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What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Amid the stream of karaoke games over the years, developers have often overlooked the hip-hop genre when selecting which music to include. The PS2 title Get On Da Mic attempted to support the genre, but the broken interface and lack of polish made the title tough to enjoy. With Def Jam Rapstar, however, 4mm Games and Terminal Reality used Get On Da Mic as an example of what not to do and it shows. While Rapstar is flawed, it still offers a solid track list, a fun video recording feature, and robust community options that make it more than just your average karaoke game. Once you start your career, you’ll power through tracks to unlock the full list of more than 40 songs that range from the always entertaining Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend” to the gag-worthy Soulja Boy Tell’em’s “Turn My Swag On.” The tracks are delivered in their music video format, with a “follow the bouncing ball.” Relying on the ball is hit and miss, so the only sure-fire way to nail tracks is to have some familiarity with the songs. This is especially apparent with tracks that feature speed rapping like Twista’s “Slow Jamz,” where it is nearly impossible to keep up with screen prompts. Expect to spend some time in the practice mode to work on your flow verse by verse for some of the more difficult offerings. Or you can always get away with mumbling your way through, too.
While Rapstar’s mechanics work well, a few elements get in the way of a top-notch performance. To maintain a T-rating, songs are censored, which can leave big gaps in tracks and disrupt the flow. Also, since you are performing over the music video versions of tracks, you’ll have to put up with multiple interruptions to make way for skits in lengthier videos. While you can skip watching Drake play gym teacher in “Best I Ever Had,” these breaks get old quick.
Minor grievances aside, I had fun with Def Jam Rapstar. I had a blast going through the track list, especially in Party mode with a friend. Performing a duet with songs like “Gold Digger” or trading off verses in “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” are some of the best ways to get the most entertainment out of the game. What’s even more amusing is documenting your performances on camera and uploading it for the world to see on Rapstar’s community website.
Recording your own music video is about as easy as connecting a console-compatible camera. Videos are automatically recorded during each track and can be edited into 30-second clips. Part of the fun is adding your own effects such as different color filters, stickers, audio effects, and more. Resident rapper Matt Helgeson and I put together our first video in a matter of minutes and uploaded it with no fuss thanks to a well-designed interface and easy-to-follow instructions. (Check out the final product here).
Def Jam Rapstar offers more than enough features to distinguish it from other karaoke games on the market, and most importantly, is a good time if you can overlook some of its problems. If 4mm follows through with its promise of regular DLC and constant community support, there’s no reason hip-hop fans shouldn’t pick up the mic and give Def Jam Rapstar a try.
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