Is Def Jam Rolling Out New ‘Vendetta’ Video Game?
Def Jam has hinted it might be re-activating its popular professional wrestling/fighting video game franchise, which began with Def Jam: Vendetta in 2003, but which has not been seen since the third game in the series, Def Jam: Icon, was released in 2007 to tepid reviews.
In case you’ve forgotten — or you weren’t into video games back then, but now enjoy a solid pixelized scrap on occasion — Def Jam: Vendetta was a game with a unique premise, namely to put pumped-up versions of famous rappers in the ring and compel them to wrestle you, or at least your character in the game. This wasn’t Greco-Roman wrestling like you see in the Olympics or at high schools; this was professional wrestling like you see in hockey arenas with people named Hulk, the Undertaker and the Bludgeon Brothers.
In the original Def Jam: Vendetta, your character had to run a gauntlet of rappers-turned-wrestlers to rescue the lovely Angel (voiced by Christina Milian). That gauntlet was impressive — DMX, Method Man, Redman, Ludacris, N.O.R.E., Capone, Scarface, Ghostface Killah, DFunkmaster Flex and more. As your character fought his way through them (using kicks, punches, elbows, slams and the like) you became more skilled and your opponents tougher.
Watch Redman and Method Man Tag-Team in 'Def Jam: Vendetta'
Hip-hop-loving gamers were obviously pleased with being able to take on their favorite MCs in the ring (and listen to a cool soundtrack while they did it) or pit them against one another, but they also tended to be impressed by the gaming controls and the moves that were at their disposal. Def Jam: Vendetta used the popular AKI gaming engine, which was the benchmark for fighting games (particularly professional wrestling games) for years. It offered gamers a quality experience, and as a result, Def Jam: Vendetta received positive reviews. One reviewer called it “fast, fluid, and [featuring] an almost perfectly balanced wrestling engine.”
You finished Def Jam Vendetta when you defeated all the rappers, as well as the underground boss, D-Mob, and rescued Angel. D-Mob is taken away in handcuffs, which sets the scene for the second game in the series, Def Jam: Fight for NY, which came out in 2004. The game begins with D-Mob being sprung from the police by “The Hero,” who is the protagonist, controlled by the player. The Hero must then navigate through the bosses, henchmen and other fighters in the New York criminal underground in order to take on and kill his main adversary to win the game.
Watch Snoop Fight Flava Flav in 'Def Jam: Fight for NY'
The hip-hop royalty represented in the game included Lil' Kim, Snoop Dogg, Fat Joe, Mobb Deep, Prodigy, Ice-T, Xzibit, Flava Flav and Busta Rhymes. Method Man, Redman, N.O.R.E and Ludacris return from Def Jam: Vendetta. The action in the game relied more on the environment — more walls to throw an opponent into; more gates to slam in their faces. There are burning rooms, underground garages, dojos and more visually interesting locales. Your character could also use weapons — crowbars, baseball bats and the like. Def Jam: Fight for NY was popular with critics and gamers alike. One critic called it “the most underrated fighting game ever.”
Def Jam: Icon was released in 2007 and was quite different from the previous two installments. Gone was the AKI engine and with it, most of the pro wrestling game control. Replacing it was more close-up brawling, like the popular Fight Night boxing series. The environments of the fights were less wrestling ring, more urban landscape (rooftops, streets, subways, etc.), and the music playing in a given environment could cause the entire scene to move with whatever beats were being played.
Watch Ludacris and Mike Jones Go at It in 'Def Jam: Icon'
The main story is contained in the “Build a Label” mode, in which a character you create builds a hip-hop empire by bringing artists into the fold and controlling all distribution aspects of their releases. This is kind of a snooze, after the depth of the storylines in the first two games, but the visuals are stunning. The gameplay, however, was not well received; one critic noted the environments “can't completely hide the kiddie-pool depth of the fighting system.“ Another likewise praised the environments, but of the gameplay said, “it’s just not as wild and entertaining” as previous Def Jam games.
And that was it for Def Jam wrestling games. Are the company’s most recent teases harbingers for a new series or a new generation of the classic games of its past? Time will tell, though it might be smart to start limbering up your thumbs.