Def Jam Fight for NY: The Takeover Review
It doesn't seem like anyone, especially the executives at EA, really expected a wrestling-derived fighting game drizzled in hip-hop culture to be terribly successful. We've seen probably dozens of terrible takeoffs from the wrestling genre flop almost instantly, so why would the Def Jam games be any different? And the answer is that these games put together a convincingly unique atmosphere with many fighting styles and tons and tons of unlockable accessories, moves, and ways to cause huge pain. Def Jam is a success, and now EA has taken the series on the road in this PSP-exclusive, highly-updated port called Def Jam Fight for NY: The Takeover. While the plot in this title has fallen by the wayside in favor of adding even more great fighting moves, I think most fighting fans will appreciate where the effort has gone in making The Takeover more than just a cash-in, portable port.
You'll start out creating your character's persona, choosing his voice, and picking from one of five fighting styles: Wrestling, Street Fighting, Martial Arts, Kickboxing, and Submissions. As your character improves by way of winning fights, you'll gain "Development points" through which you can buy any combination of new moves, better stats, or even additional fighting styles (up to three in total). Or if you want to delve deeper into one style, you can buy the same fighting style up to three times and your moves will both change and improve greatly, but your overall range of moves won't be as good as if you had diversified.
One definite downside to this game is that while you'll get to pick your fighting venue via a map of New York (all five boroughs are represented), you won't even know who you're going to be fighting until it's too late. There aren't really "boss fights" in this game, even if there is a story here that leads you into specific tournaments or tells you to go up against a specific guy. But there certainly are some well-known names in The Takeover, as this game - much like the previous ones in the series - includes the likenesses and names of many celebrities. It starts out mostly with hip-hop artists like Redman, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Flava Flav, Ice T, Lil' Kim, and many more, but you'll soon start seeing either those rappers that have gone Hollywood (like Sticky Fingaz, who now is the lead role in Spike TV's Blade series) or just downright Hollywood actors like Carmen Electra or Danny Trejo (who was the guy with the knives in Desperado - any action movie fan will likely recognize his picture).
The fighting in The Takeover works a little like a wrestling game might, but there's a bigger focus here on environmental attacks and counters rather than just subtle button-pressing while grappling. Henry Rollins (of all people) will take you through training after you're done creating your character, showing you the basics of whatever fighting style you picked. Holding the left shoulder button while you fight allows you to "modify" most of your attacks to become slower but more powerful, while the right shoulder button allows you to block incoming attacks. Pressing both of these buttons allows you to do a counter, much like many recent fighting games, and with this you can counter moves in almost any situation - standing up, on the ground, or while you're being grappled.
You'll also earn money by winning fights, and this can go into customizing your character's look. You can add tattoos, all kinds of jewelry, and clothing, and the more fly your dude looks, the faster his Blazin' Move meter fills up. Just keep on hitting the enemy without getting hit yourself, and the meter will top off, allowing you to tap on the D-pad and go into a rage - then you've got your choice of moves that will very likely finish your opponent off. Yes, this is much like super moves in the fighting game genre, but these cover the five specific fighting styles in this game, and most of them are very brutal. There are over 80 of them in all you can unlock and buy, but they're mostly different only cosmetically, as they're all activated with one of the D-pad directions and your character always starts them like you would a grapple move.
The fighting here is very brutal - sometimes, the boundaries of the ring ends in people who might grab your opponent and hold him for you to smash his face, or they might grab you depending on how much they like you (this is based on whether you're dirty fighting or not, or whether you're on your home turf). Bottles, lead pipes, and other weapons can be used for a short time, and most of the moves here look really painful. Combine this with the dingy, dirty environments, and we can see that this is a far cry from wrestling games or most of the fighting genre. There is some blood here, but The Takeover gets its M rating just as much from the setting, presentation, trash talk betwene fighters, and especially the brutal look of many of the moves.
As you start out you'll be a part of a crew, well, more like a gang, who is fighting for their own turf in NYC. While you won't come into any real contact with your other buddies for a while, you get plenty of text messages from them - they'll give you tips on what venues to go to if you want to further the story. Eventually you get to become a head of your own gang, but again, the plot is so weak here it just doesn't matter. The point is, it's a long series of fights, and any semblance of story by way of the pre-fight trash talk is pretty laughably bad. The good part is that everything else about The Takeover is well thought-out with plenty of effort put in.
The controls for The Takeover work great, and this is usually a major concern for any kind if fighting game on the PSP. You'll have to use every button there is along with the analog stick (and a tap on the D-pad to start a Blazin' Move), but the whole experience works well. Fights are also short enough that this game works perfectly for a quick ride on the bus or any time you've got five minutes to spare, and this is a subtly important feature for any portable game to have.
The soundtrack here comes from quite a few big-name hip hop artists, including some of the guys whose likenesses made it into the game. Method Man, Redman, Xzibit, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, OutKast, and other artists are represented here for a total of 18 tracks, and you can order them how you want or turn off specific ones. Sadly, this is pretty much the only time you'll hear these artists voices, as there is very little voice acting at all in this game, and none of it is by any celebrities.
Two-player mode comes by way of Ad-Hoc wireless - sadly, there's no online play here. There's also a single-player based mode without the story, and you can choose one of many fighters, including many of the celebrities you come across in the story mode, to go up against other personalities. There are no stats or choices of fighting styles in this mode, as each character has those things already set.
Def Jam Fight for NY: The Takeover is a solid fighting game with a silly amount of moves, characters, and unlockables. The story is barely worth reading through, but the great action and many well-known celebrity fighters easily redeems the game's silly plot - and the $29.99 price point makes this one a smart buy as well. When it comes to fighting games on the PSP, there aren't many that bring no-compromises action to the portable platform, but this one is definitely worth your attention.