New rap/wrestling game a bone-crunching good time
Famous rappers collide for street cred in EA Sports’ “Def Jam: Vendetta” for Gamecube and Playstation 2.
For whatever reason, EA and wrestling game gods AKI (”No Mercy,” “Revenge”) have decided to take a wrestling game, throw it into an urban setting, and populate it with 14 Def Jam recording artists, including DMX, Ludacris, Method Man, Redman, and the Ghostface Killa. An additional 30 original characters round out the roster.
The game plays very much like AKI’s past games. The grappling and reversal systems are intuitive, but reward mastery. The moves are animated wonderfully, proving that motion capture is not the end-all for video-game animation. The over-the-top finishing, or “Blazin,” moves are real standouts.
The spirit system remains, although a health bar is now present for those who are not familiar with wrestling games. This makes Vendetta feel more like a fighting game than a sports/wrestling game.
The hip-hop soundtrack features a few popular tracks from wrestlers/rappers in the game, along with a few new tracks. The sound effects are intense, and express the pain the fighters are causing to their opponents convincingly.
In single-player mode, the game features a street thug trying to help out a friend, and fight his way through an underground rap wrestling circuit run by a Suge Knight-esque figure, D-Mob. D-Mob currently controls the protagonist’s ex-girlfriend, so it’s personal.
The player fights through a singles and tag-team circuit, eventually earning the chance to win belts from the rappers. The game climaxes at the Def Jam tournament, with the winner taking on D-Mob.
Throughout the single-player mode, the main character is treated to skill upgrades and the company of fine ladies. In fact, the player chooses which girl he wants to be with by controlling one in a brutal catfight. This is a relatively unexplored theme in games.
Arenas range from DMX’s junkyard to Ludacris’ strip club. The arenas are creative, and the backgrounds highly detailed. The game also features a large set of unlockable rewards; unfortunately, most of the characters are locked at the beginning.
While “Vendetta” shines in extreme wrestling action, it falls short in a few other areas. First and foremost, the create-a-wrestler/rapper feature has been cut. This was one of the biggest selling points of modern wrestling games.
Also, the multiplayer modes are thin. Only tag-team, versus, and free-for-all are selectable. The engine has been simplified as well, removing weapons and a lot of the more advanced moves.
While “Vendetta” has an entertaining gimmick and some genuinely fun, extremely intense action, it fails to score as a wrestling game. Casual gamers with a few friends might want to check it out, but true wrestling-game fans should pass.
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