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Def Jam Rapstar GamesCom 2009 Preview

Developed by Terminal Reality and newly founded 4mm Games - a company formed by two creators of Rockstar Games - Def Jam Rapstar sets out to fill a lucrative gap in the market left by the disappointing 2004 PS2 title Get On Da Mic, which showed how quality rap content does not necessarily make up for poorly integrated gameplay mechanics. Def Jam Rapstar certainly looked slick from the off-set: the menu and interfaces are smartly dressed in black and gold whilst music videos smoothly play as you browse the selection of hip-hop music on offer. A healthy range of top hip-hop talent from the past 30 years is promised, with a handful of region specific tracks included to help aid familiarity with players.

Def Jam Rapstar

The basic gameplay of Def Jam Rapstar simply involves rapping along to a track to the best of your ability as you would in Singstar, but this is where the similarities end. Using phoneme technology, Def Jam Rapstar makes humming or whistling to the music a scoreless effort. Instead you need to show a prowess in matching the actual words with the right pitch and timing, gradually trying to build up points and the score multiplier as continuous syllables, beats and notes are matched. The music video plays in the background and accompanying lyrics are displayed, along with an indication of what beat and pitch is needed next. A final score is calculated at the end and a rating dished-out.

In my play-test I rapped against James Waller, Project Coordinator of Def Jam Enterprises, using Kanye West's classic track "Gold Digger". In this Battle Mode we were up against each other to score the highest points total, singing the chorus simultaneously but the other verses separately. Even though I have nothing to compare the experience to, I enjoyably got into the role of rapping as it didn't involve any embarrassing high pitch squealing like in Singstar. The scoring system worked well, with my rough newbie effort beaten 10-to-1 by the excellent rapping James demonstrated. I now yearn for a few more attempts to better understand the words and improve my score, perhaps providing some actual competition.

Def Jam Rapstar

Enjoyment in Def Jam Rapstar needn't stop when the music does; 4mm Games are setting out to inspire an online community here. Xbox Live Vision and PlayStation Eye cameras can record the whole process of you smugly rapping, after which you can add various video effects such as crowds and lighting. 30 seconds of this music video can then be uploaded to the Def Jam Rapstar community website with minimal effort - just a little patience depending on your internet connection.

Music videos uploaded to the community site can then be viewed, rated and even played off against one another, with users voting to decide which is best. The developer is even catering for the more camera shy user - support positions such as manager and promoter will be available, so instead of working alone a rapper can find fame as part of collective team. This creates the potential to launch aspiring and talented rappers into the limelight of the community, meaning that the game doesn't stop when the console is switched off.

Def Jam Rapstar

All this and I am yet to mention the Freestyle mode. These special music tracks are mixed by top hip-hop producers, to which you can rap along with your own lyrics. Unlike the other licensed tracks, the full music video can be uploaded, and while no score is given in-game, user feedback will prove to be a vital tool. A flourish of DLC after release will continue to build-up Def Jam Rapstar, adding new music tracks and video objects. It should also be noted that previously owned microphone peripherals should work with the game, so a single retail copy of the game may be all that is needed, though other packages will be on offer if starting from scratch.

Should Def Jam Rapstar rise to the occasion and meet its criteria then this will be a title all aspiring rappers should look into, and as I found out, it's not just limited to that one market. In my short time with Def Jam Rapstar I genuinely had a good time, which, due to my inexperience with this type of game, isn't something I was expecting to say. The gameplay method looks strongly implemented and, when released on the Xbox 360 and PS3 in early 2010, the online community element has the potential to make Def Jam Rapstar reach the big-time.

POBmaestro | 26th August, 2009
Rasher's picture
I will just add to this.

I popped along to the appointment with Pob, but i was running late.
Both of us wasn't expecting to like this title, as either of us like the singstar type games or like standing in front of people singing...

when i came in, Pob was well in to it rapping away
apart from being well impressed that he was having a go, i couldn't believe he wanted another go at the end.

They really have put a lot of work in to this and i can see this being a great party/friends around game.
The community of games normally come "next"
but they have put a lot of time in to the community side of this already,

we even talked to them about popping down to one of our smaller LANs so you guys could take a look at it and give some views.

Impressed i am, by this title.
Angelfromabove's picture
I saw this on XBL yesterday, it actually looks like good fun!
This is something i would never normally be interrestred in, rap aint my game lol But i wouldnt mind trying it!

Good preview too

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