IGN Review of Def Jam: Fight for NY - The Takeover
The console version of Def Jam: Fight for NY did most everything right. It improved upon its predecessor, Def Jam Vendetta, by adding new characters, moves and fighting venues. On top of this, it took the narrative aspect of the game seriously - an area most fighting games tend to overlook. Then it went and applied a gleaming coat of polish to the whole thing, making it one of the best-looking fighters around.
You can say exactly the same thing about the PSP version, titled Def Jam: Fight for NY: The Takeover. Long name, yes, but so is the list of features and enhancements Takeover brings to the table. Before getting into that, it serves to note these additions are of a subtle variety. Takeover still offers primarily the same experience as the console version, after all. Not a bad thing, mind you, but those thinking Takeover is entirely unique will be burned.
As for the rest of you, just know first hip-hop brawler for PSP offers a fine experience knee-deep in NY grit. Everything from the console iterations shows up in full force, including the overwhelmingly impressive cast that now boasts 68 characters. The roster includes hip-hop artists such as Method Man, Lil' Kim and Busta Rhymes, as well as eye-candy celebrities like Carmen Electra. You need to unlock a vast majority of these characters to play them, but that's not so much a chore in this case. Plus, each celebrity brawler looks, sounds and plays differently, which truthfully is far more important than having 500 fighters with only cosmetic differences to set them apart.
Each claims a specific fighting style, for instance, while some have a mixture of two or three. One character can specialize in wrestling and street fighting, while his combatant may focus on kick boxing and martial arts. This helps keep the fighting experience varied and lends the game a bit of strategy as well. In addition, characters have unique attributes such as upper and lower body strength, speed and toughness. Strength helps you land those powerful hooks and kicks; while toughness and speed let you avoid damage or help you survive a serious beating, respectively. The different styles and character attributes really helps make each fighter special - something desperately needed in any game with copious fighters to choose.
Once in the arena, the differences really shine. Actually, shine may be the wrong word, since there's nothing in Takeover remotely bright or cheery. Fights get dirty, real dirty -- characters crash through cars and get kicked in the face repeatedly. They also get their spines broken in about 1,000 different places and have their faces smashed into concrete walls every other second of a fight. And it all looks and plays just as it should. Not that it's an overly complicated fighting system. Takeover has a relatively straightforward scheme built around grapples, reversals and simple combos. It takes a while to get used to at first, because it blends mechanics from both wrestling and straightforward fighting games, but it's a breeze once you get used to it.
The coolest part about any fight is exclusive to the Def Jam series, though. The Blazing moves at your disposal really set this game apart. They look ridiculously painful, to start, and they're simple to execute. You can also unlock 82 of them, and they all look equally devastating and cool, making getting all of them a worthwhile endeavor.
Just like in the last game, you can only use them when in Blazing mode, which you trigger by filling a special meter located right under your health bar. You then tap one of the direction buttons to initiate of the move. You can assign and re-assign moves to the D-Pad as many times as you want. This lends another area of customization and it keeps the flow of battle brisk since they're so easy to pull off.
When it comes to game modes, you get a number of choices. The first and coolest is Story, where you create your very own brawler and take him through a criminal saga. The process starts with a collection of facial features, such as bone structure and skin tone, for you to define the perfect fighter. You then choose everything from outerwear to eyewear and even jewelry. The most important decision deals with fighting styles, though. Do you go with a wrester/ martial arts hybrid or keep it simple by just choosing an old-fashioned street fighter.
After creating your character, you then go straight to your crib, where you can check your email (through a T-Mobile Sidekick), listen to a collection of hip-hop tracks and change your clothes. The most important area of your crib, however, is the map, where you can travel all over New York. Locations of interest have colored pins on them, and these include the gym, which helps you build your skills, to random encounters with player haters from rival crews. Basically, the story comes through numerous emails telling you to beat the snot out of specific gang members or to protect the locations of gang meetings.
It's a pretty cool drama, though for the most part it never gets much deeper than you breaking someone's ribs for selling his mix tapes in your territory. That and punishing over-zealous cops or thugs foolish enough to steal bling from members of your crew. Still, it's more in-depth than in most fighting games, and it's certainly presented well. It should take anywhere from 8-12 hours to finish it, making Takeover worth the price of admission. Although, if all you want is to beat people up through a one-on-one quick match, you can do that too. Finishing the story and winning quick matches earns you development points to build your character and unlock points, which you use to purchase characters and bonus content.
Takeover offers one of the best fighting packages on the system. It packs a ton of varied characters and modes, not to mention an in-depth storyline that just about any genre fan can enjoy. It also supports two players over a local ad-hoc connection and boasts great production values, making it a worthwhile and surprisingly polished product. The only real gripe are the momentary pauses when navigating menus or traveling between locations. Nothing major, but it does hamper the experience somewhat.
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