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Platform

GameCube

 

Genre

Fighting

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

AKI Corp. / EA Sports BIG

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q2 2003

 

 

- Looks great

- Not a niche game

- Good challenge and action

- Possesses some originality

 

 

- Button-pressing will likely cause cramping

- AI can play really cheap / tough

 

 

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Def Jam Vendetta

Score: 8.4 / 10

 

I thought I had successfully left my wrestling tendencies behind me.  I was totally sucked in by WWF on the N64 – played for countless hours and responsible for at least one “D”-grade term paper.  All that was supposed to be behind me, but after Def Jam Vendetta it has all come crashing back down on me.  At least this time I’m done with university and any “D”-grade papers are unlikely.

 

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Very few wrestling games have captured my attention like Def Jam Vendetta (DJV) – even after my initial skepticism.  Although the world of hip-hop may have just exploded into the “mainstream” in the last 5 or 6 years it’s so far off my radar that the only time I hear mention of hip-hop artists is when they’re being arrested or involved in a bar brawl.  While DJV probably won’t convert anyone to hip-hop, even though some fine tunes play throughout, it has too much style and sophistication to be written off as a niche title only for hip-hop fans.

 

Story mode (which is mandatory if you want to have a big roster of grapplers in the other modes) gives you the choice of four wrestlers to help out a buddy who owes a lot of money to D-Mob, a prototypical bad guy with a deep, gravelly voice.  This is the springboard that launches you against a swath of Def Jam recording artists – or at least their cartoon counterparts.

 

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Graphically, DJV has a persona all its own.  It took a couple of matches to get used to the style since there’s a tendency for wrestling games to look more realistic, not less.  But the cartoony sensibility can’t mask the hardcore wrestler underneath.

 

However, sometimes your movements will be masked, as the camera doesn’t adjust at all during tag team matches.  If you can’t see what you’re doing, the action degenerates into hopeful buttons presses.  This seems a trifle complaint – 95% of the time you can see the smooth action.

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DJV has more than enough moves to avoid repetition.  If the many slams, reversals, grapples, submission holds, turnbuckle maneuvers and running attacks weren’t enough, each wrestler – male and female – comes with a couple of super moves that can be unleashed when you’ve maxed out their boost meter.  It would be more apt to call them “über-moves” taking into account the EA Sports BIG label and the fact the moves have no connection to reality.  Other than the reliance on frantic button-pressing to escape pins and break submission holds, there’s no much to complain about in terms of actual gameplay.  It does take some time to “master” the moves but since each wrestler uses the same button and stick combinations (but producing different moves for each) once you get comfortable with one you can pick any wrestler and be comfortable (but learn to play to each wrestler’s strengths).

 

There is some frustration to be had with the AI, which is devious.  The higher-level characters in Story Mode are nearly impossible to defeat.  It feels like they can reverse any of your moves, whenever they want.  Things can be going your way then there’s a complete shift – the AI goes into overdrive.  Not only do they manage to max their boost meter in under ten seconds flat, they’ll block your strikes like someone dodging bullets in the Matrix.  It truly takes a bucket of skill to defeat the latter opponents.  That and a bunch of stat upgrades purchased with your winnings.

 

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Cash can also be spent to open girlfriend galleries.  Unless you’re a huge fan of the hip-hop scene and the ladies, don’t bother dropping dollars on the galleries – upgrade your stats.

 

Multiplayer games include up to four-players and are a hoot with friends.  But again, you’ll want to work through the Story Mode to unlock as many characters as possible.  Playing against human opponents is a lot less frustrating than the faultless AI.

 

If you’re a fan of the wrestling genre, Def Jam Vendetta is just what the doctor ordered.  Even if you're not a fan it's worth a look.  It’s got the moves, the characters, the challenge and the attitude of a winner and it succeeds in being a great game for new and experienced players.  (Although, with some of the potty talk, maybe not that new.)

 

- Omni

(April 26, 2003)

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