Def Jam Vendetta Preview

We take a look at Electronic Arts and Aki's upcoming grappler.

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We recently had a chance to get a look at a pre-alpha build of Def Jam Vendetta that gave us a better feel for how the hip-hop-themed wrestling game is coming together. The title is being developed by Japanese developer Aki, best known for its WWE-licensed wrestling games, and it combines Aki's trademark gameplay with well-known Def Jam artists. The result of the unlikely coupling is shaping up to be a solid wrestler with some unique features.

D-Mobb has hooked up with your ex-girlfriend, Angel. Are you going to stand for that?
D-Mobb has hooked up with your ex-girlfriend, Angel. Are you going to stand for that?

The new build of the game featured several playable modes and let us see some of the Def Jam artists in action. The meat of the game will be its story mode, which puts you in the role of one of four original characters. Your goal in the game will be to help out your friend Manny, who has run afoul of local "businessman" D-Mobb. Apparently, Manny has racked up quite a bit of debt with Mobb, who is looking to take it out of his hide. As if that weren't bad enough, your ex-girlfriend, Angel, has shacked up with Mobb, causing you some measure of emotional distress. To keep your boy alive and help him work through that psychological pain, you'll have to participate in the fun and Fight Club-esque world of underground fighting in bouts set throughout New York to earn cash prizes that will go toward paying off Manny's sizeable debt. Manny, eager to keep from having any more of his bones broken, gets you started on your road to making a name for yourself and saving his deadbeat ass.

The combat engine in Def Jam Vendetta gives you plenty of options to beat your opponent.
The combat engine in Def Jam Vendetta gives you plenty of options to beat your opponent.

Your first fight will take place in The Face Club stage and pit you against two consecutive opponents. Once you've defeated them, you'll take on the "boss" for the stage, Scarface. After beating Scarface, which unlocks The Face Club stage and fighters for use in the game's other modes, you'll receive a page on your beeper from Manny, directing you to your next brawl. You'll also be rewarded with a cash prize whose value is based on your performance in the fight. In addition, you'll make a special new "friend" in the form of an affectionate young lady who was impressed by your performance to become your girlfriend. Before moving on to the next venue, you'll have the option to use the cash you've earned to upgrade several different attributes--power, speed, grapple, defense, stamina, and charisma--that affect your facility in the ring.

While the first series of bouts you participate in are linear, the game switches gears and provides a bit of freedom from then on. When you arrive at the next venue, you'll be able to choose the order in which you'll take on the four available opponents. Once they've been cleared, you'll take on Nore, who offers a sizeable challenge. Once he's done, the game will follow the same pattern mentioned above, with the occasional tag-team bout thrown in for a change of pace.

The game's graphics feature impressive detail.
The game's graphics feature impressive detail.

The aforementioned pattern also includes attracting a new girlfriend after every bout, which leads to one of the amusing surprises in the game. While the precise mechanics of how the girlfriend feature is going to be implemented are still being ironed out, we were able to get an idea of what to expect from the feature. Basically, it goes as follows: After your fight in most venues, a new lady will appear in the hopes of becoming your main squeeze. However, since you will already have a significant other from the last fight, and since the game does not support any type of multitasking "playa" mechanic, you'll be left with only one option--let the ladies duke it out in the ring and give your heart to the one who wins. At the moment, you'll be able to choose to play as one of your prospective snuggle bunnies during the brawl for your affections, thus giving that character the edge in a fight, although the gameplay element is still very much a work in progress. As you hook up with ladies, the game offers you the option of buying artwork of them you can view in a gallery.

The game's graphics are looking good, even in its unfinished state. The characters are very large and detailed, and the environments look quite sharp. The textures in the game are very clean and feature quite a bit of detail on the environments and clothing. The frame rate was respectably high during battles, although it has yet to go through tweaking and optimization.

Your beeper will play an integral part of keeping you in the know.
Your beeper will play an integral part of keeping you in the know.

In terms of gameplay, Def Jam Vendetta is coming together pretty well. The game's core fighting engine is obviously influenced by Aki's previous wrestling games and features the same basic mechanics. You'll find two types of grapples, light and hard, as well as two types of attacks. The control scheme makes use of the PlayStation 2's analog buttons, requiring you to gently tap a button for a light attack and press it firmly for a hard one. You'll be able to perform a wide range of attacks and grapples by combining button presses and positioning.

Overall, Def Jam Vendetta is coming together pretty well. The graphics are very solid, the gameplay is accessible, and the incorporation of the Def Jam personalities works pretty well. Def Jam Vendetta is currently slated to ship this March for the PlayStation 2.

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