[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/djffny/cover.jpg[/floatleft]I had an interesting time with Def Jam Fight for New York and if I had to sum up my experience in one word I think I would choose “frustrating”. Def Jam Fight for New York is the over the top sequel to Def Jam Vendetta which starred many famous people from the rap world as wrestlers in an underground street fighting circuit. The story of D-Mob and his crew picks up in Fight for New York where they square off against Crow who is played by Snoop Dogg. As the story mode begins, you create a custom character that will be the unknown fighter that saves D-Mob and earns his trust. As you progress through the game you will throw down with a number of fighters at each of the many venues. Defeating each fighter unlocks different things for use in the 4 player battle mode such as the fighter himself, the venue, different songs, and finally Blazin’ moves. Defeating fighters will also get a set number of development points that you can use to beef up your character at the gym.
In addition to story mode you can also play with up to 4 people in the Battle mode, but since most of my game time was with the story mode, I will focus on that aspect of the game.
The game engine that powers FFNY has been revamped since Vendetta. The new engine packs in 5 different fighting styles, 40 different fighters plus your custom fighter, and well over 20 different interactive venues. The graphics engine is gorgeous and the combat is very fluid. While playing I couldn’t help but notice that it was probably the prettiest wrestling game I have ever seen. All the people in the game have a beefed up new generation GI Joe look to them which is characteristic of the Def Jam games and to some extent the games that EA Big puts out.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/djffny/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatright]FFNY also has a very extensive soundtrack as can be expected by any game with a cast of musicians as enormous as this. I don’t listen to a whole lot (read: any) thug rap so I didn’t really appreciate the music, but the amount of music was quite vast and sure to please anyone that is fan of the genre. You also have the options of selecting which of the songs you want played during the game or not. This is reachable from the main menu and you just simply uncheck the songs you don’t want to hear. Pretty simple and quite a nice addition if you ask me.
At this point you are probably thinking to yourself that this is a pretty solid game. Great graphics, nice soundtrack, an all star voice acting cast with an updated engine should lead to a great game right? The answer should be yes, but for me it that is hardly the case. I am sure that seems a little out in left field so let me explain.
Certain games like BA Jam and Burnout 3 both suffer from what is termed “rubberbanding”. Rubberbanding is the concept where the computer controlled opponent seems to stay right with you in a racing game no matter how perfect you are driving and how terrible the computer is. The basic concept is that you can’t ever get too much of a lead or too great of an advantage on the computer controlled opponent. Everyone is familiar with the handicap that comes into play in NBA Jam if you go on a hot streak. It is no fun to be up by 20 points only to have the computer go on a 35-0 run. This type of lopsided help is very apparent in Fight for New York and it was enough to really ruin the game for me. I agree that it is no fun to play through a game and just utterly dominate it, but it is equally crappy to be giving someone a thorough beating only to have them grab you and execute 2 moves and KO you.
Now that I have that out of my system let me continue on. I mentioned development points and this is really the key to building up your fighter so you can take out the opponent as fast as possible. To spend your development points you head over to the Shopping District and go to Stapleton Athletics which is manned by none other than Henry Rollins. There are 3 different things you can use your dev points for to improve your character. First of all, you can go to the Train Skills option which allows you to increase individual stats like Health, Speed, Upper and Lower Strength. These things definitely make your character more powerful. You can also learn 2 additional fighting styles which gives your character a more diverse fighting ability and gives you an edge over the other fighters. Additional styles are 2500 dev points and can take quite a while to save up for. You can also purchase and assign new Blazin’ moves.
I haven’t really touched on Blazin’ moves and they play a pretty major role in the flow of a match so here goes. There is a small meter below your health bar that increases as you do damage to your opponent. Eventually that meter will fill up and you can move the right thumbstick to enter Blazin’ mode. Blazin’ mode allows you to execute 1 of the 4 assigned special moves that deal massive amounts of damage. All you have to do is grapple and press a direction with that right thumbstick again and bam, Blazin’ move. Of course every time I attempt a Blazin’ move the computer goes on an insane roll and my Blazin’ time ends before I even get a chance to grapple with them. So maybe not every time, but a good majority of the time. Blazin’ moves are a good way to finish off an opponent and they are very over the top and quite cool to watch.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/djffny/ss11_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]Another key aspect about the game that is pretty paramount is the way that damage is inflicted and it is somewhat difficult to explain. Since FFNY is a wrestling game and not a fighting game, this is not a race to drill down your opponent’s life as much as it is a competition to stay in control of the match. That being the case, when you perform a move on your opponent their life bar will decrease but there will be a small portion of life that they will recover should you not hit them again. Performing strings of attacks and Blazin’ moves permanently takes their life meter down. Confusing I know, but it will make sense once you start playing.
Since FFNY is a wrestling game (am I drilling my point home? Wrestling game, not fighting game) you have all the staples of a good wrestling game. You can hit them with foreign objects, you can throw them into the ropes or walls as the case may be for many venues, and you can even get a little bit of help from the crowd. All these things make for a very dynamic and often frustrating playing experience, the frustration usually occurs when you are on the receiving end of any of those things.
There are a few things that I haven’t really touched on such as the vast array of clothing and accessories you can purchase in the shopping district and the different tattoos and hair styles that you can purchase. These things really do add a nice level of customization to the game. They even take it a step further and let you select your characters voice in the story mode. You will also engage in a few quarrels over girlfriends and possibly engage in a cat fight or two. My advice is to not lose these matches or you may end up going home with a girl that you may not want.
I would venture to say that it is more than clear that I think FFNY is a really solid wrestling game. It is actually a really cool game if you can get past all the hip-hop aspects of it which just don’t jive with me as I seen to be out of touch with that culture. The language is also a little on the adult side so I would keep this one out of the hands of younger gamers. With that said, at most I would recommend renting Fight for New York because while I can stand back and admire it is a whole and see how far wrestling games have come I didn’t really enjoy myself all that much. When I sit down with a game, I don’t want to come away more frustrated than when I started. Playing video games should be fun and Fight for New York just put me over the edge every time I played it. This is definitely one of those cases where I recommend anyone heavy into hip-hip and wrestling check it out, but everyone else can probably take a cue from me and leave Fight for New York on the shelf.