|© The Wu-Tang Corp.- 2003-02-08
[wimg=left]../images/news/03_02_09_defjamvendetta.jpg[/wimg]Hip-hop and videogames go together like groupies and gangsta rap. No surprise, then, that both are featured in EA's upcoming Def Jam: Vendetta, the first street-fighting simulation-cum-wrestler with urban-culture undertones. It's already eliciting rave reviews from the featured artists. "I'm ecstatic to be in this game," says Method Man. "After that piece of shit Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style (PS1), it's time to set the record straight."
Indeed. Even this early in its development, it's obvious Vendetta will do that. For one, EA's attempting something never tried before: grafting a significant story line onto no-holds-barred wrestling gameplay. Combat takes place on the New York underground brawling circuit years after local kingpin D-Mob forced you into early retirement. Upon discovering your former fling Angel has hooked up with the hoodlum and your friend Manny is deep in debt to the man, you're left with no options; you've got to drag your ass back into the ring.
[wimg=right]../images/news/03_02_09_defjamvendetta/screen1.jpg[/wimg] "The basic premise is Fight Club meets hip-hop," explains Producer Josh Holmes. "We've married [developer] Aki's grappling system [seen in WCW vs. nWo on N64] with an open-ended fighting setup, then partnered this concept with the urban lifestyle."
Thus, you'll be privy to a world of seedy venues, shady characters, and shifty deals while exploring everything the Story mode offers. It's here that you'll gain all the unlockables (new characters, backdrops, costumes, etc.) or attempt sidequests while battling over 45 brawlers, including 12 Def Jam artists who serve as D-Mob's boss characters. The colorful roster includes such notables as DMX, Ludacris, Redman, Method Man, Scarface, Ghostface Killah, Keith Murray, and more. "These guys are huge gamers," says Holmes. "The artists have partnered with us closely to explicitly define each of their own identities."
[wimg=left]../images/news/03_02_09_defjamvendetta/screen2.jpg[/wimg] And there's more fun to be had in Battle and Survival modes. Under the former option, up to four players can play in match types like free-for-all, two-on-two tag-team, and handicap. The latter choice plays much like any endurance mode, with you fighting a string of goons one at a time until you drop, al-though discovering new characters-who are then added to the gauntlet-extends its replay value.
So, how does it play? In a word, fiercely. "We've tried to make Vendetta a much faster experience than players are used to by infusing as many martial-art styles as possible into the game," says Holmes. "It also boasts EA Sports Big sensibilities for the finishers-they're incredibly over-the-top. That really sets it apart from the competition."
While Vendetta handles like any wrestling game, the move set is spastic. Alongside grapple-based wrestling moves such as clotheslines and piledrivers come kung-fu techniques, jeet kune do maneuvers, and the odd illegal chokehold. With more than 1,500 moves available, how you work an opponent over is simply a matter of preference.
[wimg=right]../images/news/03_02_09_defjamvendetta/screen3.jpg[/wimg] Likewise, there are numerous ways to win a fight: 1) pin your opponent, 2) work a specific body part until you can slap on a submission hold, or 3) explore the wonders of a special KO system that revolves around ridiculously gratuitous ending moves. Finishers, as they're referred to, are only accessible after whittling an adversary's health down and getting your momentum meter charged. Once that's done, however, you can toss opponents across the ring or really go for the gusto.
Take DMX, a real wild child. Apply the outspoken celebrity's finisher and he runs up the face of his foe to apply several kicks to his head, Jet Li-style. He then switches into a scissor hold, grabs the offender, and flips him into oblivion. It's not your average fatality, but this isn't your average game.
"Vendetta is a title that has the potential to bring hip-hop culture into the mainstream in an authentic way," says Holmes. That it should, since it exemplifies two things audiences love: violence and verbal abuse. And take Method Man's advice before jumping in: "Choose me. And work the finishers. With all due respect to the other artists involved, I'm gonna break some fucking heads."
Def Jam Vendetta will be coming to stores March 4th, 2003.