Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Canada
Release Date: September 28, 2004
Up a metal stairway and past two huge, mean-looking bouncers protecting the entrance laid in wait multiple PS2’s displaying the sequel to last years best-selling rapper-wrestling game Def jam Vendetta. I hastily tossed my Timbuk2 bag aside and picked up a DualShock. I selected story mode, chose from the five available fighters (Ludacris, Sticky Fingaz, Busta Rhymes, Redman, and Method Man) and was treated to a cool-looking in-game cinematic that resulted in an Inferno Showdown. Surrounded by flames and an angry mob of spectators, I quickly got my ass handed to me. This did not detour me, however.
I tried and tried again, until the game actually locked up and I was shown to another Def Jam: Fight for NY demo station then offered a one-on-one battle against this guy (a producer for the game from EA Canada, I think) who casually walked away after saying “…uhhh, yah … the grapples are faster” in response to my “uhh the grapples seem faster” answer to his “what do you think of the game” question.
My impression of Def Jam: Fight for NY was a bit mixed, and not just because of my awkward exchange with the EA Canada guy. The game just wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. For example, those amazing-looking screenshots you’ve no doubt seen of Fight for NY that feature the fighters up-close and super-detailed – well, the game only looks like that about 12% of the time. The other 88% of the time the perspective is zoomed out much further than most of the screenshots would suggest, which takes away a lot of the visual impressiveness. I don’t know why I haven’t seen any screenshots of the game that show it from its default perspective, but this sly discrepancy has certainly raised my suspicion.
Conspiracy theories aside, the gameplay also caught me off guard. The play mechanics are extensively retooled compared to the original. With five different fighting classes (martial artist, streetfighter, submissions expert, kickboxer, and wrestler) and each class utilizing a few different substyles (martial artist is comprised of karate, capoeira, tae kwon do, and others, for example) don’t expect to seamlessly transition your Vendetta skills into this new installment.
On the other hand, it would also be a mistake to think Fight for NY has gone all simulation on us; this time the focus is much more on over-the-top fighting action backed up by a streamlined and intuitive combat system that allows players to effortlessly crush their opponents faces into wooden beams, smash beer bottles over their heads, get nasty with baseball bats, and even toss unfortunate fools in front of speeding subway trains. Believe us when we say this is more than your mere evolutionary upgrade.
Environments will be fully interactive now. Destructible objects litter the background, spectators will take it upon themselves to get involved, and anything that you see can most likely be used to severely punish your opponent’s face. Dozens of weapons promise to keep things interesting; stuff like the aforementioned beer bottles are considered single-use weapons while more sturdy bluntness like wrenches and two-by-fours are officially being coined as ‘persistent multi-use equalizers’.
Attempting to assemble the most impressive cast of characters for a fighting game ever is a daunting task, but EA Canada seems to be up to the challenge as they are bringing more than 40 of the biggest names in hip-hop to the table, along with over 25 original characters. Some new, some old. Look for playable appearances from Flava Flav, Ghostface, Ice T, Ludacris, Joe Budden, Busta Rhymes, Sean Paul, Method Man, Redman, Slick Rick, Snoop Dogg, Fat Joe, Bonecrusher, Sticky Fingaz, Carmen Electra, Lil’ Kim, Shawnna, and Kimora Lee Simmons. As well fan favorite characters from the first game.
Story mode is about three times longer in Fight for NY compared to Vendetta and is also exponentially more engaging with non-linear path progression, six times the amount of story content, and the ability to create your character from the ground up and hone his or her skills and looks to your liking. Word has it there will even be a mode in the game (or maybe a story element) where your main objective will be to pulverize your opponent’s decked out ride, ala Street Fighter II. Personally, I can’t wait to see that.
The soundtrack in Fight for NY will take on a darker and edgier tone than its predecessor and should compliment the game’s brutal motif nicely. All the music will also be interactive, changing to fit the mood and tempo of a brawl and the fight’s location. And of course the story sequences will benefit greatly from the wealth of hard-hitting tunage Def Jam has at their disposal. In addition, all the original talent featured in the game will provide genuine voice work for the game.
Unfortunately, a recent announcement from EA has stated that Fight for NY won’t be featuring online play on any platform, as was previously thought. Nevertheless, Def Jam: Fight for NY should serve up enough ass-kicking goodness to satiate fans of the franchise and fighting games in general.