Giant Bomb Review

49 Comments

Def Jam Rapstar Review

4
  • X360
  • PS3

Def Jam Rapstar provides a solid home base for hip-hop-loving rhythm game fans.


 Earn points for shouting 'skeet skeet skeet' into a microphone!
If you love hip-hop, the rise of the rhythm game genre has probably been a real bummer. Hip-hop doesn't make much sense for something like Guitar Hero, and the token inclusions in games like Lips or SingStar are usually focused on crossover karaoke "favorites" like Will Smith, MC Hammer, and Young MC. Def Jam Rapstar, however, is focused squarely on the genre, with a disc full of tracks that cover a lot of territory and time and a set of features that puts it on par with Sony's karaoke series, with plenty of potential to grow beyond that if the developer's aspirations for the official website come to fruition.

First thing's first, though. I don't need to tell you that if you don't like hip-hop music, Def Jam Rapstar isn't for you. But I do need to tell you that, even if you love the music, excelling at Def Jam Rapstar requires a familiarity with the material that many other rhythm games don't demand. In Guitar Hero or Rock Band, you can sight-read songs and plunk them out on a guitar--even songs you hate can actually be fun to play. SingStar, or singing in a band game, definitely takes things up a step, but if you can fake the melody and know the chorus, you can usually make it through a lot of pop and rock music. Rapping benefits from the rhythm of a drummer, understanding of breath control (like when to breathe and when to just keep rapping), and, to some extent, knowledge of the song. I was able to fumble my way through a few songs that I wasn't all that familiar with, but if you want to do well and have fun doing so, you'll want to spend time either listening to the songs outside of the game or messing around in the game's practice mode to figure out how the rhymes flow. Otherwise you're just going to mumble your way through songs, which gets boring fast.

There's a career mode and a progression to Def Jam Rapstar, where you work your way through five stages of songs, earning up to five mics (read: stars) per song and unlocking a few additional songs and challenges along the way. It's sort of unfortunate that some of the songs, like Rob Base & DJ EZ-Rock's "It Takes Two" or Busta Rhymes' "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See" are locked at the get-go, since it forces you to go through a lot of songs that you may or may not like.

You can turn on various vocal effects while you rap. Turn them all on at once for maximum raposity. 
Party mode is the freeform "hey, let's just rap for awhile" mode, and you can set up playlists of multiple songs or just go at them one at a time. You're welcome to go at it alone, but the game's better when you're playing with someone else, either in a battle mode, where both players perform the entire song simultaneously to see who does a better job, or in a duet mode, where players trade verses and earn a combined score. The game keeps online leaderboards, but ideally, the best way to find out how good you are is to get online. The game doesn't have any pure online competition, but you can take 30-second clips of your performances--helpfully recorded by an Xbox Live Vision camera, PlayStation Eye, or Kinect--slap a bunch of video effects on them, and upload them to a central server. Once there, other players can view the videos from inside the game or via the game's official website, effectively letting you share your videos with people who don't even own the game. 
 
The developer's plans for the official website are ambitious, but in its current state, it doesn't do much beyond letting you view videos and battle other users by selecting one of your uploaded videos and having your opponent do the same. Battles are done via user voting, which encourages the combatants to get all Web 2.0 with it and blast the video out to Facebook or Twitter, both of which are integrated into the site. But the site currently lacks a lot of basic features, sorting videos barely works, profile pages don't seem to actually list the videos uploaded by that user, and so on. Granted, the site is listed as a "beta" and will probably improve, but right now it's not quite the draw that it could be.

There are also some issues with the way the songs are presented. For starters, this is a T-rated game, so the songs are presented in an edited format. Actually, they're presented as music videos, which is pretty cool, since there are some classic music videos to be had here. But considering rap videos' penchant for breaking out of the song for a bit for a quick skit, the videos occasionally get in the way of the actual gameplay. While you're waiting for Diddy and Ben Stiller to shut up, you're also losing the tempo of the song a bit, making it a bit rougher to come back in than it needs to be. You can hit a button on the controller to skip long sections of non-gameplay, which is nice, but it also shines a pretty bright light on the fact that a lot of rap videos have a lot of filler in them. Also, a few of the songs are just ill-suited for the format. Salt 'n' Pepa's "Push It" is certainly a classic, but shouting "Ah... push it" into a microphone over and over again while occasionally breaking into some of the most insipid lyrics of all time only serves to remind you that "Push It" is actually a terrible song. It's like Def Jam Rapstar just robbed me of some of my youth or something. Some tracks also could have been broken up a bit better in duet mode, also, as songs like "Brass Monkey" by the Beastie Boys switch players in less-than-natural-sounding spots. You're also asked to sing the hooks on some songs, often immediately after finishing up a full verse, giving you no breaks at all--something that even the original artists don't do, since you're usually performing the lyrics of two or more artists. Some of the track-specific issues are offset by an already-healthy amount of DLC tracks, and it sounds like the plan is to add more tracks on a weekly basis.

 Flow with the bouncing ball.
In addition to all of the existing material, Def Jam Rapstar also comes with a collection of all-new instrumentals for use in the game's freestyle mode. Obviously, the game can't score you on your freestyles, so this is strictly useful for the game's video sharing component. The variety in the freestyle tracks is pretty good, with a range of tempos for you to employ. You can also choose to go with no backing track at all, but it would have been nice to see some sort of music import feature, to allow people to use their own tracks.

Some of the trimming around the outer edges is shaky, but the core of Def Jam Rapstar is rock-solid, and the community video feature is sure to provide a lot of entertainment on its own. If the game continues to release additional tracks at a decent pace and the community keeps posting videos, this could fill a huge gap for hip-hop fans who have been underserved by most other rhythm games. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
49 Comments
Posted by nukesniper

Welcome to the Rhythm Game, Defjam!

Edited by Donos

Blast, thought I had it.
 
Anyways, it's good to see a new entry to te music genre, we need more of those.

Edited by Kovski

While I knew you guys had fun with the game, I would never hactually guessed you thought it was a GOOD game. From what I saw in the QL it looked so lackluster and cheap that I laughed at it. 
I want more of Ted on the mike oscar mike!

Posted by Rockdalf

inb4 reach

Posted by CountYourBlessings

awesome!

Posted by KaiUnderneath

I'm happy this is good as it's about time a game like this came out. 
However...it's not for me.

Edited by dbz1995

Def Jam Rapstar
Got you spittin' bars
Like you got money to blow
On the next sold show
You got loadsa tracks
So you can kick back and relax
But some are locked, das peak
Motherfuckers on the street
Gonna be pissed, alie
Locked stuff should just die
When you wanna jam
With your friends or your fam
Because in the end you wanna shizzle
In your pad with yo nizzles
And if they think they sick
Give em a mic, watch em spit
My homies think dis cool
They be jackin up the pads
And all da parties and da crews
Think this game is the shit, man  
Freestyle in the hood
You can rhyme to a beat
That has swagger, straight up fresh
Show yo friends you a G
Say they're nothin' on me
Coz I know I'm a badass
Nobody mess with me
Coz they know I'm such a badass
So wid da freestyle, the tracks, the career and other shizzle
This game ain't da best but it ain't no fizzle
Def Jam Rapstar
got 4 stars
Nobody messes with da dons
From giantbomb.com.

Posted by hagridore

Why are rappers so in to Skeet Ulrich?

Posted by drag

This review smells like a vault. 

Posted by scarace360
@dbz1995: What are you doing?
Edited by MarkWahlberg

"Raposity" is probably not the best fake word to use in that situation...

Posted by FritzDude

It's good because Jeff says so.

Posted by Ladnar
@dbz1995:  fucking word
 
Same exactly feeling from "Push It".  All I could think was when is the song going to start.
Posted by MisterMouse

the subtitles below the pictures are boss

Posted by Sil3n7

This review is "Straight outta Compton"

Posted by ucankurbaga

How can there be a Rap game without a single Eminem song in it....

Posted by Solh0und

So this is 100 times better than Get on da mic....interesting.

Posted by HadesTimes

This game NEEDS a video review, don't you guys agree? LOL!

Online
Posted by Jeffmoocow

I'm interested in the game more after reading this review but I don't know if I will pick it up anytime soon or at full price especially when there are so many games coming out.

Edited by Einherjan

Def Jam Rapstar ain't nothin' ta fuck wit.

Posted by George_Hukas

You should quick look the DLC when it starts pouring in instead of Gameroom

Posted by HydraHam
@hagridore said:
" Why are rappers so in to Skeet Ulrich? "
Because skeet ulrich is the shit?
Posted by AhmadMetallic
@FritzDude said:
"

It's good because Jeff says so.

"
Posted by BigDo6

Sounds awesome! How do I suplex again?

Posted by daviddoel

Is there a legal issue why there is no Jay-Z or Eminem in the game? 

Posted by shadykx125

Everyone seems surprised that em an jay are missing, but in reality the game is missing lots of artists that need to be in something like this (Rakim, big daddy kane etc.). It seems we get to suffer through lil wayne insted. Allthought i would bet that there will be lots of eminem and jay-z in the dlc similar to dj-hero.  
Then again they did include some songs that surprised me (in a good way) Gotta shout them out for including childrens story and t.r.o.y. two of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time :)
Posted by Jeff
@shadykx125: Rakim is up right now as DLC with Paid In Full.
Staff
Posted by AlwaysBeClothing
@Jeff:   Any plans on a duo compilation with Ryan?
 
Ghost Eagle Redux!
Posted by Castiel

Can't wait for the video review where Jeff raps every single line!

Posted by DukesT3

Wooo! just like obama! and... whatever else ted said... 

Posted by M1M1C

 Ok Jeff, i think you and the rest of the Giant Bombians know what to do for TNT next week...    

Posted by issun187

Can't wait to play this. :)
Posted by CookieMonster

The song list for the Uk version of the game is AWFUL. Tinchy Stryder and N-Dubz are NOT rap.

Posted by Undeadpool
@LooseChange said:
" Wooo! just like obama! and... whatever else ted said...  "
Smellin' like a VAULT!
Posted by DukesT3
@ucankurbaga said:
" How can there be a Rap game without a single Eminem song in it.... "
He's probably a douche and feels his music is too good to be in a game. 
Posted by ShadowKing7
@LooseChange said:
" @ucankurbaga said:
" How can there be a Rap game without a single Eminem song in it.... "
He's probably a douche and feels his music is too good to be in a game.  "

Didn't he have some music in DJ Hero, or am I just thinking of someone else?
Posted by Chubbaluphigous
@ShadowKing7: He was in DJ Hero.  His name was even featured on the cover.  Activision loves exclusivity contracts.  I wouldn't be surprised if he isn't allowed to be in the game due to Activision.
Posted by matrix_hiei

I would get this if the music was better. I love hip-hop, but I hate the mainstream garbage that populates a high percentage of this game. I would love more underground stuff and more classic emcees.  Also, pretty much any Nas song other than the one they chose would be great.
 
Still, I love hip-hop, I love rapping, and I'll get this when it goes down in price. Hopefully DLC will improve the library.

Posted by shadykx125

haha i felt the same way about the nas song, any other song wudda been better. Also I get around is easily tupacs worst song ever, but i guess its the most mainstream and pop ish. 
Hopeful for dlc: 
rewind - nas 
ny state of mind - nas 
raw - big daddy kane 
anything else - tupac
Posted by fibanachi

Shock horror: Gerstmann gives a rap related game a good score.

Posted by JeffGoldblum
@fibanachi said:
" Shock horror: Gerstmann gives a rap related game a good score. "
So you're saying Jeff is giving this game a good score because he likes rap? 
He also likes video games, so why doesn't he give every single game a good score?
Posted by MrHammeh

Absolutely no interest whatsoever.  =\
 
And not because I don't like rap, I just see hardly any difference in this game and watching a video and rapping along with it.  Don't need a computer to tell me I did a good job. 

Posted by datarez

I so agree with everything in your review.  This is more of my post full of negatives.  Everything I don't mention has been really fun.   

  • No fucking menu option to turn the 5 fucking second background menu audio loop off.  Its driving me bat shit crazy.   
  • Playing Brass Monkey solo is balls.  It's too stupid hard.   Most songs are pretty eh solo.
  • Singing the vocals, balls.  It's hard to catch your breath when they want you to sing the whole time. 
  • Unlocking songs in any music game.  BALLS! 
  • No unlockable menu option to at least put the curse words in the lyrics.  There are whole lines that are just ... ... ...
Posted by InFamous91

nice

Posted by Addfwyn
@JeffGoldblum: While I agree with you, I think that comparison isn't quite accurate.  Rap is genre, whereas video games are a much broader category of products.  Jeff doesn't necessarily like every type of video game, whereas rap is a type of music. 
 
A better comparison would be to say that 'Jeff likes fighting games, but he has given a fighting game a bad score before".  
Posted by Silock
@nukesniper
Posted by Example1013

If the lyrics are censored, it's not all that great.

Posted by Chumm

Just picked this up, unlocking songs isn't too hard because it's based on mics (stars) not score, so can just run through on easy/medium. Only a few tracks I really like (Tribe, Slick Rick, Rob Base) but this is definitely more of a party game than anything, so the mainstream shit delivers. Feel like a douche buying Flo Rida DLC but damn sure that's gonna be the track people sing along to at a party.  
 
Doesn't seem to work with the xbox branded wireless mic though, at least not mine. 

Edited by Dahitman

This is a party game. It is easily adaptable aslong as you've been following rap/hip-hop for more than 5 years. And along with that the only big issue is the censored words that stops your flow. Besides that I have unlocked every song unlockable song within 2 and a half hours of playing on hard difficulty career mode, I noticed that this game accepts the gibberish if you messed up on a rhyme. Which I found to be useful while playing through career mode to unlock songs =).