When I first played Def Jam Rapstar almost a year ago, I thought it was going to be the best thing to happen to rhythm games since Harmonix decided to bundle in drums and a mic with the original Rock Band. As much as I enjoy the musical entries from both Harmonix and Activision (respectively), it wasn’t exactly the music that I had personally grown up with. Being born in Harlem and raised in the 5 boroughs of New York City, naturally I was a child of Hip Hop and the culture. The thought of a game based on the music that was the soundtrack of my young adolescent life was so exciting that I was counting down the days to its release. So now that’s its out, the only question remains is was it worth the wait?
When you first boot up Rap Star you instantly know, that it’s going to be a very different experience. Well at least I did, because as soon as the instrumental for Young Jeezy’s “Put On” came through my surround sound at the title screen, I immediately knew that my sub woofer was going to be getting me in some trouble. The audio found in the game is top notch, and as you hear all f the late 80’s and early 90’s classics you’re going to want to pump this one up.
Gameplay is as you would imagine. You rap through your console microphone of choice, while trying to hit every word along the way. Oh that’s easy you say? That’s what I thought as well, and one thing that you learn quickly is that just like real rappers, if you want to be successful you need to re-learn how to breath. Yes, timing is key, but without the proper breathing you simply won’t make the timing. As you increase the difficulty, you get more and more penalized for missed words and phrases.
Just like other rhythm titles, Rap Star shines most as a multiplayer experience. So while you’re limited to two microphones you do have different options to play. Tracks can be played as “Duets”, which works exceptionally well with songs that are featuring two artists, as players get to pick which part of the song that they cover, and then come together for the hook (chorus). Duets still work with tracks that don’t have multiple parts, instead in this mode you and a friend take turns throughout the song. This mode is particularly fun as it requires both players to be right on time with some tricky transitions. The other multiplayer component is basically a head to head battle-mode. You and your friend sing the same part while being scored on timing, pitch, and streaks along the way.
The game offers a free play mode that let’s you simply jump in and play, but in order to get all of the tracks they must be first unlocked in the game’s campaign. This career mode consists of levels with each level having a handful of tracks. Upon completion, you have the option to work on some challenges, such as rapping along to one of the tracks you just played but instead of just trying to get through the song, you’re actually trying to hit a certain note or phrase streak. Again, much easier said than done. Breathing and timing are your best friends when taking on these challenges.
One of the game’s biggest selling points is its robust community feature. No seriously, when we were first told about back at 4mm headquarters a year ago, I thought it was a bit ambitious. And you know what, they pulled it off. Through the game you can seamlessly upload clips to your community page where you can “battle” other wanna-be MCs. And if you have either a PS Eye or Xbox Vision camera you can have all your friends and family know just how gangster you really are. Instead of clans you can create crews and challenge other crews from any where. With Facebook login support and integration, Rapstar’s community page is a recipe for success and pretty much blows away any other rhythm game community offering.
Now that you’ve heard the good its only fair that I share the not so good.
One thing I immediately noticed was that the rough interface, the same one had heard was going to be changed unfortunately never did. The game’s background, title screen, and overall interface isn’t too easy on the eyes.
Another visual detail that can cause some strain and definielty makes my 1080p screen sad is the omission of HD music videos. Obviously I’m not expecting Salt n’ Pepa’s “Push It” to be scaled up to high definition resolutions, but at the same time there’s no reason for videos in the game that have come out after 2007 to not be in HD. The downloanable tracks I can understand as they’d like to keep files under a certain size, but for the tracks already on the disc forced into 4:3… its kind of whack.
The 45 song track list is also something that left me a bit disheartened. Not that it’s bad by any definition, simply because i felt it just wasn’t enough. If you’re going to build an IP that you expect to turn into a platform I think you’re only as good as the foundation you build. And while hip-hop and rap doesn’t have as much history as other genres of music, it still has a very rich one, and I felt like there should have been more titles on the disc to start you off.
Speaking of missing tracks, there were two glaring omissions here. Here’s a hint. They just put together two of the most highly anticipated hip hop concerts of all time this past summer. Their names are Jay-z and Eminem and they’re both missing in action.
One thing about hip hop music, is that it’s all about being relevant. Why do some artists last longer than others? Besides their skills as an MC they have the ability to constantly change and always stay relevant along the way. As of this writing new tracks have hit the store for Rapstar, unfortunately the most relevant track on the actual disk, is Drake’s “Best I Ever Had”. Now considering that Drake is currently tearing up the music charts with his latest album “thank me later”, this older track is already not relevant. I hope that moving forward this doesn’t become the norm, and DLC down the road is made up of more current music.
All in all Def Jam Rapster is easily one of the best party game’s out there. It’s something that’s easy to pick up, yet challenging to master. Ask any game developer and they’ll tell you that it’s something that they aim for with every title, yet Rapstar pulls it off with ease. 4mm has created a game that will have your whole family bumping their heads as they take a trip down hip-hop memory lane, and at the same time you can become a world renown MC on world wide web, or at the very least on your Facebook profile.
While it may not have enough tracks for my own personal taste, I think that the community feature alone will make this title a worthy purchase. here’s to hoping that people put this community feature to good use. If you’re a fan of music games, pick this up. If you’re a fan of music… well then pick this up. If you’re not a fan of having fun… then stay away.
Now if you’ll please excuse me, I’m going to sit in the corner with my fingers crossed in hopes of some Jay-Z DLC hitting that store.
- Title: Def Jam Rapstar
- Platform Reviewed: PS3
- Developer: 4mm Games
- Publisher: Konami
- MSRP: $59.99
- Release Date: Available Now
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this title was provided to DualShockers Inc, by the publisher for purposes of this review