Def Jam Rapstar

Rap Music, My Droogs!

Def Jam Rapstar ably fills a major void in music games.
Author: J.D. Cohen
Published: October 22, 2010
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Def Jam Rapstar is not officially related to SingStar, but the echo is surely intentional, and it's apt. Imagine a karaoke game with nothing but hip-hop, and you have a general idea of what to expect. You also can probably guess whether or not that's something you'd like, but I'll go into more detail anyway, because I like to hear myself talk. Players rap along with songs (with the original vocal tracks present or not according to preference) and are rated based on timing, lyrics and pitch (for songs with singing bits). It's hard to tell just how precise the game is at detecting lyrics, but it's sophisticated enough that you can't get away with spitting gibberish.

There's some kind of scoring system happening with meters and multipliers, but without manual power activation a la Guitar Hero or Rock Band, it's immaterial. There is only one gameplay strategy: don't screw up. Don't worry too much, though, as you can't fail out of a song, and unless you're a trophy hunter, there's no reason to set the difficulty higher than you can handle. There are three main difficulty settings available form the start, none of which is particularly hard. On the highest, yours truly is able to achieve full marks on tracks which he has never heard before. (I say this to illustrate how forgiving the game is, as I don't exactly have devastating mic control.) There is one further level which is unlocked via the career in which lyrics are not displayed onscreen.

Def Jam Rapstar contains a flimsy, short career mode which you'll want to blaze through in order to unlock the handful of songs that aren't available from the get-go. Things are mixed up a bit with a few challenges that have specific victory conditions, but as always, the only real objective is to not screw up. It is possible to progress through the career with a friend by attacking songs in duet mode, which is naturally the most fun way to play. Lyrics are split up between players in a sensible manner, offering a choice of artist in the cases where it makes sense. For instance, in a duet of "C.R.E.A.M.", one player will do Raekwon's part while the other does Inspectah Deck's verse, and both players will chime in together for Method Man's hook. In some cases, the split seems a bit unfair, as in the Public Enemy tracks; Flavor Flav doesn't say much, so it's a lot more fun to be Chuck D. Battles are present, and both players do everything in them, so there can be no accusations flung around about who got the easier part.

The multiplayer is essentially offline-only, though challenges can be issued through the community site, features of which can be accessed both in-game and via a web browser. The community site is also where images and videos end up when they are uploaded by users who have the PlayStation Eye. If you watch this video of me butchering the opening of "Mama Said Knock You Out" (videos are limited to 30 second clips) you can see this feature in action, along with a couple of the video effects available in the editor. Audio effects (such as delay and chorus) can be applied in the editor as well. These effects and images are unlocked over the course of the career, and the audio effects can be triggered while playing.
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