Def Jam: Fight for NY: The Takeover Hands-On
We fight dirty with a work-in-progress version of EA's upcoming PSP brawler.
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Currently scheduled for release next month, Def Jam: Fight for NY: The Takeover is a PlayStation Portable-exclusive fighting game that features more than 40 hip-hop stars on its roster, including the likes of Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, Method Man, Snoop Dogg, and Xzibit. The game's storyline predates that of 2004's Def Jam: Fight for NY, but the fighters, the arenas, and the gameplay will feel very familiar if you've ever spent any time with that game on the PlayStation 2, the Xbox, or the GameCube. We recently had an opportunity to spend several hours with a work-in-progress version of Def Jam: Fight for NY: The Takeover, and we're pleased to report that the game promises to be every bit as enjoyable as its home console counterparts.
The first time you play Def Jam: Fight for NY: The Takeover, the gameplay options available to you will include one-on-one battles, head-to-head ad-hoc battles with friends, and story mode. Since it's by far the easiest way to unlock additional fighters, arenas, and gameplay modes, you'll likely want to make the story mode your first port of call, which is exactly what we did. The story mode's brief intro sequence explains that you were raised on the mean streets of Brooklyn and that, until recently, you were determined to make your way in life earning an honest living. The streets had other plans for you, though, and when you step in to aid a stranger (fans of the series will instantly recognize him as Manny) who's getting roughed up by a local cop, the law sees to it that you're no longer employable--making Manny's suggestion that you earn money with your fists much more appealing than it was previously.
Once you're through watching the intro, you'll get to create your own fighter using the same police sketch-artist system that was employed in Def Jam: Fight for NY. In case you're not familiar with that game, the system basically lets you customize your fighter's appearance by talking to a sketch artist about him as if you had recently witnessed him committing a crime. Your options when creating your character will include different body types, face shapes, skin tones, eye shapes, eye colors, eyebrows, noses, mouths, ears, hairstyles, hair colors, and facial hair types. That's a pretty long list, but there are generally a maximum of only eight different options for each feature to choose from, and the whole process really shouldn't take you more than a couple of minutes. Once you've settled on your fighter's appearance, you'll choose one of six different voices for him and then opt for one of the game's five fighting styles. The kickboxing, street fighting, martial arts, wrestling, and submissions styles all have different strengths and weaknesses, and although you'll be committed to whichever style you choose at this stage, you'll have the option to add one or two additional styles to your repertoire as you progress through the story.
Your fighter's very modest crib serves as a hub of sorts in story mode, and from there you can check messages from other characters, change your clothes, customize the game's soundtrack, or use a map to determine the location of your next fight. Other options on the map include a gym, where you'll spend points on improving your skills, and stores where you can invest your heard-earned cash on new clothing, new jewelry, a haircut, or getting inked. A visit to the gym run by Henry Rollins is mandatory the first time you check out your map, but you can choose to skip the tutorial exercises there at any time if you're eager to get started on your new career path.
You'll have around three different venues to choose from on the map the first time you go looking for a fight, and as the story progresses that number will increase to 24. Four of those venues are brand new for the PSP game, while the other 20 are instantly recognizable as those from Def Jam: Fight for NY. Although it might not be immediately apparent if you're playing for the first time, every venue in the game plays differently to the extent that you'll want to approach fights differently depending on where they're taking place. Some of the venues have plenty of walls and objects for you to throw your opponent into, for example, while others are enclosed only by crowds of people or ropes. Ring-outs are a very satisfying way to win at certain arenas but aren't even possible at many of them. You get the idea.
Regardless of which fighting style (or styles) your fighter is using, you'll find that Def Jam: Fight for NY: The Takeover's controls are uncomplicated and responsive. The analog stick is used to control movement, the directional pad performs powerful blazin' moves, and the left and right shoulder buttons are used as a strong attack modifier and to block respectively, and if you press them both together as an opponent launches an attack you can perform a reversal. The four face buttons are used to punch, kick, grapple, run, and use weapons, and although you have a very large arsenal of moves at your disposal, you'll never have to press more than two of them simultaneously.
If you're familiar with Def Jam: Fight for NY, one of the first things you'll notice in The Takeover when you get into a fight is that there are a lot of new animations in the game now. These aren't really new moves per se, but the new animations that we've seen thus far are good enough that the action feels noticeably more stylish and fluid as a result of their introduction. One of the most significant new features in Def Jam: Fight for NY: The Takeover is undoubtedly the mount move, which lets you quickly climb on top of a floored opponent and start throwing punches at them. This move feels a little overpowered when it's used against you in the early stages of the story mode, but after you spend some points improving your fighter's toughness and health you'll find it a much less difficult situation to wriggle out of.
We're only about a third of the way through Def Jam: Fight for NY: The Takeover's story mode right now, and although the vast majority of the game's characters and arenas are nothing new (we've just met D-Mob for the first time), the narrative is different enough to that in Fight for NY that we're really intrigued to see where it's headed. We look forward to bringing you a full review of the game next month.