Def Jam: Fight For New York

Who would have thought that I would almost pass on probably the best fighting game of the year?

The Game
The original Def Jam: Vendetta game was really forgetable for me. It was a wrestling game based around the Def Jam recording artists, with a slew of original wrestlers to play as. But it just didn't do anything for me.
Now the sequel is out, and I actually almost passed on what has turned out to be one of the best fighting games of the year! Please note I said "fighting" game. While there is a wrestling and grappling element to the game, this is definately more of a bar-room brawler then an in ring showdown.
And the best part of this game is definately the story mode. The story picks up right after Def Jam Vendetta, with D-Mob being hauled off by the cops, but then gets busted out and the story begins.
But you don't select from a readily available character like the last game. This time around your going in as YOURSELF! That's right! At the start of the game, you get to create your profile (which will be the name of your fighter), then create a fighter to play through the story mode! Heck, I made a pretty good impression of myself to battle through the game. As you play through the game, you even earn cash you can use to buy new clothes, tattoos, hair-cuts and the like to customise your character the way you want him to look! It's even possible to make your fighter look like someone from other beat 'em games like Ralf, Clark or Terry Bogard from the KOF series, which was the main look I gave my fighter.

The gameplay has improved slightly over the first game. You have a standard punch, kick, and grapple button setting, which differs from standard to heavy attacks if you hold down L1 while pressing the appropriate button. As well as a block button, well timed button presses can counter your enemies strikes and grapples. It can be frustrating to get the timing right, but it's essential to learn the counters.
And lets not forget about the killer bone-breaking super moves! There are a ton of logic defying special moves you can learn as you play through the story mode, and you can asign up to four of them for your character.
One thing I do have to complain about when you create your fighter in the story mode is that you can't asign his regular moves though. The moves you get with your CAF depends on the fight style you give him, and there are five to choose from: Wrestling, Street Figthing, Kick Boxing, Martial Arts and Submission.
You start with one style, but can learn up to three styles in total for one character. But I found that if you learn a new style, you lose almost ALL the moves from your original style in favour of the new one, which can really throw you for a loop in the story mode as you'd have to completely readjust your strategy. And if that ain't bad enough, the game immediately auto saves, so you can't load from your past save to avoid any grave mistakes you make.
Another difference from the previous game is that there are no pin-falls in it anymore. All matches are won either on KO or submission. Much like an MMA fight (incidentally, theres an Octagon cage to fight in too!). And there are various ways to KO your opponent too, from using your super, to smashing his skull into a wall in the background, to whacking him with a weapon when his health is low. This ads an interesting twist to the standard 'beat them until their life is drained' mentallity of other fighting games.
And yes, the backgrounds are HIGHLY interactive. Toss your opponents into spectators, and they will shove your opponent back at you like an Irish whip in pro wrestling. Sometimes they'll even grab onto you opponent leaving them open for you to take a free shot at them! You can also grab weapoms from spectators as well as pull off double team moves with them, depending on the situation.
There are even some dangerous elements in the background that give it that "death match" feel by whipping your opponents into barb-wire, into an oncoming train in the sub-way, or even burn them in an inferno match type setting!

Graphics and Sound
This game looks REALLY GOOD compared to the last one. With over a dozen areas to fight in, each with it's own theme (Jamaican bar, construction site, parking lot, etc.). And the characters all look good too. Even though they are a bit cartoony, you'll definately recognise the rappers who appear in the game, and they lend their voices to them too. So we all can now live out our fantasy of beating the bejesus out of Sean Paul since he's in the game too!
The music is basically a soundtrack of songs from the rappers in the game, as well as a few original tracks. Personally, I would have preffered a more rock oriented soundtrack to kick ass to.
The background noises of the fans cheering also leads to a very realistic element of the game. I really think it would be a great idea if more games like King of Fighters, Tekken, Virtua Fighter or anything had the kind of live crowd feel of a real fight like Def Jam has here. Nothing gets you into the game more than hearing a live crowd go "OOOHH!!" when you deliver a bone-crushing shot!
One slight complaint I do have about the voices though, when you create your fighter, all the voices you can select from have that hip-hop talkin' slang going for it. Come on! This is Fight For NEW YORK! Where are the tough guy Brooklyn accents? I so do not enjoy playing as an Eminem sounding fighter. Is it so wrong to have a real white guy in this game? There are latino accents and black hip hop accents, and that's about it. Hopefully they fix this flaw in the 3rd installment if they make one. That's right, I'm askin' EA to add some vanilla to this chocolate!

There are a ton of hidden characters to unlock in the game, and you won't get them all by playing through the story mode just one time either! There are 75 fighters to unlock, though some of them are replicas with different outfits, but that's just a small number compared to all the original fighters and rapper based figthers in the game. Beating the game also unlocks new match types in the exhibition mode like the inferno match.
One small complaint I do have is how difficult the game can be at times. It sometimes feels like the CPU is deliberately trying to stop you from having any kind of win streak, cause he'll totally whoop your rear one time, but after you continue, it's suddenly a whole lot easier to beat! It's also frustrating when you beat the CPU opponent to within an inch of winning, and suddenly he no-sells and counters EVERYTHING you throw at him, leading to him winning the match out of nowhere when you had a half life meter lead and he was on the brink of death!

Like I said at the start, this just might be the best PS2 figthing game to come out all year. There's something really satisfying about beating the living hell out of your opponents after they talk smack to you like in this game. I highly recommend picking this up!

Game Ratings:
Graphics - 8
Sounds - 7
Gameplay - 8
Lifespan - 8
Overall - 8


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