Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Review: Def Jam Icon

Can you trust a man with a fro this big? Absolutely - Fighting video games have been around almost as long as video games themselves. Who hasn’t enjoyed playing “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” at the arcade or blasting friends in “Mortal Kombat” on their home console? Fighting games are unique because of the diehard fans of the genre. A true fight gamer treats “Karate Champ” how Roger Ebert treats “Casablanca”, like the classic that it is.
So can the new “Def Jam: Icon,” an unusual mix of the worlds of rap and butt-kicking, deliver a haymaker? No, but it does have a nice one-two punch.
“Icon” has a number of different options to keep gamers busy. Creating your own fighter, making your own custom playlist to fight to, and battling friends online and off are just a few ways to spend your time. But the meat of “Icon” is its Build A Label mode. In this career mode, gamers play as a hard nosed tough guy who’s trying to make a name for himself in the competitive and dangerous world of rap producing.
You start off by creating your own character that gradually goes from errand boy to big time deal maker. Think Diddy (or PDid, or iPid, or whatever the heck he’s going by nowadays) but without Jennifer Lopez to help hide your guns. The accompanying storyline is atypical for a fighter and is well planned out. Signing new artists and keeping them happy (buy paying for paternity tests and bailing their friends out of jail), deciding on a marketing budget and even dealing with gold digging girlfriends will keep your hands full. It’s a nice, and often humorous, way to give gamers an excuse to fight.
The create-a-player is ridiculously deep and a lot of fun to play around with. Messing around with a wide variety of body types, picking stylish brand name clothes, choosing yourself a fight song, adding tattoos and doubling your body weight in bling is a blast. If you ever wanted some grillz on your teeth but couldn’t afford it, now’s you chance.
The game presentation is great. The backgrounds are vibrant, very detailed and even shake. The rappers look like their real life counterparts and appear progressively worse as they take a beating. As you would expect from this series, the soundtrack is full of licensed tracks. The music is bouncy, upbeat and perfectly fits the in-game action. Lil Jon, Big Boi, The Game, Ludacris and many other rappers are in the game, but it would’ve been nice too see Jay-Z, LL Cool J and other Def Jam artists available as well.
Unfortunately, “Icon” drops the mic where its supposed to pump up the volume as the fighting system just isn’t that much fun. Despite having a wide range of combat styles, the attack moves in the game are very basic. Combos, the bread and butter of any fighter, are almost non-existent as the AI only gives you one or two hits before blocking and countering. This leaves gamers with only one alternative. Hit high...wait... hit low, then move your opponent into one of the many danger zones on every level so they can take major damage. This is the plan every time you fight. That’s it! Throw in the fact that the combatants punch so slow they move like they’re underwater and you have a fighter with a fun story line but weak fighting game play, not a good combo.
If you like hip hop and thumping people in beautiful settings this game is for you, but die-hard fans of the genre should look other places to get their fight fix.
Def Jam: Icon
Price: $59.99
Rating: M (Mature 17+)
Category: 3D Fighter
Players: 1-2 (2 online)
Formats: Xbox 360, PS3
Grade: C+
Top 5 Things You Should Know About “Karate Champ”
1. Made an appearance in the movie “Bloodsport” with Jean Claude Van Damme and easily out acted him
2. Debuted in 1984 and developed by Technos Japan Corp., who also created “Double Dragon”
3. Original title was “The Way of Karate”
4. The first game to allow gamers to kick guys in the groin
5. Needs to be on Xbox Live Arcade almost as much as “Cyberball”

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