The Def Jam series has proved to be one of the most consistent series, with each of its game releases receiving rave reviews. Despite being an American hip-hop record label, the Def Jam titles, Vendetta, Fight for NY and Icon, have focused on wrestling and fighting, though there’s a change to the series for its latest title, Def Jam: Rapstar.
Developed by Terminal Reality and Def Jam Interactive and published by Konami, Def Jam: Rapstar is a rap-themed karaoke game in which players rap the words as they appear on the screen into a USB microphone, similar to the likes of Lips.
Like most karaoke titles, the song’s music video plays in the background. This can be substituted for a live video of the player, filmed through the Xbox Live Vision Camera’s capabilities. This can then be uploaded to the Def Jam: Rapstar website and shared in various ways. While the feature is a welcome addition to the game, especially for the more performance-based players (i.e. the show-offs), it’s something that may have been better off incorporating the Kinect technology instead, especially considering Microsoft are phasing out support for the camera.
The set list itself provides quite a bit of variety, despite all the songs coming from a similar genre. It consists of a artists such as 2 Pac, 50 Cent, Beastie Boys, Dr. Dre and plenty more, and it seem despite the slightly on the short side set list, there’s a range of hip-hop and rap tracks to appeal to a wide audience, with some newer tracks (Pass Out and Number 1) mixed in with some of the older tracks (Run’s House and I Get Around). However, the editing of the songs within the game removes any swearing and profane language, presumably to allow the game to receive its teen rating. With the majority of rap songs featuring such language, the game bleeps out quite a lot of words, though players aren’t penalised for singing the actual lyrics.
Upon song completion, players are assessed on their lyrics and timing and are awarded a score and a rating out of five microphones. The scores are then posted to leaderboards where players can compare their scores with people across the world, as well as their friends. While both features are common within all games of the genre, it’s still a welcome feature in the title.
Def Jam: Rapstar contains three main game modes. The first of which is ‘Party’ mode which allows players to rap individual songs or a playlist. Songs within this game mode are available to play solo, as a duet with another player and as a battle against a second player. It's ideal for quick dabs into the game and is the only true form of multiplayer.
It may come as a surprise to read that Def Jam: Rapstar contains a career mode – something many games within the genre lack. The career mode consists of five stages, each of which is made up of a number of songs. To progress to the next stage, players have to obtain a number of microphones. The format works surprisingly well and rewards players who are better at the game by progressing quickly, but at the same time, still allows for those who aren’t as good to also advance.
The final game mode is ‘Freestyle,’ which allows for players to add their own lyrics to the backing track of the songs in the game. It's ideal for rappers-in-the-making to try out their own material or for more casual rappers and gamers to have a bit of a laugh. While it’s a game mode that will have players playing it once and not again, it’s definitely a worthy inclusion.
Overall, Def Jam: Rapstar is a one-of-a-kind karaoke game that fans of rap music will appreciate, despite the censoring of the songs. There’s just about enough content in the game to justify a full price purchase and with downloadable content on offer, this could be a title that’s around for some time to come.