam Icon’s new crew is to create your own record label in the “Build a Label Mode” In this mode you create your character and help move talent up the world wide record charts. Of course this concept isn’t close to reality, its even more of a stretch then fighting Snoop Dogg for the rights of New York City. In Icon you’re basically a hired thug bodyguard that is allowed to go around and beat the hell out of people in the name of the label. Your created character has a little more depth then New York, but not a major difference in style or look. The graphics are improved however it’s not a huge leap when talking about the actual in game talent. The main difference in Icon is that you can pick your initial fighting style and theme song. The style and song are important for the first round of fights, but don’t worry about being stuck with those choices because you can change things up later.
The plot doesn’t offer much more then a fantasy land in the record business. If you could sit handle the madness, Def Jam Icon can be completed in an average of eight to ten hours. Besides taking down tough as nails photographers you’ll deal with the po-po, inter label rivalries, and other industry slime balls. Now I’m not forgetting about the ladies, Def Jam Icon has several that come around wanting a piece of the pie. As soon as you start picking yourself up they will come hooching up to your crib trying to milk the cow for all its worth, abd who can blame the ladies with all that shiny new grill in my mouth? Aside from the ladies you progression and management of the labels talent will also effect your ability to learn new moves and grab new songs which makes the game a little harder. Just like the industry, success is the measuring tool used.
For hip-hop fans we have the hottest talent from the industry in the game which I’m assuming all roles under the Def Jam label. You’ll see artist like the Jamaican million dollar man, Sean Paul, Outkast member Big Boi, Southern boy, Paul Wall and other mainstream rappers like Ludacris, Redman, and The Game. If you’re not into hip-hop culture and music then you’ll be most likely skipping Def Jam Icon anyway. In any light for some reason the hip-hop gangsta culture seems to tend more towards violence then Country Icon, or Jazz Icon would. It’s not fair, but half these characters seem like the have been in a squabble or two in their day. The roster could be beefier, and its a little light compared to the variety in Fight for New York, but it will have to do.
The major difference and innovative twist on EA Chicago’s part is the way they incorporate music as a weapon. During matches you have the ability to scratch the air like your scratching a record on the turntable and cause explosions and various hazards to come in play. The catch is getting your scratching to match up with the beat of the song. This unique system is kind of like a rhythm game and will cause you to grove with the music and hopefully gain the advantage in battle. The whole system works fairly well, but it’s not really intuitive. For a first go, the developer should be applauded for doing something new. It’s unrealistic, and a little odd, but with all the other bizarre aspects of Icon, it kind of fits in.
So everything is off to a good start in Def Jam: Icon until you play the game. Def Jam Icon is slow, I mean very slow. You’re basically fighting in slow motion like being underwater. The whole basis of the game is fighting and this is painfully ruined because of the methodical frame rate. I’m not sure if it’s a hardware or software problem because they pumped all the resources into the graphics and sound, or if they wanted the game to run at this speed. Whatever the cause, it’s a problem. The PS3 version doesn’t offer any extra evidence of smoothness compared to the Xbox 360 so it’s not a console performance problem. This just trashes all the work they put into the game which is sad. Also while I’m focusing on the negative the fighting system isn’t as robust as the last version and the lack of grapples and moves is depressing. Even with the advanced graphics, inclusion of music as weaponry and the Build a Label mode can’t pull Def Jam Icon out of this fishbowl of slow. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. Just like video killed the Radio star, Frame-rate has killed Def Jam: Icon.
The graphic and sound department is where Def Jam Icon starts to shine, although the spotlight is a little dulled out. Graphically, the few environments look great and the merging of music and graphics into the fighting engine is a great idea. For this Def Jam Icon is applauded. Icon is gritty and yet polished, I wouldn’t say it’s a drastic improvement over Fight Night Round 2, but it still looks good. The bonus touch to Icon is its stylized look which is a trademark of the Def Jam series. The music is thumping and effective and the voice over talent did a great job putting that urban spin on the game. Complaints, sure it’s a big one the frame rate. I know I already touched on it, but damn, with all the good in the presentation of Def Jam Icon, it’s too bad the frame rate is so damn slow. Just like the action, the frame rate slows down rate of rising in the final score.
It’s strange that EA Chicago responsible for the amazing Fight Night series couldn’t capitalize on the Def Jam series. Def Jam Icon has a few moments, but in no way can it wear the shoes of its former edition, Fight for New York. I’m sure this isn’t the end of the Def Jam series; hopefully it can crawl back up and take over the ground it has lost venturing into the next generation of gaming. If you’re a hard up gangsta into the hip-hop music then Def Jam Icon will give you enough to enjoy for a while, otherwise I’d have to say “Get Back, You Don't Know Me Like That”.
Gameplay: 6, Graphics/Sound:7, Innovation: 7, Mojo:5 Final: 6 / 10