You don't often find a videogame that's so unapologetic in its intention. Def Jam Fight For NY: The Takeover is simply about smacking stupid people in the face. Taking its cue from the rude, ignorant, macho and downright nasty world of mainstream US hip-hop, it rolls around in its own stupid crap like a grinning pig. It shags your mum and tells your mates she lays there like a sack of spuds. And if you complain about it, it'll smash your head into a brick wall, you little bitch.
It's refreshing to play a game that makes no apologies for being so ignorant. It's authentic and it clearly doesn't give a flying one whether you're offended by it or not. Just like the console versions of the series, players take part in the dirtiest fights, where anything goes and nothing is out of bounds.
There's a range of fighting disciplines, from street brawling to wresting and martial arts, and a fat sack of brutal weapons to swing at your opponent's dome. Players can also slam each other into walls, cars, fences and other environmental objects, and if you step too close to the crowd they might fancy cracking you one on the back of the skull or getting you in a vice grip while someone else smacks the wax from your ears.
Learning the basics of counter moves, throws and big ol' punches to the face is easy enough, but Def Jam constantly swings a challenge at the player. Some fights are easy, some are downright cruel in their unfairness, but it never feels like there's an easily discernible pattern to beating an opponent. That's not to say you can't figure out the best method to taking down Method Man, but anyone expecting one fighter to be the same as the next is going to be end up crippled on the floor.
Def Jam is a hip-hop fighting game, but it's not just the hardcore beats that pummel the ears. Where the game excels is in its use of sound to convey a truly brutal beatdown. The hollow thud of steel to the face, the crack of a knee in a spine, or the simple foot stomp on the back of someone's head is so prominent you don't need to see what's happening on screen to realise homeboy has got bruises that'll leave him stuttering for the rest of his life and walking with a limp. Still, it ain't ugly in the looks department, apart from when it's rendering the anti-heroes of rap with bleeding sockets and lumpy faces.
The biggest disappointment is the lack of new features for the PSP version. Two years after the game was released on Xbox and PS2, it's pretty shameful to not get more with the package. There's the same dressing up toy box and customisation nonsense from before, but a few extra features would have been welcome. Reducing the story cut-scenes may have helped the loading times (which aren't great, by the way) but I don't really want to read a text-abuse interchange at the start of the bout. I didn't buy a fighting game to read. What do you think I am, some sort of 'reader'?
The music selection has been reduced too, and with no new tunes don't expect any chopped and screwed tracks or hyphy joints. EA, usually as good as Rockstar at picking up on a trend, has gone tight when it comes to new material.
But what hasn't changed still makes a great game. The Takeover is a wild and slightly insane take on fighting, with truly original characters hurling abuse and fists at each other like a scrap at a special school. Where else can you see bit-part actor Danny Trejo take on Slick Rick the Ruler, a rapper sporting an eye-patch? Or BoneCrusher, the Atlanta rocker who holds the record for the most weight lost on Celebrity Fit Club, going toe-to-toe with punk poet Henry Rollins? Compare that roster to the usual fighting game collection of kickboxers and giggling school girls and you see the genius and madness of Def Jam in all its glory.
Some will sneer at Def Jam Fight For NY: The Takeover and dismiss its aggressive hip-hop, nasty fighting and obnoxious characters. I doubt anyone involved in the game would care, and nor should players interested in picking the game up. After Tekken: Dark Resurrection, it's the best fighting game on the PSP.