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I’ve enjoyed Rock Band games before, they’ve been a blast to play with other people, but never did they fully sink their fangs into me. I was never that guy that bought the latest DLC weekly and would play constantly. The fact of the matter is, I don’t like the bands that they feature in their games. I’m not a big rock music fan in the first place. I am a huge rap fan, though. Particularly the older rap such as “Just a Friend,” “Juicy,” “It Was a Good Day,” etc. Because of this, when I laid my eyes on Def Jam Rapstar, it looked like pure gold.
The biggest complaint anyone will have about Def Jam is that it’s censored. They’ll occasionally throw out an uncensored word but it’s a rarity and when you’re singing rap songs, this is a problem. It’s confusing to be singing a song that normally curses in a certain section to only have them replace it with words like “dang” or “butt.” Seriously, just say ass. It’s not that bad. I understand not putting the racial words in it, that makes sense, but keep normal curse words as some songs are built around those words and without, it breaks the flow of the song. Which not only makes the song you know and love sound a bit awkward, it can mess you up and leave you stumbling trying to get your singing back on track again.
Apart from the censoring issues, the soundtrack is near perfect. There are a few poor choices such as “A Milli” by Lil Wayne or “Turn My Swag On” by Soulja Boy but overall, it’s very well done. While he’s not a bad singer, they threw in a Twista song. You know there’s some guy in their dev team just laughing his ass off at that fact. Singing the older songs that you may not have heard in a few years and having the lyrics slowly creep back into your head feels good and reminds you of how great the songs actually are. You can get sucked into the flow of a great song within seconds. The developers (Terminal Reality) did a fantastic job in actually picking some of the rare great rap/hip-hop songs that are still put out now. Having songs by DJ Khaled (mainly We Takin’ Over), TI, and Kanye West were fantastic choices though I would have enjoyed even more TI, Young Jeezy, and a song or two from Akon. Though that only means they’ll be taking even more of my money if they release songs from those artists as DLC.
In games where you sing, I’ve never been good. I’m not sure if it’s because I can’t hit the pitches correctly or because the microphone didn’t recognize my voice well but I almost always have done poorly for some reason so I was quite worried about this problem coming into Def Jam Rapstar. The same problem remains in Def Jam for the most part. Luckily, a lot of the song isn’t about your pitch and is just about you hitting the lyrics. Which most of the time works well. They implemented this lyrics section to fight off people who just hum their way through a song. You can no longer do that so in some part, the lyric detection works well but there were a few songs that I knew word by word but still only got around 60 percent on the lyrics. Only to replay the song and get 90 percent on them. It’s a confusing and frustrating issue that needs to be worked out if they plan on making another Def Jam Rapstar game. Granted it may not happen a lot, having the pitch also mess up on you when you know you’re hitting it correctly can screw up your final score and leave you dropping the microphone to play something else.
Def Jam’s career mode is similar to every other career mode in a music game. You rap the songs, earn microphones (Def Jam’s equivalent to stars in Guitar Hero/Rock Band) and advance stages to play more songs. It’s mainly just an excuse to get you to play the songs you don’t really have that much interest in playing. Once you do beat a stage, you can sing extra songs that, if you hit a certain score set for you, will unlock that song. Nothing revolutionary by any means but it gets the job done.
Something else that may turn people off is the fact that you cannot just hop into a random song you’ve never heard before, sing it, and expect to get a good rating. Since rap is so fast paced, you don’t have the time to watch and sing as fast as the game wants you to. So if you don’t know certain songs, it’s better if you practice them beforehand. I never had this to frustrate me too much as I always found a few songs in the current stage I was in that I could hit 5 microphones on and advance forward. Though this does make the ending stage much harder because if you don’t know the songs too well, it could mess you up as you have to hit around 4 microphones on each to advance.
There’s no online multiplayer in Def Jam. In actuality though, online multiplayer in a singing game seems a bit pointless. The multiplayer (local) consists of battles and duets, which are both fun, but if you were to play them with someone over Xbox Live that you can’t hear, it would make no sense and wouldn’t be fun in any way. The actual local multiplayer is a blast. It’s a good addition that makes you want to replay songs you’ve already played before and nothing really matches the hilarity that can ensue when both you and a friend are yelling “brass monkey” in unison.
Def Jam has two original things about it that are not as interesting and fun as I think Terminal Reality may have hoped it would be. First off, the Freestyle mode. In Freestyle, you choose a beat, and then it takes you to a video of yourself (being shown on the Xbox Vision Camera) and you freestyle rap anything that comes to mind. This mode isn’t something to do repeatedly but I gathered quite a bit of laughs out of it by watching other people combine sound synthesizers and ludicrous (not the singer, the adjective) lyrics. The other being the actual video sharing service where you can record a video of yourself playing a song and then edit it a bit, adding stickers, graphics, etc. and post it on the community Def Jam site. You can also go on the Def Jam community site and view what other people have posted. Thankfully, you don’t have to actually go onto the site, you can view all the videos you want to see through the game itself provided you’re hooked up to Xbox Live, which was a great idea. This is all interesting sure, but when it comes down to it, it’s not that fun to watch a man awkwardly sing into a microphone. Which is what most of the videos are. Granted, I have spotted the occasionally ridiculous one that I loved. The Community feature isn’t terrible, just not all there yet.
While my expectations may have been a bit shaky coming into Def Jam, it delivered a very fun experience for any rap/hip-hop fan. It has its issues but the very enjoyable soundtrack that combines new school hip-hop with old school rap more than makes up for it. Def Jam Rapstar is a must own for anyone who has ever desired a hip-hop focused game. I can promise you will not be disappointed.