Def Jam Rapstar Review: Put Your Beats Where My Eyes Can See Them

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Surprisingly, I am probably one of the few people that can actually say that they have stood on a real stage, and played real music to real fans. While rhythm games give you the opportunity to live out your fantasy of being that next big rock legend, DJ superstar, or silver-spooned sensation, nothing prepared me for what Konami and 4MM Games latest title, Def Jam Rapstar, showed me.

I look like a complete and total idiot on stage.

In my defense, I’m a white man puttin’ down lines from some of raps legends and creative masterminds like Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Run D.M.C. and others. So I may have been slightly out of context in my brightly lit apartment as I rap about chillin’ in L.A. Still, what Def Jam brings is something that most emcees have been waiting for: an authentic way to both show what you got in the R&B and hip-hop world, and to get your party started right.

Keep in mind that the game has the same setup as most rhythm games: you go through your Career to make it as number one, unlocking extra songs and bonus content as you go. Each section of the game splits up the 45-tracks into a semblance of genres – East Side, West Side, Dirty South – and also adds in additional challenges such as Endurance (where you keep rapping songs until you hit a specific score) and Precision (get a specific streak in a game).

Most songs are unlocked by default, but to get all of them you’ll have to play through the career, and it’s here that the beat starts to drop. Trying to please everyone at the same time, 4MM Games tries to shove a little bit of everything into the game. This instead almost alienated the people I had play with me during the review: as out of 45 songs, we collectively only knew half from the specific areas and years. Understandably, they wanted to give a background in R&B and hip-hop, but when you go from West Coast mid-90s to last year East Coast… things get lost in translation.

Added, their push at keeping it ‘Teen’ friendly causes more waves than less. Having little consistency in what they would leave in or out of a song (and censoring nothing in the extended videos), the chops would completely throw off the beat and your pace is immediately gone. Couple that with the microphones occasional drops in picking up different vocal registers; you could have blown through half a song without getting a single note

At least with things like Quickplay and Freestyle, you can lean back and enjoy the moment. With Quickplay, you can set up a setlist or go at a song one at a time, going down the list. Add in a second microphone, and you can either duet or battle your partner. While it’s interesting to see how the Duet pieces are split – and how smartly some are done with multiple artists like The Beastie Boys – Battle just becomes a yelling match, fighting for supremacy and for your mic to pick you up over your friend.

Though I didn’t venture far into the Freestyle world – what with me being a singer and not a rapper and all – its here than Def Jam has real potential. While you do anything in the game, a video will be taken of your performance (provided you have the camera) and then propped up on their servers. From there, you can watch others battle it out, go head-to-head, or even add customizations to your film with things like lights and effects.

The hope is that it will create a type of global bonding, or even the next rap superstar to come out of the ATL, the NYC or LAX looking for some rep. couple that with 4MM promising weekly DLC for players to bolster and customize their libraries to their liking, it’s something to hey hype about.

By no means is it a great game. I could even say that by itself, it would barely pass as a ‘good’ game. Yet coming from the history of music that this game is trying to show, anyone picking it up will find something worth playing. Perhaps they should have made it a little more sectionalized, instead of so grand… but it’s enough to say that I have my five songs I know.

ZoKnowsGaming gives Def Jam Rapstar a 6 out of 10… primarily for making me look like a white boy.

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