We've recently taken delivery of almost-finished PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of Def Jam: Fight for NY, which is scheduled for release in North America next month. The sequel to Def Jam Vendetta, Fight for NY has plenty in common with its popular predecessor, but it also adds a number of new features that should appeal to new players as well as please fans of last year's game.
As we've reported previously, one of the most significant changes made to Def Jam: Fight for NY is that, although it retains the feel of a wrestling game, there are actually five different fighting styles this time around. The wrestling and submissions styles are reminiscent of Def Jam Vendetta, but you'll also have the option to play as a street fighter, a kickboxer, or a martial artist. Each of the fighting styles will afford you a large selection of different punches, kicks, grapples, throws, and suchlike, but no matter which style of fighter you choose, you'll find that the control system is the same. That's not to say that the five styles don't play differently, because they do; it's just that you should have no problem switching between characters once you've mastered the intuitive controls.
Equally significant as far as improvements over Def Jam Vendetta are concerned are the various arenas that you'll be fighting in. In addition to fighting in the regular wrestling rings (which you can no longer move outside of during a fight), Fight for NY will see you doing battle in various different bars and nightclubs, a subway station, a garage, on rooftops, and even surrounded by a ring of fire. What's great about the arenas in the game is that each and every one of them plays differently and gives you the option to try out different fight strategies. In the bars, for example, you'll invariably be surrounded by a crowd of onlookers who, if you manage to send your opponent in their direction, will push them back toward you, hold them so that you can land a few cheap punches, smash them over the head with any weapon at hand, or even assist you in the execution of a double-team move. When you spot members of the crowd holding a weapon, you also have the option to take it from them--the types of weapons available will vary according to your current locale, and they include pool cues, bottles, brooms, sledgehammers, bricks, lead pipes, and the like.
Like most of the other arenas in the game, bars will typically feature a number of objects that you can throw your opponents into before following up with some truly brutal moves that can damage said objects as much as your opponent. One of the bars, for example, features a jukebox, a pool table, large speakers, and a couple of wooden roof supports that you can have your opponent "interact" with. Many of the objects can withstand only a few moves, though, so if you're putting them to good use you'll often have to change your strategy or at least move to another part of the arena as the fight progresses. In other arenas, busting up objects by throwing your opponent into them can actually give you the opportunity to win with a ring-out--destroying a wooden fence that surrounds an arena or smashing a window, for example.
Perhaps the most impressive way to beat an opponent in Def Jam: Fight for NY, before we start talking about the spectacular "blazin' moves" anyway, is in the subway station. When you win the story mode fight set in the subway station you'll unlock the subway match mode, which, although identical to a regular fight in most respects, affords you an opportunity to throw your opponent in front of a moving train every couple of minutes or so. The result, of course, is an instant--and extremely satisfying--knockout. Other match types that you'll unlock as you progress through the game's story mode include cage matches, inferno matches fought inside a ring of fire, and our current favorite, the demolition match, in which both fighters try to trash each other's car--using their opponent as a weapon.
What's the Story?
Although Def Jam: Fight for NY has primarily been developed as a multiplayer game and does a good job of catering to up to four players on a single screen, its story mode is actually very engaging. The plotline, which we won't discuss here for fear of spoilers, is surprisingly good, the cutscenes are brief and well presented, and the fact that every single victory will reward you with unlockable content of some description goes a long way toward making Fight for NY very difficult to put down. Characters and arenas can actually be unlocked using credits earned in multiplayer games, but if you want to create your own fighter, dress him in licensed clothing, cover him in tattoos and jewelry, give him a crazy haircut, and then teach him up to three fighting styles and four blazin' moves in the local gym, the story mode is the only way to go.
Blazin' moves are spectacular combo attacks that are totally unblockable once you get them started, and they are accompanied by some really nice graphical effects and camera angles. In order to execute a blazin' move, you first have to dominate your current fight long enough to build up the momentum meter that appears under your health bar. The whole screen takes on a fiery orange tint when you go into blazin' mode, and then you've got maybe 20 to 30 seconds to grapple your opponent and tap the right analog stick in the direction corresponding to the move you want to perform. Your character roars, punishing blows are landed, and then, just before you snap your opponent in half (well, almost), the action pauses, the screen takes on a green hue, and the camera moves to afford you the best possible view of your victim's suffering. The presentation throughout is incredibly slick, and there are a lot of different blazin' moves for you to unlock.
Unlocking all of the blazin' moves, as it happens, is one of the things that you'll receive a trophy for as you play through the story mode. Trophies for all kinds of achievements are displayed in your crib, which is also where you'll be checking voice and e-mail messages from other characters, changing your wardrobe, and studying the map of the city as you decide where to fight (or shop) next. There are times when you won't have any options as far as your next fight is concerned, but generally you can expect to have at least two or three different venues and up to six different opponents available to you.
At the end of each fight, you'll be awarded cash based on how much the crowd enjoyed your performance. Examples of specific things that you can do to increase your winnings include being the first to perform a blazin' move, not taking much damage, not repeating the same moves over and over again, and making good use of any weapons that you get hold of. After a successful fight you'll also be told what you've unlocked--you'll invariably unlock the character that you just left bleeding on the floor, plus every now and then you'll unlock the arena, a new tune for the soundtrack, or a new blazin' move.
As you've hopefully gathered from this preview, and its conspicuous absence of hip-hop artists and references, Def Jam: Fight for NY isn't a game for which knowledge of such things is requisite. Fans of the featured artists and their music will undoubtedly get a little something extra from the game than those of you with a penchant for Pavarotti, but you really won't need to know your Redman from your Sticky Fingaz to thoroughly enjoy what Fight for NY has to offer. We look forward to bringing you our final verdict on the game just as soon as we get our hands on a finished copy.