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Def Jam: Icon Review

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Def Jam makes the soundtrack music an integral part of the gameplay.

★★★★

While EA’s Def Jam brawlers have consistently delivered solid fisticuffs, lush visuals and a soundtrack to die for, the series has done little to evolve the fighting genre or attract players unmoved by hip-hop’s wicked beats. But in making the music an intrinsic part of the combat, Icon takes an intriguing new approach to the traditional beat ’em up formula, offering an experience that will seduce more than kids whose bedroom walls are plastered in Tupac posters.

During the battles, music beats can trigger environmental hazards such as pillars of flame erupting from petrol pumps or bolts of electricity streaking from power sockets, challenging players to listen carefully to the songs and time their attacks for maximum impact. Moreover, you don’t have to wait for a teeth-rattling downbeat to shake the room as players can use the thumbsticks to scratch the music forwards and backwards, skill on the virtual decks allowing you to trigger deadly chains of events and blast your rival around the arena like a rag doll. Crucially, players are also given the option to use their own music during battles, making for hilarious face offs if you pit Big Boi against The Game to a twee backdrop of Dolly Parton warblings.

Like in EA’s boxing classic Fight Night Round 3, players can also forsake the controller’s buttons and use the thumbsticks to execute every move, with the left stick controlling movement and rolls while the right unleashes punches, kicks and throws. And while this system will take a while for seasoned Tekken or Virtua Fighter nuts to master, the setup also marks the game out from the crowd and makes Icon worth a shot, even if the world of bad-ass hip-hop leaves you cold.

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