Def Jam Vendetta
The pitch for Deflam: Vendetta must have sounded like some kind of cynical marketing wet dream: "It's Fight Club meets hip-hop! It'll be, uh, off the hook...or, whatever the kids say. Hella something."
We can't even count all the ways this could have gone wrong, so we're glad we don't have to. Developer Aki is known for its wrestling-game expertise, and Def Jam, well, they're pretty good with the hip-hop. Together, they've made a decent brawler that incorporates the hip-hop stars you presumably love (Ludacris, DMX, Redman...almost the entire Def Jam lineup) and even compelling story--compelling for a wrestling game, at least.
The Def Jam crew members are the villains, with each artist acting as a boss. As you climb the ranks in Story mode and struggle to get the girl (well, girls--there's more than one), you'll earn cash, which you can use to buy attribute upgrades. There's all kinds of other stuff to unlock, too: new fighters (39 in all), stages, and even swank Phatfarm threads, in case your wardrobe is low on powder-blue track suits.
The multiplayer games you'd expect are there--Tag Team, Free For All, and Flandicap modes--and you can even earn cash from these bouts to spend in Story mode, but you can't set up tournaments or tweak many options. The lack of a Create-a-character feature is also a bummer. If you enjoy the hip-hop and the wrasslin', you'll get many hours of fun out of this one, but if you're a hardcore WWE fan, you may want to stick with what you've already got.
Def jam: Vendetta sounds less like a good idea for a game and more like a license to print money, but it's actually done pretty well. The characters look like they should, even down to their outfits, and the gameplay is what you'd expect from a good brawler. It's also surprisingly challenging--sometimes frustratingly so, at least initially--on the Normal difficulty level. But when you get all powered up and unleash a "Blazin'" finishing move, the resulting punishment is quite satisfying, in a "boy, did he ever get hit in the crotchF kind of way. The computer A.I. always mounts a comeback if it's on the ropes, which adds tension to a match but increases the risk of you throwing your controller to the ground in disgust after your foe unleashes a string of combos you're powerless to stop. There are some nice details, like body-part-specific damage and a diverse range of moves to master, but also some glaring omissions: Match conditions, like rope breaks, ring outs, and time limits (there isn't one, ever) aren't customizable. The fighters' stats aren't listed in the Multiplayer Character-select screen. And, you can't grab a chair from the audience for pummeling purposes (or, as the case may be, a big bottle of Atize, the beverage of choice among rappers' girlfriends). Def Jam will be a must-have for some, but if the hip-hop angle doesn't particularly appeal, you may want to get your sweaty man-thrills elsewhere.
I don't like fighting games, I think the WWE is stupid, and only recently have I become a hip-hop enthusiast, courtesy of what I've deemed "The 8 Mile Effect." But I love any game good enough to hook me, and Vendetta is certainly that. White the story line has fewer twists than a breadstick, the game is addictive because the balanced fighting engine keeps every battle interesting. Unlocking DMX and Ludacris as players, and a handful of /Wax/m-style photographs of some really pretty girls don't hurt, either. Painfully limited tuneage is the game's only serious flaw. There are too few songs (16 or so), considering that Vice City offers more than 80 and Tony Hawk 4 features 40.
Vendetta is the swift kick in the junk that the wrestling genre sorely needs, but it still left me feeling somewhat empty. I really like the entertaining Story mode, fast action, easy-to-learn controls, and K.O. system (which keeps match lengths reasonable). Unlike most wrasslin' games, the gauges make sense (one even tells you if an opponent can escape a pin). But, there's also a lot that needs work: it's criminally low on match types, doesn't have any weapons, doesn't have a Create-a-character mode, the camera sucks when more than two wrestlers are onscreen, and there're 44 characters, but only four can be used in Story mode. In short, it's still a promising start to a great series.
Download Def Jam Vendetta
I've reviewed quite a few wrestling titles here at GameFabrique, such as Legends of Wrestling, Legends of Wrestling 2, and Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth. Def Jam Vendetta is perhaps the first one that I've really enjoyed for it's gameplay, above and beyond any other title I've played. If it isn't clear, Def Jam Vendetta is in fact a wrestling game that's made the jump to fighting game that I think most wrestling games could benefit from.
The gimmick in this title is two fold. You can choose from a series of basic fighters for the story mode, but as you progress through the game, you'll unlock more fighters, many of whom are rap artists presented as star fighters. If you stick it out in the story mode, you'll also get to take part in cat fights, which let you play as one of two women, both of which fight to be your character's girlfriend. Depending on which you choose and whether you win, you'll unlock galleries of pictures for each woman.
While it's got some interesting gameplay, the small bugs are what really get Vendetta down. You can only win a match one of three ways. Knock out, submission, or a pin. The knock out is performed with a super move, which not only requires you to charge a special meter called momentum, but also doesn't work as indicated by both the game and the manual. 'Submissions'? come by putting an opponent into a submission move to lower the health of whatever body part you're putting the torque on, but each part has such an absurd amount of health it's unlikely to be a good win. Finally, the pin can be done at any time, but without beating on your opponent for 10 minutes or more, it's not going to work.
During the mulitplayer portion of the game, I also encountered some pretty big design flaws, which you might call bugs, but I hesitate to do so. A tag team match can't be ended the normal ways each time, and I've played with three of my friends for a half hour or more without being able to end a single match. The game just didn't seem to recognize legal opponents.
Even with those problems, this game still impressed me, with good graphics, a great sense for slightly over the top wrestling moves, and a camera engine that frequently gives you good shots of the best moves in a match. It's easy to play, easy to pull off a move, and extremely hard to win. However, if you can stick it out past all of the problems I had, you might have a good game on your hands. But I wouldn't count on it.
EA Sports has added an interesting twist to its catalog: Take a bit of underground fighting, mix in some nice wrestling action and top it off with some rap artist attitude. Def Jam Vendetta features some very entertaining moments, including killer K.O. moves and animated catfights.
The game offers three modes of play: Survival, Battle and Story. Survival pits you against the ladder of characters as you vie for the title. Battle includes various multiplayer styles, including Tag Team and Free-for-all action. The meat of the game is the Story mode. You take your character through a plotline narrowly constructed around a series of underground brawling arenas, with a heavy and his girlfriend teasing you along the way. The cutscenes give enough atmosphere to keep your attention, especially the ones involving your ever-changing girlfriend options.
As you pass through various stages, you fight many generic characters, but also get the thrill of taking on Def Jam recording artists. Slapping Ludacris around or knocking DMX out is oddly satisfying, and the tag team match against Redman and Method Man is a blast. Along with a little voice work, these artists lend their music to the game, providing a good mix of tracks throughout the matches.
The gameplay is very good. Learning the basics and getting used to the countering moves takes no time at all. The variety of characters and fighting styles keeps the game fun, though some matches did seem to go on forever. Winning comes in three flavors: pin, submission or K.O. While a K.O. is the most fun to watch, submission is also satisfying, as you wear down an opponent's arms, legs, or head until they writhe in pain, defeated.
The most entertaining part of the game is the girlfriend battles. The women love you and will fight for you in the ring. As you progress through your girlfriend selection, you unlock girlfriend photo galleries, which simply add a nice incentive to achieve certain game goals. Other goals unlock new characters, locations and clothing for your character.
This game is fun to play. However, if you are not a big fan of wrestling games or rap artists, it will only be entertaining as a weekend rental. Def Jam has made a great marketing move putting its music and artists in this type of game, and the results are definitely a blast, but not worth purchasing.
Snapshots and Media
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