Sunday , September 27 2020
Def Jam Icon, in the end, is a fighting game that fails to live up to its potential.

Xbox 360 Review: Def Jam Icon

When the most entertaining part about having a new video game spinning in your Xbox 360, in this case Electronic Art’s newly released Def Jam Icon, is watching your wife take repeated stabs at playing it – that game might not be worth the hefty price of admission.

Sure, watching her frantically push random buttons on one of my controllers as she enthusiastically tells whatever hip-hop “Icon” that she’s controlling, say perhaps, Method Man, to “kick him! Kick him while he’s down! No, don’t let him kick you! Kick him NOW! Kick him in the BALLS!!” is insanely entertaining, especially as she can probably be heard by the entire neighborhood, but I’m not letting her go out and add this particular game “feature” to all the copies that are actually sold of this game.

Everyone else can get his or her own spastic spouses, I figure.

Being new to the Def Jam series, I’ll confess that it was the insanely gorgeous graphics that lured me into giving Icon a shot. Fortunately, that is the one thing that holds up to scrutiny in the game. Simply put, everything from the characters themselves to the environments that they fight in are jaw-droppingly beautiful. It makes me wonder whether that was the one thing that Electronic Arts focused on for this release, as it definitely has a very nice “Next Generation” shine to it.

If only the same could be said for the game play.

Perhaps the problems stem from the fact that I’m not quite sure what kind of game Def Jam Icon’s creators intended it to be. If they wanted to make it primarily a fighting game, then I would have expected the control scheme to have been designed with that in mind. Instead I find myself faced with a scheme that requires controlling my character through the use of the right analog and the directional pad.

By the time I’ve remember the Machiavellian maneuvers I must do in order to have my fighter even attempt one of the moves described in the manual, the other fighter has had time to go out, take a nap, wake up, go for a snack, eat, return, and giggle as he defeats me with the same move I was attempting.

Of course, I am hyperbolizing a bit, but the control scheme is just flat-out awful. I cannot, for the life of me, understand what the designers were thinking. They’d have had more success if they had packaged an old Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots fighting set and included little slip on masks of well-known hip-hop artists for the robots to wear. That, at least, would have been a game I’d have understood and enjoyed.

Then again, perhaps the idea wasn’t for Icon to be considered as primarily a fighting game. With the “Build A Label” option, you have the opportunity to make yourself into a veritable hip-hop mogul-to-be. Of course, a rather large part of becoming a mogul seems to be kicking people’s asses, which brings us back to Def Jam Icon being a fighting game with no guts for fighting.

Hooray for schizophrenic games!

There is at least one other redeeming quality to this game, and that is the music. I’m not talking about the music that comes pre-loaded into the disc, though. While there is a nice representation of songs by each of the various hip-hop artists featured in Icon, the thing I found most rewarding is the ability to load your own mp3s onto your Xbox 360 and have them be just as ingrained a part of the game as the original hip-hop songs were. You think you will get a thrill by kicking Method Man’s but while using Ludacris, as his own “Get Back” is pounding in your speakers? Well, try it with Devo commanding you to “Whip it!”

What’s also nice is that the music comes into play during the game, literally. When you’re character’s signature song comes on in the background, his attacks will be (relatively) quicker and he’ll be able to knock his opponent down easier. Which means, if you choose “Whip It” as your song, it’ll help you “whip” someone.

If you can figure out how to, that is.

In the end, Icon frustrates me so much because I can plainly see a game that had the potential of becoming as strong as Vendetta or Fight for NY. As it stands, it’s a hoot. For about two solid days I found myself flipping about and doing my damnedest to whip every rapper with every other rapper. After that I found myself working my way up to becoming a hip-hop mogul named “Alton Brownie,” as I repeatedly yelled “Bake yourself FOOL!” while I beat up on people.

After that, though, I popped back in my copy of MLB 2K7, and haven’t really looked back. That’s a shame, though. In a weird way I’m actually looking forward to whatever the next incarnation of Def Jam turns out to be. Electronic Arts has some game play elements there that, were they tweaked in the right direction, could lead to a fantastic game.

Maybe you’ll feel comfortable in unleashing your hip-hop fighting talents on any and all potential victims that you might find, should you break out the Xbox Live part of this game. As for me, I pass. If a game can’t keep me entertained more than two days on its own, I doubt taking it on the road will help it much.

People buying this for players under the age of 17 should definitely take notice of the “M” rating, as there is no shortage of violence or mature language (both during play and in the lyrics of some of the featured songs).

Def Jam Icon is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Strong Lyrics, Violence. This game can also be found on: PS3.

About Michael Jones

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