Thugs square off.

Photo courtesy EA Games

Bling Bling!

From it's opening, "Def Jam Vendetta - Fight for New York" is a heaping helping of that good ole' gangsta sh--. From the hip-hop studded soundtrack to the nearly endless stream of obscenities in the cut scenes, Vendetta makes no apologies for what it is: a brutal, gritty street fighting game.

After an introductory cut scene that sets the plot in motion, you have to create your character. This is a ball. Choose from a plethora of body types, head shapes, noses, lips ears eyes hair and so on to build a thug you can truly call your own. My character ended up being a mocha-skinned, more Latino-looking version of Vin Diesel. Also during this selection process, you pick a fighting style for your character.

Your choices are:

  • Street fighting
  • Martial arts
  • Kick Boxing
  • Submission
  • Wrestling

This is Def Jam, so I opted for street fighting.

Do not be a playa hater

Photo courtesy EA Games

In the next cut scene, your buddy Blaze (AKA Method Man) introduces you to your new boss D-Mob. Since you're on the lamb, you are given a place to stay and a job in this band of merry minstrels. It's a nice touch that D-Mob's buddies are playing GameCube as indicated by the controllers in their hand. Why, that's precisely the game console I'm playing this game on! That must mean I have street cred! I can only imagine that in the Xbox version of Vendetta, their hands are filled with nice black S-controllers, but I digress.

Next, you see your new pad. Your apartment functions as the game's menu screen, where you can access the game's many features. Change clothes, check messages, change music or most importantly pick your next fight on a map. Being the fashion maven that I am, I opted to hit my wardrobe and check out my options. I had none. No clothes and no money. It would appear I was going to have to fight to make some cash so I could buy clothes (... story of my life).

Pimpin' ain't easy.

Photo courtesy EA Games

I discovered you could take your clothes off while in the closet, so I immediately disrobed. This put me in the ring wearing nothing but underwear. Never underestimate the psychological effects of fighting someone wearing nothing but dingy boxer-briefs.

Next it's off to a short -- and only partially helpful -- training fight, where you pound on one of D-Mob's buddies. This introduces the basic controls. As far as fighting games go, this is where Vendetta hops in a lowrider and skips town with your money and your girl. Vendetta is built on a wrestling game engine, and a wrestling game is really what it is. So you may be good at fighting games but I almost guarantee Vendetta will take a minute to get used to.

It goes like this: You have two buttons for upper and lower body attacks. Another button will activate variations on these attacks. The control pad or D-pad will also affect these attacks. There is a block button and a run button. The most important button is the grapple button, which can be used to grab an opponent. Grapples need to be followed with an upper or lower body attack. Once your opponents on the ground, another lower or upper body attack will hit them while they are down.

The grapple button can also be used to pick up weapons. Weapons range from bottles to brooms, crow bars to mufflers. There is a taunt button, so you can talk trash in a fight. What this amounts to is opportunities for your opponent to smack the taste from your mouth while you're busy running it. In a fight, you have to wear you opponent down to a danger level and then finish him with a specific attack. There are environmental attacks, weapon attacks, and blaze attacks. To be honest, I couldn't figure out how to use or execute these attacks this early in the game. What this all amounts to is a fighting game that is more about strategy and timing and less about speed. This is no game for button mashers. This is a thinking thug's game.

After the training, you get into the meat of the game. On the map in your apartment, venues open up for fights. Each fight has a purse that can be added to by pulling off crazy moves and winning side bets. My first fight was with Trick. Normally in fighting games, your first opponent has a glass jaw. That's not the case with Trick. I got smoked. After three tries I beat him and won some money and experience points. Now back at the map, I was able to use the experience points to upgrade some of my abilities. You cash in your experience points at the gym, with your personal trainer Henry Rollins --- not bad. With the money, I picked up a hat, some pants, a jacket and a fire red hair dye job.

Two more fights went by quickly, and more money and more points put me back in the gym and at the shops blinging it up, buying jewelry, tattoos, more clothes and accessories. I spent some time refining my look and as the hour came to a close it was time to fight Ice-T. He beat the bling out of me. It's Ice-T, what'd you expect?

Hour's up.