Kimberley Ellis
09 Dec, 2010

Def Jam Rapstar Review

360 Review | Some of them try to rhyme, but they can't rhyme like this.
If you've spent some time with a video game console in the last decade, you're likely to have gathered around the living room experiencing the musical prowess (or lack thereof) of friends and family as they belt out popular songs with a USB-powered microphone in hand thanks largely in part to the karaoke stylings of video games such as SingStar and Lips. But with these two karaoke franchises providing players with fodder comprising largely of the latest and greatest pop and rock songs to gain the attention of the masses, the humble rap/hip-hop track has largely been relegated to the sidelines. Thankfully, Def Jam Rapstar has come along to fill the void, and after experiencing the not-quite-right rap mechanics of SingStar and Rock Band, we must say that Def Jam Rapstar does a commendable job of representing the hip-hop game for any young emcee wanting to show off just how lyrically gifted they can be.

The last time a hip-hop karaoke game was released, it was the stinker Get On Da Mic that found its way onto the PlayStation 2. With this lackluster title leaving a bad taste in gamers’ mouths, 4MM Games had the enormous task of delivering a quality game which would set the bar for the representation of rap/hip-hop tracks in other karaoke titles in the future. While the end product is not the definitive answer that many had hoped for, it is a fun experience which moves the genre another step closer to perfection. Its greatest accomplishment is that of its gameplay mechanic - which in our opinion extends far beyond that of its many counterparts. While those versed in the antics of SingStar and the like will know that those particular games focus on a vocalist’s pitch and timing – meaning that it is possible to cheat your way to a high score by merely humming along or singing gibberish in time with the music - Def Jam Rapstar goes one step further. Yes, pitch and timing are taken into account; but now gamers will also find themselves scored on how well they were able to complete the track’s lyrics thanks to the lyric recognition system. When you take all of these aspects into account, it really highlights just how different a beast Def Jam Rapstar is from its counterparts. Those who fancy themselves to be lyrically gifted will have to showcase all of their talents in order to crack a score that’s ‘off the chain’ as this title proves itself to be a worthy adversary. Whether you’re trying to replicate the lightening speed of Slick Rick’s rhymes, emulating the unique flow of the Notorious B.I.G. or just trying to make sense of the blanked out lyrics of Lil’ Kim thanks to her predilection for swear words, you’ll definitely appreciate the complex challenges that Def Jam Rapstar provides.

That lyric that don't kill me can only make me stronger.

That lyric that don't kill me can only make me stronger.

From the minute the game loads up, any self-respecting karaoke game lets you jump straight into the singing action, and Def Jam Rapstar is no exception. In any of the title’s three game modes, players can choose to sing solo or in a pair (with the choice extending to whether you want to sing co-operatively in a duet or battle each other competitively for the highest score). Party mode offers most of the robust tracklist right away, with gamers able to access 40 of the titles 45 hits. Ranging from old-school tracks like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”, to the anthemic quality of Snoop Dogg’s "Gin and Juice", right through to recent hits like Kanye West‘s "Stronger", Def Jam Rapstar has an impressive cross-section of hits from the genre. While the game does have feature some of rap’s biggest and brightest, there are still a few notable artist omissions (Jay-Z anyone?) but with the game now sprouting a DLC catalog which will allow gamers to pick up a new flow for roughly $2 a track, we hope that this can soon be rectified. The other large issue for the title is the number of gaping holes in both the written lyric and the song itself thanks to the title attempting to hone in on a teenage audience. While this is a minor problem for many tracks, it reaches moments of ridiculousness when you’re attempting to make sense of all the blank spaces which can prove to be utterly frustrating...yes, this is firmly aimed at your lyrics Lil’ Kim. Other modes include Freestyle, which interestingly enough allows players choose their own pre-arranged beat (created by notable producers such as DJ Premier and Just Blaze) and sing their own custom rhymes - so break out the note pads out and start creating, we wanna get the PALGN rap out on the street in time for Christmas! Those that take the time to play through the Career mode will find that it unlocks the remaining five tracks, additional freestyle tracks, challenges and new effects to use when creating custom videos. This section of the title proves to be its weakest link by far and if you’re not into unlocking additional features, you’ll ultimately find that there isn’t enough interest in this game mode to keep you coming back to the very end.

For those of you keen to test your skills up against other players, you’ll find that the gameplay does get a tad more compelling when you throw a Xbox Live Video Camera (or a Playstation Eye for our PlayStation 3 friends) into the mix as the game will allow you to upload videos to the Def Jam Rapstar community in order to show off your lyrical performance. All of those unlockables that you picked up through playing the Career mode will also come in handy as you can now utilise these tools to customise the audio and visual samples that you create. Once you’ve created and uploaded your wares, you can thoroughly peruse the Def Jam Rapstar Community website to rate other player’s videos, form crews with other players, create start battles and create rivalries with other crews. For those that love a little blatant self-promotion, you can even pop your videos up onto your Facebook and Twitter account to share them with your mates – just don’t come crying to us when the wall posts start getting a little harsh.

For all of its pluses, Def Jam Rapstar comes with a few glaring negatives which are hard to gloss over. Aside from the lacklustre Career mode that we’ve already detailed, another major disappointment is the presentation of the title itself. Our particular gripe stems from the fact that not only does the music video not take up the entirety of the screen, the quality of the video isn’t much better than what you’d come across on Youtube. Given that the visual aspect of the game plays such a large role in its presentation, we were baffled as to why this wasn’t presented in a high-definition quality. Another major annoyance with the title is the way that certain songs are set out. With many songs having a rap accompanied by a sung chorus, there is a fine line between what players are able to accomplish and what they aren’t. In certain tracks, we felt practically breathless as the game forced us to engage in all sections of the song, the most notable being Nelly’s “Hot in Herre”, which has you singing both the male and female sections of the call-and-respond chorus. Between trying to breath and sing in the right pitch, this track proves to be more difficult than it should have been. A little extra tweaking would’ve ensured that moments like these had not occurred.



It helps to be a fan of rap music before you pick up Def Jam Rapstar, as its focus on one genre is a little more direct than other karaoke games on the market. However, even those who only enjoy rap music at a mainstream radio level will find something to appreciate about the title thanks to its user friendly gameplay, challenging track selection and a number of community features which will allow many to showcase their creative sides. We had a great time with it, and we believe that many of you would to as Def Jam Rapstar confidently captures the swagger, fierce lyrics and insane flows that encompass the great artists of the rap/hip-hop genre. With a slick combination of old-school and new-school tracks, robust community options and more DLC on the way, this rap game is sure to entertain any funky monkey. Word!
The Score
Def Jam Rapstar confidently captures the swagger of the hip-hop genre with a slick combination of old-school and new-school tracks which are sure to delight any funky monkey. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
3 years ago
Thanks for the review. Got a free copy coming in the mail luckily. Either way, was going to get this. Kinda excited since it doesn't appear to completely suck (except for some of the "artists" included).
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