Review: Def Jam Fight for New York (PS2)

EA’s hip-hop beat-em-up makes a return to the fighting arenas… but
this time we get much more than a simple No Mercy clone with rappers.
Genre: Action/Fighting
Platform: PS2 [XBOX/GC]
Rating: M [Mature]
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Canada
Release Date: 09/20/2004

When EA Games first released Def Jam Vendetta back in March of ’03,
many gamers were ready to write it off as just some lame attempt at
cashing in on the infamous AKI wrestling game engine, but with
“rappers” -and oh, how wrong they were. DJV became a celebrated
grappler, brought down a notch or two only by it’s lack of an Edit or
Create-A-Wrestler feature. Well, one year and six months later, EA has
brought us the sequel to DJV… Def Jam Fight for New York! FFNY takes
on a new twist, amalgamating the infamous wrestling engine with the
tried-and-true fighting game genre for a crazy hip-hop hybrid that’s
already created controversy amongst the fan boys. How’s it stack up in
this reviewer’s eyes? Read on…

STORY
Here’s the low-down on Def Jam: Fight for NY’s storyline. D-Mob, the
resident big bad from Def Jam Vendetta, has been arrested immediately
after the credits roll for the original game. After being hauled off
by two police officers, the cruiser transporting D-Mob is sideswiped
by an unknown assailant who then helps the now criminal-at-large
escape. Oh, and that unknown assailant… that’s you. The sketch
artist serves as the Create-A-Fighter feature, and once our suspect
has a face and a voice, we’re ready to get into some action.

The story progresses at a brisk pace as D-Mob enlists you to fight for
him at his clubs. You fight a few matches to start and eventually the
main plot of the storyline comes to the surface: the bubbling rivalry
between D-Mob and Fight For NY’s villainous boss character – Crow, aka
Snoop Dizzle, yo. From then on, it’s full on war between D-Mob’s and
Crow’s factions. Realizing that it’s not exactly an Oliver Stone
masterpiece, the story still has it’s moments. Brimming with loads of
drama, doubt, intrigue and betrayal – it’s a huge improvement upon
Vendetta’s plotline. The only gripe is that D-Mob goes from gun-toting
psychopath in Vendetta, to honorable mentor in FFNY. There are a few
alternate paths to take, but they do not reflect the storyline’s
outcome, which does fall a little flat but is good enough for what it
is.
[Rating: 7.5/10]

GRAPHICS
The character models for the celebrities in this game are just
astounding. Astounding to the point that I’d swear it was actually a
video of Ludacris fighting me in that basement arena.

From the licensed clothes to the sparkle in your character’s
customized bling, everything concerning the created fighter models
looks more than up to par.

The environments are pretty sweet, too. The colors and shading are all
spot-on, and while the game does appear a little dark at times, it
only adds to it’s gritty Fight Club-ish presentation. There are a few
issues with the frame rate when the action gets particularly intense,
but nothing that’s actually hindered the gaming experience for this
reviewer.
[Rating: 7.5/10]

SOUND
What more could you ask for than a licensed soundtrack from some of
today’s – and yesterday’s – top hip-hop stars?! From Public Enemy and
Xzibit, to Ice-T and CNN, FFNY’s soundtrack is top-notch. The game
allows you to unlock a bevy of songs to add to the already available
ones, and then set up a play-list of what you want to hear and when
you want to hear it. During actual fights, you only get instrumental
versions of the tracks – which is a bit of a let down – but that was
also the case with Vendetta, so no surprises there.

Moving on to the FX. Wow. The fight sound FX in this game are best
experienced with surround sound and are more than adequate. The bone
crunching. The vertebrae snapping. The cranium cracking. It’s enough
to make you cringe as though it’s actually happening to your own body.

FFNY also features a TON of voice acting, and it’s all very well done.
Considering that only a handful of these celebs have actually acted
[Ice-T, Snoop, Henry Rollins… yes, that’s right, HENRY ROLLINS!] the
entire roster does a great job of delivering believable taunts and
threats during the course of a match, as well as very plausible
dialogue in story mode cut-scenes. Oh, and even though this game is
rated “M for Mature” – don’t let that lead you to believe that
swearing will be present in every other sentence. No, they actually
make good use of the expletives in this game. Believable and not too
over used. Nice touch.
[Rating: 8/10]

GAMEPLAY
Here’s where the aforementioned controversy kicks in. Wrestling fan
boys around the world rejoiced when they found out that AKI’s infamous
wrestling engine would be used again for FFNY. Never mind that it’s a
hip-hop “wrestling” game, damnit. This game is AKI, and AKI is gold.
But, add a few tweaks to the engine so that it works in a street
fighting environment, and you’ve got a lot of whiney WWE marks who are
PO’d that they’re not getting a straight-up grappling sim. Well,
boo-hoo. My heart bleeds peanut butter! The controls do take a little
getting used to, but are far less horrendous than some people would
lead you to believe. If you’re not willing to give them a chance, then
you can’t consider yourself a gamer. Period.

Aside from the straight-up game play, the interactive crowds and
environment add a really nice touch to the fighting genre. The ability
to smash your opponent’s head off of a jukebox, or to double team them
with a random crowd member only adds to the enjoyment!
[Rating: 8/10]

REPLAYABILITY
If anything, the replayability of FFNY lies within it’s multi-player
versus mode. There are several match types to choose from. From the
usual one-on-one, two-on-two, and four man free for all modes, to some
more innovative match modifiers, including a match where the fighting
area is surrounded by a ring of fire, and the only way to win is to KO
your opponent by setting his stank ass on fire! That’s right, an
Inferno match! They all make for hours and hours of ass-kicking fun by
yourself or with three other friends.

The story mode is very straightforward and there are no significant
alternate paths to take. Unless you’re really into creating new
fighters and taking them through the same story, then you’re probably
only going to find yourself playing through the story mode once or
twice.
[Rating 7.5/10]

BALANCE
First-timers and those who won’t give the controls a chance are going
to HATE the AI in this game. Yes, it can be extremely cheap. Yes, it
can block or counter everything you can throw at it. But hey, at least
it isn’t friggin’ Ryu trapping you in a corner with a non-stop array
of Hadoken’s! Once you learn how to block and counter properly – and
throw your AI opponent off balance – you should be able to sway the
fight in your favor at the drop of a hat.

All levels of difficulty – even Easy mode – provide ample challenge
for even the most experienced of gamers.
[Rating 7/10]

ORIGINALITY
Originality gets high marks because FFNY isn’t just a rehash sequel of
the previous game like so many other beat-em-ups out on the market
these days. *cough*SMACKDOWN*cough*

EA took a ballsy idea and made it work with Vendetta. With FFNY, they
took that same idea and revamped it enough that it’s a whole new
gaming experience. Fights have a lot more variety. I touched on the
interactive crowds above, and it’s honestly something I’ve never seen
in a fighting/grappling game before. It adds a helluva lot of “HOLY
SHIT!” moments to the fights and a bit of an x-factor as well. Wander
too close to the crowd and you might just get a bottle smashed over
your head!

The different match types are bloody awesome. C’mon. How many other
fighting games let you toss your opponent in front of an oncoming
subway train? Or how about this. Remember the old Street Fighter II
bonus stage where you had to destroy a car? FFNY takes this concept
and turns it into a match. An SUV match where the object is to bash
the crap out of your opponents SUV… using your opponents body as the
weapon of choice!
[Rating 9/10]

ADDICTIVENESS
Ok, I need to put this into perspective. I have a KILLER game for
every genre that I’m into. “KILLER” in the sense that it’s a blast to
play it, non-stop, until 4am when you’ve got to be up at 9 the next
morning for work. For Shooter’s, its Ikaruga. For Wrestling, it’s Fire
Pro Z. For Fighter’s, it’s now Def Jam Fight For New York. Every other
fighting game that I play after this point shall be judged against the
benchmark known as FFNY.
[Rating 9.5/10]

APPEAL
Ok, it’s a given that most hip-hop fans are going to be into this
game. The look, feel, sound and everything else from top to bottom is
clearly marketed toward the legions of hip-hop followers around the
world. But what about the rest of the world? Well, if you aren’t
xenophobic, and you can get past the initial complications of the
controls and the tough AI, and see this game for what it is – a
refreshing entry into the otherwise extremely boring and bland
fighting genre – then this game should appeal to you regardless of who
the cast is.
[Rating 8.5/10]

MISCELLANEOUS
Aside from the one gaping plot hole that I mentioned above, my only
other gripe with FFNY was the exclusion of DMX. I’m not a huge fan or
anything. It’s just that his character was easily my favorite from the
first game. From his hilarious taunts to his brutally sick moveset,
DMX was the man to be – and attempt to beat – in Vendetta. I don’t
know what the reasoning was. Whether or not there was a contract or
licensing dispute, or if his latest escapade of posing as an FBI agent
and trying to jack a car at Kennedy airpoirt had anything to do with
it is beyond me. A small gripe that is easily made up for, however,
with the huge roster and the Create-A-Fighter option.
[Rating 7/10]

The Final Word: Whether you’re a hip-hop fan or not, if you’re into
fighting games – or even wrestling games – then you should at least
give FFNY a rental trial. Fans of the genre and the theme should be
more than happy with what this game has to offer. A ton of fighters.
Scores of moves. A boat load of options and unlockable rewards. Def
Jam Fight For New York pretty much has it all. I certainly hope that
EA continues with this trend, because I can’t wait to see what the
third installment has to offer.

Pulse Rating: 8

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