PS3 Review – Def Jam Rapstar

October 18, 2010Written by Joseph Peterson

There are few titles that have represented the hip hop music genre in gaming; the only series that has incorporated it successfully would be DJ Hero. Last generation’s Get On Da Mic, which was released on the PS2 in 2004, was a failure both commercially and critically. So when Konami announced Def Jam Rapstar it left many people skeptical of how it well it would be received. Though Paul Coyne of 4mm Games, the developer of the game, has already stated “Internally, we used Get On Da Mic as the architectural model of how not to do Def Jam Rapstar.” The real question at hand is how does this lyrically powered game hold up in the music genre on it’s own, and it is considered a must have title?

The overall premise of the game is simple, using a microphone that is plugged in via USB, perform the words on the screen. Your lyrics, timing, and pitch will be evaluated by the game. Lyrics are actually saying the words that appear on the screen. Timing refers to saying the words at the correct moment according to how the song is actually sung. Then the final aspect that is evaluated, pitch, refers typically to the singing aspect of most choruses that are found in songs. So yes, there are moments where you actually will have to sing. The rapping part will have a bouncing ball that will bounce over the specific word when it needs to be said. When singing needs to occur the menu will change a bit to signify that it is a singing part. The words will still be there but lines go across them indicating the pitch at which the words needs to be sung. The microphone is actually pretty accurate, so if you are not on key no points will be awarded for pitch.

There are several modes that are available to players that want to test their inner hip hop artist. Party mode allows for 1-2 players to play either against one another, or with each other. Though both the battle modes and the duet modes are some of the most entertaining aspects of the title, this does require another microphone. Within Party mode players can even set up a playlist so you are not having to keep heading back to the track listings to pick the next song. Within Party mode there are several songs that are not available in the Career mode for players to enjoy. This is also where all DLC songs will be located.

The Career mode is where most solo players will spend their time. To unlock more songs it is simple, perform better to get more mics. Your performance is decided by how many mics you have at the end of the song, 5 mics is the best and 1 mic is the worst. Earning a set number of mics will not only advance you to later stages, but also unlock things such as screen effects and stickers to be used in the editing mode. There are a total of 5 stages available, and the latter 4 must be unlocked by working your way through the songs. Upon completing the last stage you will be considered a “Def Jam Rapstar”. Players can then go back and try to improve their performance, as well as unlock additional content missed initially, like more mics for more freestyle beats. Once completing a specific stage or reaching a specific level players will have the opportunity to test their skills against the “challenges” the game has. These include timing challenges, platinum power challenges, high score challenges, endurance challenges, multiplier challenges, and even song unlock challenges. The game offers plenty on content that will keep you coming back for more.

Freestyle mode is where the true lyrical masters will shine. This is the moment to show the world what you are made of with your lyrics on top of a beat of your choosing. Initially the beats offered to freestyle over are slim pickings, but as more mics are earned in the specific stages in career mode, more beats will be unlocked. This mode is really where the community aspect of the game really shines.

If you happen to have a PlayStation Eye hooked up while you are performing then it will record you during the performance. In fact you will be able to see yourself in a little screen as you play. Upon finishing recording you are able to take the video into the editing mode of the game. Various stickers and screen effects can be added to your performance to give it that wow factor that will net it more views in the game community mode, or the online community website. While viewing other videos you can rate them, comment on them, and even add the performer as a friend. Not only is this new social aspect of the game a great way to meet new people, but it is also a way to form crews with friends. With the crew support one another by rating their videos and help promoting them.

Well the game isn’t all about friends and fans, there are also enemies, which are known as rivals. Also setting up battles is a way to get rivals or friends. Battling opponents is an easy way to see who is the best at performing a specific song, and leaving it up to the community through votes. Another way to set up friends/rivals/battles is through the map feature on the site. Have your address or at least zip/post code entered in your profile settings and it will show fellow Def Jam Rapstar owners located around your location.

Those that have played other musical games know that they typically have a store that allows more songs to be purchased via DLC, and Def Jam Rapstar is no different. There is already several songs that have been set for release for the game, some released within the first week of release. These can be bought within the game itself or in the PlayStation Store, so it is up to you. The DLC can only be used in Party mode of the game, not Career mode. This helps compliment the 45 song tracklist.

The game itself is built to be a party game, not a graphical powerhouse. Those familiar with the Singstar setup will find this to be familiar in some aspects. The actual music video will be playing with the correct words scrolling along the bottom of the video. Other than that the layout of the menus within the game is pretty straightforward. Sound quality is rather good, though some players may be bothered that the game does not feature the explicit versions of songs. There will be a series of blanks in the parts where there are curse words. Though the game does not penalize for you wanting to use curse words in the place of the blanks. The microphone itself also offers pretty decent sound quality when rapping, keeping most outside noises out of your performance.

Def Jam Rapstar is easily one of the best hip hop only music games. Granted the game only ships with 45 songs, which some have complained about, but these songs do a good job of representing the history of hip hop. The game is a perfect party game to play when friends are over. Factor in the community aspect, which is still being worked on and updated constantly, and you have yourself a sleeper hit for fans of hip hop. It will be interesting to see what other DLC is brought out for the title in the near future, but the game is a definite pick up for fans and a great entry to this new series.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Great first entry into this series that encompasses hip hop and the roots of it.

+ Community aspect adds great depth to the title that will keep you coming back for more.

– Track list seems a bit short when compared to other games in the same genre.

8 out of 10