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Playstation 2






Electronic Arts



Aki Corp./EA Sports Big



T (Teen)



Q1 2003



- Lots of moves

- Fun multiplayer mode

- Very stylish

- Great sound effects

- Lots of wrestlers



- Lack of Def Jam artists

- Cheap AI

- Music doesn't really get the blood flowing

- Lack of game modes



Review: Def Jam Vendetta (Gamecube)

Review: UFC Throwdown (PS2)

Review: Godzilla - Destroy All Monsters Melee (GC)



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Def Jam Vendetta

Score: 8.2/10

When I first heard that Def Jam Vendetta (DJV) was going to be a wrestling game starring famous rappers, I was more than a little skeptical.  I mean come on, it just screams of flagrant-cashcow-itus, with a company trying to make a quick buck on some big name artists.  Much to my surprise the final product is actually pretty good.  Itís by no means perfect, suffering from some very annoying flaws, but thereís a lot of fun to be had with this worthwhile title.

DJV has players taking control of various brawlers as they make their way through the underground fight circuit, winning prize money and getting the attention of the ladies as they work their way towards one higher and higher paying prize fights.  Early on there arenít a whole lot of fighters to choose from, but as players make their way through the game plenty of new ones are unlocked.  Theyíre quite well balanced between grapplers and strikers with different specializations in skills.  Picking a character is a matter of personal preference, as there are no real standout tanks here that make the game a cakewalk.  Each has their own repertoire of signature moves as well as some very cool finishing moves that absolutely devastate opponents.  Just try out some of Briggsí finishers to see just how vicious these moves can be.


The controls are very nicely streamlined with the strength of an attack being dictated by whether the player taps a button or holds it.  Other that this, itís all about timing for pulling off reversals, blocking attacks, and slipping in to make a throw.  DJV runs the gamut in terms of the types of moves players can do as they play.  Head butts, holds, launching yourself off the ropes, or smashing an opponent onto the turn buckle the climbing up and wailing on him are all possible.  The different slams really give the sense that the fighter is taking a beating, doing a suplex or tossing someone overhead as he runs at you.  Players will feel like kids in a candy store with all the different moves they have available to them and how incredibly vicious they look when done.





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If youíre able to string together quite a few moves in a row (not necessarily in the form of a combo), you start to gain momentum as the crowd watching warms up to your fighting.  As this continues your momentum meter fills and once it is full you can enter Blaziní Mode where players can unload absolutely brutal finishing moves.  The whole presentation of these moves is really impressive as the animation switches back and forth from regular speed to slow motion, 


really adding something to the fight.  All the while the sound becomes washed out like when a person really does go ape shit, as the sounds of the outside world fall to the backdrop.

The trouble comes in the way computer controlled opponents play, as they have a nasty tendency to pull off miracle comebacks, laying waste you players with little chance to fight back.  About the only way to stop this is by tossing the bugger out of the ring then beat him unconscious or slap him in a submission until he cries uncle.  There are workarounds to when the computer gets cheap, but itís still very annoying having to deal with it.

If you donít want to deal with the troublesome AI in DJV thereís always multiplayer mode, easily the most entertaining part of the game.  Thereís always something so very satisfying about playing head to head against a friend in these sorts of games, and DJV is no exception.  Tossing each other around the ring and beating on one anotherís wrestlers is a blast.  Even better is that the control scheme and gameplay mechanics of DJV is the farthest thing from being button masher friendly, so you donít need to worry about some rookie mopping the floor with you while not even knowing what theyíre doing.

def-jam-vendetta-3.jpg (64490 bytes)         def-jam-vendetta-4.jpg (59624 bytes)

An odd thing about the game is that with a total of 44 wrestlers available once you unlock them all, there are only 12 Def Jam artists.  The selection of rappers is nice, but there are some noticeable exceptions from the Def Jam line-up.  Whereís Jay-Z?  Whereís Ja Rule?  Most surprisingly of all is that while Public Enemy has a song on the game, Chuck D and Flava Flav are nowhere to be seen.  Itís not the end of the world but seeing these rappers absent is a little disappointing.  Hopefully if thereís a sequel weíll see a lot more of these artists present.

The only other shortcoming of DJV's gameplay is the lack of game modes in comparison to other wrestling titles.  Thereís Tag Team, a four player free for all, Story Mode, One Player fights, Survival, and Handicap mode.  Thatís a decent number of modes by fighting game standards, but when you look at the pro wrestling games on the market, this doesnít begin to scratch the surface.

Visually, DJV has a very nice presentation.  The animation is very smooth, and thereís a lot of detail in all of the wrestlers as they pound away on each other.  The animations to the different throws and slams look really good.  Thereís a lot of over the top pizzazz with these moves adding a significant wow-factor.  A lot of this is from changing up the camera angles to get a better view of the move, but thankfully it switches back to the normal view of the ring by the time the move is over so not to disorient the player.  The environments, too, are very impressive.  There's so much life put into them, whether you're fighting in a bar, a warehouse, a junkyard, or wherever.  The little touches added to these areas is impressive.

Musically, thereís obviously nothing but hip hop to listen too, which is fine, but a lot of the tunes are of the mid-tempo variety.  It can take away from the intensity of the fights, though since it lacks that high-speed drum rate that does a much better job of getting the blood flowing.  The voice acting is filled with the usual mix of one-liners, but surprisingly they donít come off too terribly cheesy like in a lot of fighting games.  The wrestlers actually come off a lot more genuine here when they say theyíre going to kick your ass.  But the real gem of DJVís audio experience is the sound effects.  The sound of wrestlers hitting the mat, punching each other in the head, or crunching bones comes in loud and clear, and adds so much to the game cementing the sense that the wrestlers are pummeling each other.

Def Jam Vendetta is a very fun wrestling game here loaded with style and bone crushing action.  There are some annoying shortcomings to the game, but they certainly arenít enough to irreparably hurt the game.  A great experience.

Mr. Nash

April 27, 2003

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