To be fair, the combat isn't at all fruity. The bone-snapping sound effects induce cringes, and the hits are high-impact. There's an impressive level of interaction with the environments – several of the rings are surrounded by spectators who are more than willing to hold you in a full-nelson while your opponent wails on you, or smash a bottle over your head when you're not looking. Additionally, you can toss your opponent headfirst into walls and speakers, and rake his face against fences and ring ropes. It's truly painful stuff.
The combat system has more in common with WWE games than with Street Fighter, which is not a choice I'm sure I agree with. Grappling is a big part of gameplay; you need to grab your opponent in order to subject him to your more powerful moves, and this leads to a good amount of characters lunging around, looking like they're trying to get hugs, rather than delivering flurries of punches and kicks. The only way to defeat another fighter is to hit him with a special move when his health meter is flashing red. If you don't get to him in time, it goes back to green and you have to keep beating on him. This is often exasperating, but since knockouts can't be accomplished by a simple punch or kick, they're always vicious-looking. In particular, you can fill up your "Blazin'" meter in order to unleash a devastating, multi-staged attack. Pot references notwithstanding, these are some of the fiercest things I've ever seen in a fighting game.
I'm not against violence or mature content in games, but Fight for NY operates as such a rapturous paean to thug life that I have to balk. The game fully embraces misogyny and racial stereotypes, and as a guilty white guy I felt a little weird playing it. Characters talk an unbelievable amount of smack, from Redman's "I'm gonna pull your tongue out and lick my ass with it!" to Ice-T's "You're a punk, your dad's a punk, and your mom's a bitch." I'm sure this sort of thing is the game's core appeal – and it is amusing, at first – but it's so overbearing and pervasive that I found myself simply shaking my head after awhile.
Perhaps Def Jam Fight for NY is more ambitious than most fighting games. The cost simply to bring all of these stars on board must have been astronomical (then again, we all know how hard it is to get Method Man and Carmen Electra to appear in things). But, in the end, so what? This is a marginally acceptable fighting game trapped inside MTV's Direct Effect. You may like it. I don't.
Score: 5.5 (out of 10)
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