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Def Jam Vendetta (PlayStation 2) artwork

Def Jam Vendetta (PlayStation 2) review


"Once upon a time, I was a gangsta. "



Once upon a time, I was a gangsta.

Pants? I wore them low. Hairstyle? An afro cloud with a 90% chance of braids. BET? Might as well have been the only channel on TV. All through middle school, I was your typical stereotypical black male. I even hit some freestyle between periods. Had mad skills, too...

But when my favorite rappers starting spitting lines like...

“Goodness gracious great-God-almighty, girl
You got a budonkadonk!”


And…

"Is that yo ass, or is yo mama half reindeer?
Can't explain it, but damn sure glad you came here!"


And my all-time favorite…

"M, period, fresh, comma
Your wife is my baby mama!"


…I decided it was time to rethink my music of choice. Moved on to the greener pastures of old-timer rock. The Rolling Stones rule you, by the way.

The point here is that, even though the rap demon in me has long been exorcised, I still enjoyed every second of Def Jam: Vendetta.

Let’s not do any bush-beating here: You probably don’t like rap. You probably don’t like rappers; you probably don’t like their lifestyle. Probably, the only time you even hear rap is when you’re driving in your car and some guy in a pimpmobile passes you with his radio turned to max.

Def Jam’s music? Rap. All of it. Def Jam’s fighters? Rappers. Most of them, anyway. There’s no doubt who the game’s aiming for. From the rap tracks that run on infinite loop during your battles to the hip-hop honnies that hang at your side to the baggy pants that four out of every five characters wear, it’s all about the beat.

But, as hard as it may be, you’ve got to look past that. Because if you judge Def Jam: Vendetta by its cover, you’ll miss out one damn good wrestling game. Maybe the best on the PS2.

The focus here isn’t on realism; it’s not about flashy combos or well-timed counters. One ring, two fighters, no weapons, no rules. Punches and kicks. Body slams and elbow drops. It’s good and simple because simple is good; nothing complex to master, nothing beyond an ounce of memorization. By the time your first fight is over, you’ll have learned all you need to learn. All you have to concern yourself with is the violence. And what sweet violence it is.

Before you even hit the special, you’ll have access to some of the most brutal attacks you could ever hope to get on a T-rated game; some hard to watch, all fun to dish out. Backbreakers that break backs. Boots ground into your face. Low blows dealt with steel toes. And if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to get power-bombed by a seven-foot-tall mass of muscle named ‘Steel’…it doesn’t look pleasant.

But that’s just the normal stuff, mundane. Deal out enough pain and you can unleash the beast with one of your character’s two special moves. That’s where the real beauty’s at.

No Stone Cold Stunners, no Rock Bottoms; when someone in Vendetta hits you with their best, you won’t be forming complete sentences for a while. Ever grabbed a guy by the legs and used him as a human jump-rope? Chukkelz has. Ever given someone a bear hug that left them limp? Cruz has. This game is like a chiropractor’s nightmare; any and every way the human body can be broken, Vendetta breaks it.

And it sounds good, too. Something about the crack of the bone as you bend it ever-so close to the breaking point, the scream of a grown man who’s been brought to tears…sets off the whole thing. Sadistic? Yeah. But when you give out of violence, you want pain in return; no doubt there. And Vendetta makes that pain sound so sweet, so real. You’ll enjoy it. You might not say so out loud…but you’ll enjoy it.

But these guys aren’t going to just let you wail away and win; Vendetta pulls punches for no one. The AI’s sharp; it never stays down for longer than it has to and when you go down, it does its level best to keep you from getting back up. It blocks, reverses, uses every trick the game has; sometimes clean, mostly dirty. Even on easy, it’ll have you working for every victory, fighting seesaw battles and losing in a few upsets. The minute you take it for granted is the same minute it beats you.

So yeah, the game is filled with rap music. You can turn it off.

Yeah, the game’s story mode is full of rap clichés; flirts in short skirts and thugs with rough mugs. Bad grammar everywhere. You can skip it.

And yeah, you fight with a bunch of lyrical masters, some of whom either can’t or refuse to spell their own names correctly. The WWE is filled with a bunch of rednecks and every ethnic stereotype in existence; if you can take that, you can take this.

Games are about gameplay, and Def Jam: Vendetta has good gameplay. That’s the bottom line. You can pass it by if you want, write it off, let it go by the wayside…fine. But Def Jam: Vendetta is at least worth a rental; no wrestling fan should turn a blind eye. If you can look pass the rough and see the diamond inside, you’ll have a good time. If you can’t…well, I gave you the 411, homey.

Rating: 8/10

lasthero's avatar
Community review by lasthero (September 28, 2005)

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