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Xbox 360






Electronic Arts



EA Chicago



M (Mature)



March 6, 2007



- Gives new meaning to giving, and taking a “beating”

- Spectacular visuals, especially the varied pulsating battle arenas

- If you like hip-hop music, then you’ll love the soundtrack (and if you don’t you can create your own soundtrack using your favorite tunes)



- Delivers the wrong “message” about hip-hop culture (just beat and bully your way to the top)

- Due mostly to needing scratching and mixing schematics, controls can be dauntingly complex to learn at first

- Those who enjoyed the wrestling-style fighting of Def Jam Fight for NY might not like that it has been eliminated for straight-up street brawling



Review: Def Jam Vendetta (GC)

Review: Dead or Alive 4 (360)

Review: Rumble Roses XX (360)



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Def Jam Icon

Score: 8.5 / 10


Nobody said it was easy to get to the top, but man, according to Def Jam ICON, establishing a label in the hip-hip recording industry can be a beat-down, drag-it-out fight, literally. In the newest addition to the Def Jam franchise on the Xbox 360, the story mode put you in the shoes of a young buck looking to jump into the hip-hop music biz, and the best way to get in is banging down the doors with your fists, driven by the rhythmic beat in your heart.


With a new take on the rhythmic-music genre, music is your weapon in Def Jam ICON as you fight your way to the ultimate goal, to be the big man in charge, an icon in the music industry that knows all about hard knocks (and kicks, punches and tosses, too). Unfortunately, the “message” that Def Jam ICON delivers to the masses is that hip-hop culture is filled with thuggery, and criminal and animalistic behavior. But since this is a M-rated title, I don’t expect that this “message” would have any negative influence on the older audience that Def Jam ICON targets.


def jam icon          def jam icon


Despite having a lot of success with each of the previous versions, Electronic Arts pumps some new adrenaline through the veins of the Def Jam franchise with ICON. While the preceding titles relied on a heavy dose of wrestling as the backbone of the fighting action, ICON cracks that backbone with a totally different combat at its core, focusing on a more slow-paced street-brawling fighting style.




- Xbox 360 Game Reviews

- Fighting Game Reviews

- Games Published by Electronic Arts

That’s not the only difference in the combat, though. There’s a more innovative change than just switching to street brawling.


Taking its cue from a long line of successful rhythmic-music games, from PaRappa the Rapper to Dance, Dance Revolution to Guitar Hero, Def Jam ICON uses the hip-hop music as a source of power in the game.



Yes, that’s right, you’ll actually use the beat of the music to smash down your opponent while fighting (he of course can use his music to clobber you, too). This well-implemented facet of the Def Jam combat system serves to revitalize the franchise with a fresh approach to fighting games instead of simply being a button-mashing brawler. The music also brings the battle arena to life with interactive hazards unique to each respective battle arena.


At the gas station, fuel pumps will explode, overhead cameras lurk menacing in the background at the television studio, while on top of the skyscraper, a helicopter will tail-whip you full of a world of hurt (but oddly not kill, despite slice-and-dice rotors whacking into you and your opponent).


Anybody that has played any of the previous Def Jam titles will instantly feel the difference (through rumbling controllers) in this new music and rhythm fighting approach. It really is a unique and pioneering advance for both the Def Jam franchise and fighting games as a whole.


However, with this decidedly different combat design comes a much more complex control schematic. Instead of the usual punch, grab and kick controls of the standard fighting game, Def Jam ICON has DJ Controls, where you’ll kick it old-school, using the analog sticks to take control of the music by scratching and mixing the music to your advantage.


def jam icon          def jam icon


Once you knock your opponent to the ground, you’ll actually be able to generate and unleash searing musical attacks by adding beats to the tunes playing, causing environmental interactions that inflict damage to your opponent. You can even gain some momentum in the heat of the fight by changing the song choice. This certainly is a very creative new direction for the Def Jam franchise that definitely pumps new blood into the franchise’s fighting. These controls can be dauntingly complex to learn at first, but after a while you’ll be the master music mixer.


I’m honestly not even remotely a fan of hip-hop culture (being a hard-rocking fan myself) and don’t know much about any of the hip-hop stars that appear in the game (Ludacris, The Game, Paul Wall, Big Boi are but a few). My son’s totally into hip-hop music, however, and with Def Jam ICON’s My Soundtrack feature, was able to use his own hip-hip soundtrack to play the game. Whatever music suits your tastes, you can make your own soundtrack to play Def Jam ICON.


I’ve been talking mostly about the infusion of music and rhythm into Def Jam ICON’s gameplay, but another excellent aspect of the game is certainly its stellar, top-of-the-charts visual and graphical performance. Def Jam ICON really will impress with the amazing visuals throughout, particularly in the spectacularly rendered battle arenas. They’re not very large, but each of the arenas is magnificently rendered with tremendous detail in every corner. The characters are done well also, having tons of detail, with lifelike facial and body features along with generally fluid movement while fighting.


Beyond Def Jam ICON’s single-player story mode, which is moderate in its length, you can extend your hip-hop brawling fun online with solid Xbox Live gameplay.


Spinning a new tune for the franchise, Def Jam ICON’s incredible graphics, a really fresh gameplay innovation, great hip-hop soundtrack, the ability to play to your own “beats” and solid online fighting come together in (Bone, Thugs-N) harmony. Def Jam ICON packs a powerful punch with a new twist for the rhythm-music gaming genre.


- Lee Cieniawa


(March 26, 2007)


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