Friday, November 5, 2010

Get on the mic with 'Rapstar'

Def Jam Rapstar
Developed by: 4mm Games
Published by: Konami / Autumn Games
Available: NOW
Rated: T for Teen
Available on: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
Price: $59.99 (with microphone)

Here's a secret about me - when I was a teen, I had a rap group with my homie Cool C. We called ourselves the Tomcatters - I was Wild E. (after the coyote) and he was, of course, Cool C. We spit some rhymes, but nothing like Public Enemy, N.W.A. or Eric B. and Rakim. However, we knew how to bounce our heads to the likes of Too Short, Biz Markie and MC Lyte.

Now, we're grown, I'm at the 29-95 covering video games, Cool C is doing his thing in Iraq, but our love for hip hop is as strong as ever. Def Jam Rapstar puts the mic into our hands with some throwback tracks, some new skool stuff and most definitely some classic hip hop joints.

Now, instead of jamming to the likes of White Snake, Hendrix and Aerosmith on Rock Band 3, we can test our rhyming skills with the legends of hip hop.

Developed by 4mm Games and published by Konami/Autumn Games, Rapstar takes a page from the popular Disney Sing It! video game series and lets you gamers in a quick match, form a rap career and battle online.

For any music video game to survive, there has to be a great selection of songs. Rapstar doesn't disappoint. From the classic tracks by Biz Markie Just a Friend and LL Cool J's Mama Said Knock You Out to newer jams, such as Put On by Young Jeezy featuring Kanye West and the annoying-as-hell A Millie by recently released Lil Wayne, plus several new tracks from up and coming rappers.

The good news? You can always snag more jams from the online store.

The bad news? The selection isn't very big, but that's fine.

You have a few choices to get on the mic and rhyme. You can play the career mode and rap through a set of songs to unlock more songs. You can also battle others, and if you have the PS3 version, you can use the Eye to record a clip of you spitting, upload it to the Rapstar Web site and even let people critique it.

If you are familiar with Rock Band and Guitar Hero, you know how it works. You follow the words on screen and hit them as fast as you can. This is actually easier said than done. As a hip hop head since the early '80s, I can flow and rap along with the best of them. However, with a mic in your hand, you will soon realize how fast these rappers are going. And even for the slow talking Biggie Smalls, he was on point and keeping up is not an easy task, even on the easy setting. And if you are new to this, don't even think about taking a Twista track out for a spin. You'll find your tongue in the ER after it's all over.

There is a training mode that lets you practice on songs if you are having problems or want to see where you stack up with the cut.

The game is solid - and will most definitely have the appeal of Gen-Xers and anyone into hip hop.

The graphics are ok: the videos look great and the older ones will most definitely take you way, way back. You'll feel like you are back in your room, watching "Yo MTV Raps!" and rapping to the TV.

I definitely had a blast with Rapstar. The game fills a huge void for hip hop fans who don't have Lips on the 360, which uses any music track. The few hip hop tracks in Rock Band and Guitar Hero are pathetic, so the song selection really adds something for everyone who enjoys hip hop, regardless of age.

There are a few issues I have with the game.

The first issue is the T rating. With a T rating, the songs have some swear words and omits others. Basically, you get songs that are not quite as butchered as Wal-Mart versions but not full strength either. Either put the full, unedited version of the songs into the games or select songs that you could play in front of granny, Jesus and Mother Theresa. Don't go there unless you are going to stay.

The next issue? The small clips you can record. You can clip and upload only 30 seconds. That's OK since the service is free, but it would be nice to give a longer time for gamers to record. I want to send my homie holding it down in Iraq a clip of me, donning a white Beethoven wig and rapping Biz Markie's Just a Friend.

The verdict? 3 (out of 4) Rapstar does something that other music video games doesn't do. It puts YOU into the action. Even with the short clip you can record, now you can show other gamers all over the globe that you have skills. Yes, it's just 30 seconds, but it's something that other developers will add to their offerings in the near future. The song selection is vast and as long as more songs are added to the store, gamers will not want to put the mic down. Rapstar is not perfect, but it's the only game on the market that gives gamers a chance to spit rhymes with the likes of Biggie Smalls, Pac and Twista. It's got my vote.

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