Def Jam: The Takeover
The Def Jam brand has been one that I could turn to for some fresh wrestling/beat-em-up action, whenever I felt that the WWE games weren't getting it done for me. The original game for PS2 and GameCube, Def Jam Vendetta, is still a fun one in my mind, a wild take on AKI's wrestling engine with some interesting characters and a brutal control scheme that still holds up well today. I didn't really care too much for the changes Def Jam: Fight For NY brought at first, but that's not to say I didn't learn to grow with it and like it. The sequel brought some new-found brutality to the scene that made the fights count even more. Now, before we get a whole new Def Jam for the next generation, EA is back with a PSP take on Fight For NY with The Takeover, a game that keeps most of the bone-crunching action in play while also keeping most of its gritty presentation, for the most part.
After creating your own fighter using a decent customization engine, you work your way through a number of districts, where certain famous faces manage to rule over these districts. How Busta Rhymes and Henry Rollins were able to find free time out of their hectic schedules to maintain street crews in underground New York, I have no idea. There are a lot of familiar rap stars and actors showing up here, and it lends to the game's personality. There's also some original characters whose personality shine through, including a few "crazies" who want nothing more than to pound someone's skull in and some women with lots of spunk (including Carmen Electra). Yeah, I suppose that's an interesting mix. But adding personality to the game's 60+ fighting characters is just the kind of sparkle it needs. Having different fighting styles also throws in some creativity, as you may be sparring off against a wrestler using martial arts know-how. The results can go any which way, depending on how you fight.
Fight For NY's difficulty level was pretty much high-scale, meaning that you had to come in and fight in order to maintain any kind of survival. Sadly, that's also the case here, but The Takeover's control scheme is rather easy to learn. You'll be throwing people against walls and onto floors in no time, and pulling off button combinations and special moves to deplete their energy bar quicker than I go through a six pack of beer. There's a new grappling feature where you can actually stand over a fallen opponent and pound them even further into submission, and while it's cheap, it works wonders. Past that, the controls haven't changed much from Fight- not that they need to. As far as the PSP control scheme, it really wasn't much of an issue here, as the game works more with wrestling-style controls than fighting game controls. Worked fine for me.
The game's presentation has its ups and downs. The game's urban beats and all-star soundtrack remains mostly the same, and keeps momentum going through the fights. However, a lot of the voice samples that added to character personalities are long gone, instead replaced by bland text. C'mon, EA, there's no way you couldn't have kept this in? As far as graphics, the game's not as smooth as the console Fight For NY ports, but they do shine through as far as character animation and plenty of backgrounds to throw your opponents around in. EA's done a nice job with the port, for the most part, but I think the frame rate could've used a slight bump-up. And the voice acting should've come back. Hearing Snoop Dogg threaten you is better than having his threatening line read by you, know what I mean?
There's not too many modes included within the game. The Story Mode is alright, but the story's not really as involving as that of the console version. You do get text messages telling you where your next fight is at, but there's no real drive, no emotional interchange with other characters. There's also an arcade mode where you can just hop into a fight with no strings attached, and an enjoyable two-player multiplayer mode, where a friend can hop on via WiFi and kick your ass, or you can kick theirs. It's a basic structure of modes, and will probably piss off those looking for something more, but The Takeover has enough raw, visceral energy to sweat the details.
Def Jam: The Takeover doesn't really have too many changes over the two year old Fight For NY, aside from the ground grappling and WiFi fighting. However, it remains a pound-a-thon that's still fun after all this time, and those who want a capable PSP fighting game with familiar rap and superstar personalities and lots of bone-crunching hits should take this game on over.
What's Hot: Great, brutal fighting action; over 60+ fighters to mess around with.
What's Not: Not too much new stuff; voice samples of the fighters are missing.