Sunday, March 25, 2007
Good: I get to punch Paul Wall
Bad: I have to suffer through atrocious gameplay to do that
I'm a white guy from Kansas, but I think I'm smart enough to realize that Def Jam Icon resembles "street life" about as much as God of War resembles the US Marine experience. Every single aspect of this game tries so damn hard to be thuggish and "street," but it's so self-serious and contrived that it's downright laughable.
The first two Def Jam games had the right idea. They took the established AKI engine from the N64 wrestling titles, and added rappers to it. They were essentially the spiritual successors to the excellent WWF No Mercy. Icon bears no resemblance to the deep engine of old, throwing it away in favor of ridiculous mid-match turntable scratching (I'm sorry:.AIR turntable scratching). No longer do you have an arsenal of interesting wrestling moves at your disposal. Now you have to trigger environmental hazards by turntable scratching to the beats of Paul Wall and Mike Jones songs. Awesome!
If my sarcasm in that last statement isn't obvious, I'd like to make something perfectly clear: this game is awful. Your characters move like they're wading through a thick pool of molasses, and the attacks are yawn-worthy. After trudging your way through each boring match, you're usually presented with a terrible cutscene offering such wisdom as "pump yo brakes, son."
In "build a label" mode, the story is hilarious. Just to give you an idea of how ludicrous it is, I'll explain the opening scenario. You're a poor guy living the "street life," complete with shitty apartment in the ghetto. You decide to go to the club one night, and you happen to get into a fight on the dance floor. The owner of the club pulls you into his office and basically starts you on the path of building a record label. I'm not leaving out a crucial story segment here, in case you're wondering. You get noticed by a record company executive by getting into a fight at his club.
Icon does have some quality production values when it comes to the various menus and overall presentation. Herein lies the problem, however: it's ALL presentation. The gameplay itself is downright awful, and no amount of flash, rappers, or licensed songs could save this dreadful title.
As much as I hate to say it, this title will probably sell fairly well. It's got the EA marketing machine behind it, and uninformed casual gamers will probably be lured by the novelty of fighting as their favorite shitty rapper. When I see titles like this sell while masterpieces like Okami sit on the shelves, it makes me weep for the industry.
On the visual end, Icon would probably look pretty sharp if it weren't constantly muddied up by atrocious light filters and oversaturation. The character models look fantastic (especially faces), but it's hard to tell under the constant neon blue/green/yellow filters. I'm only a casual fan of rap and hip-hop, but I've listened to enough to know that they've picked the absolute shittiest "artists" possible to contribute to this game. If I hear "Ballin!" one more time, I'm going to punch Jim Jones square in the nuts (and hopefully get a record deal out of it!).
This game is obviously a joke to any fan of actual gaming. It's a steaming turd wrapped up in sleek and shiny packaging, but it's still a turd. I couldn't care less if you happen to like the idea of beating up a digital Lil' Jon as a digital Paul Wall. It's not fun, and anyone who purchases this game should have their 360 or PS3 privileges permanently revoked.
First Play: 5.0
Replay Value: 4.5
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