Def Jam: Icon Review


Hey!! Hoo!!! Hey!!! Hoo!!! OK, I am not that big into the rap scene. Basically what I know I think of as nothing more than stereotypes. Rappers going around causing all sorts of trouble for themselves and the the idea that the more “hard core” you are the more successful you will be in the industry. So along comes the third game from the rap label Def Jam and they do nothing to fight my stereotypical view of the genre. But that's cool, I understand the whole image thing and they need to keep up their street cred or whatever. The previous games in the series did not appeal to me because I'm not a fan of the music and don't like fighting games all that much, so two strikes against the game before I even slide it in the PS3. But I do like video games so I figure I'd give it a shot and see what it's all about. Does Icon get a quick third strike or does it have a bit more game than that? Here we go to find out...

EA's Def Jam:Icon is the third game to feature the Def Jam artists in a fighting game, and the first to drop on the next generation systems. Icon has a very specific style and audience, a very big audience to be sure, but if you hate rap and hip hop music then you should stay far away from this game...as it says on the game box “Music is Your Weapon” and they do mean it but more about that in a moment. There are several game modes but really it boils down to the single player “Build A Label” and the online multi-player. The Practice mode and Beatings with Bass are both just ways to try and get familiar with the controls and the unique twist that the music plays in the game. The Throw Down mode is a way to get in quickly without saving any stats and no story to deal with. But the real action is with the Build A Label mode...

You start off the Build A Label by first creating your character in one of the more detailed creation utilities I've ever seen. But in keeping with the gangsta style of the game you don't create a character instead you create a “suspect”. I guess that kind of tells you what's expected out of you in the game. Once you got your look down off you go into the “story”. Obviously the main aim of the game is fighting but Icon tries to connect all the fighting together into some sort of story. The bad part is that they didn't do it very well. It seems that the right ideas are there, the story was interesting enough for me to want to keep going but it just didn't segue to the fights well. There are some very well done cutscenes but they were too few and far between. And even when you did get a scene that played out interestingly it just leads right into a fight, no other interactions from you, just fighting. Icon tries to take you into the “real” world of rap artists and producers by showing you that all rappers settle things by fighting. Spill a drink on someone..Fight! Paparazzi getting on your nerves...Fight! Want to sign a new artist...Fight! Off duty cop bringing you down...Fight! Fans getting too close...Fight! Well you get the idea, there's nothing in the world of business that can not be solved by tossing someone into a helicopter's rotor tail. Oh sure we all wish we could settle matters this way but in reality only rappers and their producers can.

You start off in a shoddy looking crib and as you get more successful your apartment will reflect this success. You get a lot of emails when hanging out and through these you find out who you have to go lay a beat down on. You get emails from your manager, lawyer, girlfriend, artists, competition, etc. Sometimes there's nothing to do but read the email, other times you have to make a yes/no decision that usually involves money. Things like should you buy your girlfriend a new vase, or help cover the legal expenses for one of your boys, or even buy someone a house. These decisions usually have an effect on how happy people are, but this doesn't really seem to have much impact on the game. You also have to decide when to drop a new track from one of your artists and then create a budget on how you will spend to market and sell the record. Unfortunately there are no guidelines or help on how to do this. I mean how much money should you spend on airplay for a new single (which I thought was illegal, but then again so is just about everything you do in this game), or how much for materials and marketing? Who knows? I tried all sorts of different combinations and never saw a huge difference. I think that if EA works a bit more on fleshing out the “producer” role along with better integrating the story into the fights they will have a very cool game on their hands.