Def Jam Rapstar review

Konami’s sing-along games haven’t exactly been the greatest as of late. Karaoke Revolution left a lot to be desired (particularly the American Idol entries), and we aren’t exactly thrilled that a Glee-themed game is on the way. Well, some of us, anyway. That’s where Def Jam Rapstar provides a breath of fresh air. It’s like Karaoke Revolution, but with the goofiness replaced by a genuine rap vibe that makes the game undeniably fun. Furthermore, there’s a community angle that really expands it in ways we didn’t think possible.

Like Revolution, Def Jam Rapstar features a diverse selection of songs from the 80’s, 90’s and today’s best artists. These include performers such as Notorious B.I.G., DMX, Ice Cube, Public Enemy and more. In addition, you can add even more songs to the roster through DLC, such as “Rapper’s Delight” and the always upbeat “Party Up In Here”, with DMX insisting that y’all gonna make him lose his mind. Up in here, up in here. The DLC is optional, however, and there are more than enough tunes to go around.

The trouble is, some of the raps are easier to perform that others. Beastie Boys’ “Brass Monkey”, for example, is easy to follow and perform along with. The same can’t be said for more complex stuff like Young Jeezy’s “Put On”, or others that move at a frenzied pace. Also, since the game’s rated T for Teen, you won’t find any hardcore lyrics here, though you can certainly fill in the words of your choice if you choose, without suffering a point penalty as a result. Regardless of editing and pace the song selection is excellent and it’s great running across such old-schoolers as Slick Rick and 2Pac again. Plus, “Gin and Juice” never gets old. Laid back!

We only wish the video quality was as good as the audio. There are times that the video playback comes across like it’s straight out of a 90’s karaoke machine, rather than a high-quality transfer like we’ve come to expect from today’s presentations. Still, a lot of these videos are a trip, especially Run DMC’s “Run’s House” and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”. It’s like jumping back in a DeLorean to when New Jack City first hit theaters.

Otherwise, the rest of the game looks good. The on-screen lyrics are easy to read and a bouncing ball follows along with the lyrics, though there are times it’s too easy to lose your pacing, particularly on more challenging songs. The background comes alive with a beautiful neon city landscape, complete with a menu interface that’s simple to select from.

Def Jam Rapstar provides many options, including a career mode where you unlock new content, including songs and video options. The Party mode lets you perform either on your own or against a friend, while choosing which songs you want to perform without following a pre-set play list. Then there’s Freestyle mode, where you perform your own raps however you please, filling in the lyrics with your own vibes. If you’ve ever dreamed of impersonating Eminem in 8 Mile, this is the mode for you.

What’s great about these modes is that each of them enable you to record your performance, should you have the PS Eye or Xbox Live Vision camera to do so. Once you do, you can upload them to the Def Jam Rapstar website, showcasing your skills against others and letting them vote on how you do. Not only does your feedback leave a direct impact, but it can also lead to battles against other players on the site, advertised both in-game and through Twitter support. As a result, the replayability goes leaps and bounds past anything you could possibly expect. The only downside is if you’re camera shy and choose not to take advantage. But, c’mon, you can’t suck that bad at performing “Push It”. Um…can you?

That’s a wrap…er, rap, rather. Def Jam Rapstar may not have the ultimate killer presentation, and 45 songs may not be enough compared to the 80+ songs the Rock Band games carry, but it’s a huge step in the right direction for Konami’s musical approach, and we certainly hope more follow in their footsteps. Oh, and next time around, let’s hope they include some “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”. We feel our inner Beastie Boy trying to bust out.