Def Jam Icon PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
It's always a little strange playing a game that I haven't come across before. I was aware of the various Def Jam games but in all honesty I'd never looked at any as, outside of the titles that arrive for review, I rarely get time to play anything else. However, that all changed when Def Jam Icon arrived for review. We had the opportunity to look at both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game and whilst the very nature of the game is something I think most deaf gamers would not find interesting, it's certainly very different.
On the back of the box Def Jam Icon is described as 'musically charged combat' and in truth that's probably as good a description of the game as you could wish for. Essentially there are a whole bunch of rappers in the game such as Big Boi, Lil Jon, T.I. and Ludacris and they engage in Hip Hop flavoured combat. The game offers a Build a Label mode, a Beating with Bass mode and a Practice mode. Online play is supported for two players. You can also create your own rapper with the F.A.C.E. (Feature Analysis Catalogue Entry) mode. Creating your own rapper is quite an involved process as you'll not only get to customise the look of your character but also choose what clothes they wear, their fight song and their fighting style. There are several fighting styles available to choose from such as Beat Boxer, Street Kwon Do and Ghetto Blaster.
The two main elements in Def Jam Icon are the combat and the Hip Hop music and they are so tightly integrated that to experience the combat on its own is not to fully appreciate what the game has to offer. The combat is slow paced and kind of rock paper scissors in nature because every move has a countermove and the emphasis is placed on countering and avoiding being countered rather than creating elaborate combos. Each of the environments you'll fight in bounce in time to the music and contain objects that explode (again at specific parts of a song) and places that are hazardous. Of course you can use this to your advantage by throwing your opponent into these places. During the fights you use DJ Turntable controls using your analogue sticks to take a song back to a place where an explosion occurs. You can also switch to your own song. Of course this is a potential minefield for deaf gamers and with the music being such a key element it's difficult to see how a deaf gamer could appreciate what's on offer here.
Having seen quite a few of the games that have been released on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 it's fair to say that most haven't looked that great. At the very least they aren't what you would describe as having that 'next-generation' look about them. Def Jam Icon, on both consoles, definitely looks like a 'next-generation' game. In fact in terms of its presentation and character models, the game is first class. You'll fight in destructible environments. Numerous objects in each level appear to bounce in time with the music. The explosions are impressive and fairly realistic. Perhaps most impressive of all is the way the fighters take damage. Even their clothes take damage from the combat and other hazards and it's very impressive how the damage has been modelled.
As we've already mentioned, every aspect of Def Jam Icon is tied into the music. As such the game loses most of its appeal as far as deaf gamers are concerned. To deaf gamers the game will probably come across as a slow paced beat 'em up. When removing the music element and taking the game on its combat alone, it's nothing special in all honesty. The developers did take time to add subtitles so it's possible for deaf gamers to follow the game's story mode. The subtitles don't have any character names or portraits alongside the dialogue but for the most part this doesn't cause any real problems. All things considered though deaf gamers are not getting the real Def Jam Icon experience and if you are interested in the game then it may be wise to rent it first.
Def Jam Icon is a game that's simply impossible for us to give a rating to. The music plays a large part in this game and is woven so tightly into the game's fabric that it's impossible to evaluate the game whilst ignoring it. It's possible to follow the storyline in the game's Build a Label mode thanks to subtitles being available but in truth the game as a whole is not going to be fully appreciated by deaf gamers because the music is such a key element. Without the music you're left with an average beat 'em up game at best and whilst it's graphically impressive it's not enough for deaf gamers to choose Def Jam Icon over better fighting games that are already available on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
With every aspect of Def Jam Icon tied into the music, it's a game that's very difficult for deaf gamers to fully appreciate. If you are interested then it would be prudent to rent it first.