There definitely isn’t a shortage of karaoke games on the market for console gamers. From Singstar to U-SING and even the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series’, there are plenty of great party titles out there to get your vocal cords chirping and your neighbors cursing. While there’s an abundance of pop and rock karaoke titles out there, Def Jam Rapstar attempts to fill a void with rap, a genre very much reliant on good rhythm, quick words, and a great beat. Thankfully, Def Jam Rapstar does the genre justice, incorporating a number of great, well-known rap tracks that offer plenty of challenge and enjoyment. While the title is not without its problems, there are so many great beats included that fans of both rap and karaoke should find plenty of value within it.
What Def Jam Rapstar Got Right
Great Tracklist – Put simply, the tracklist in Def Jam Rapstar is jammin’! There are 45 songs included (as well as the possibility of DLC) with some real gems in there to get you up and singing like a pro. While some of the tracks have obvious lyric omissions, you can fill in the naughty words without penalty, which is good so as not to distance the experience from people that enjoy the tracks as they were originally intended. All the legends of rap are here — 2Pac, Puff Daddy, Notorious B.I.G., Kanye West – and they’re countered with a number of irritating submissions, such as Lil Wayne and Lil Kim. Still, a majority of the tracklist is great, and while many of the tracks are quite old, anyone that has listened to mainstream radio in the past 20 years should recognise and appreciate them. Furthermore, most of the tracks are available from the get-go in party mode. While it would have been great to see the likes of Mos Def and Kid Cudi in there, Def Jam Rapstar offers an energetic and overall great collection of rap tracks.
Great Online Community – The online community element in this title is quite superb. Not only does the game rate your performance when rapping with a track, but it also records it, allowing you to upload your videos and rapping techniques to a robust network. In there, people can compete against one another and enter into popularity contests. If you have an Xbox Live Vision camera you can record your performance and edit a short 30-second clip to upload effortlessly to the network where others can rate your skills. The clips can be edited with a number of cool little effects, and while you can only edit and select sections immediately after you finish a song, signing up and contributing to the social network is an easy and fun process.
Freestyle Mode is the Bomb! – Freestyle mode in Def Jam Rapstar definitely won’t appeal to everyone, especially those that are a little shy when behind the mic. The mode allows you to get creative and make up your own rhymes to the beat of another track, which plays minus the original lyrics. These instrumental versions can be unlocked via other modes alongside new effects you can use when editing videos. The freestyle mode encourages creativity and can be quite the blast with friends, especially if the beat is well known and you’re able to generate a beat on your own that mimics the original tune.
Great DLC – If the great 45 strong tracklist in Def Jam Rapstar wasn’t enough, there are already a number of great new songs available for download from the game store. While it would be good to see some more recent tracks, there’s plenty of other memorable and old classics there waiting to be downloaded, and the hope is that Konami continues to support the title. When you factor in the online community and the creative elements, a robust downloadable catalogue would only further add to the title’s worth, of which is already considerably high.
Accessible to the worst of rappers – While there’s a number of different difficulties in Def Jam Rapstar and some really challenging songs to rap along to, this is overall a fairly accessible title for those of us that lack any sense of rhythm. The game doesn’t really punish you for wrong words or a missed beat, and while it’s certainly possible to fail a song, you’d have to suck beyond words for that to happen. This is definitely the kind of experience that guides you in the right direction without holding your hand too much, which makes it an accessible party title for casual gamers.
What Def Jam Rapstar Got Wrong:
Too Forgiving – Unfortunately, Def Jam Rapstar can just be too forgiving sometimes. This can lead to a community filled with people that just flat out suck, as opposed to one filled with talented rappers that know how to counter intense rhythms and beats. The bouncing ball that moves from word to word as a guide moves too quickly to be of any real assistance, and even if you can’t keep up with the track you can still progress through the song with minimal punishment.
Mapping Issues – Rather strangely, some tracks have you rapping to certain parts and not to others, despite the fact the actual rapper singing is the initial artist you rhymed along with. Whether this direction was intentional or not is unknown, but it makes the experience feel rather inconsistent at times, as one moment you can be singing along to 2Pac before you’re just sitting waiting for your cue while 2Pac continues on with his skills.
Censoring Blows – Quite disappointingly, a number of tracks have been heavily censored, with large chunks of words cut out so as to fit within the teenage classification. While it’s definitely not a deal breaker and the game won’t punish you for saying the right lyrics, it definitely makes the experience feel less genuine, especially when the censoring compromises the meaning and rhythm of the track.