For years, people have gathered around the television, USB-powered microphones in hand, and tested their singing prowess across a wide variety of musical genres. Karaoke games like SingStar and Lips track pitch and timing to rate how a singer is doing, but because rap songs involve more rhythmic speaking than tuneful singing, the genre has been underrepresented in such games. Enter Def Jam Rapstar. As the instantly recognizable name suggests, the game features songs from some of the most famous rap acts in the world, both past and present. The songlist is impressive, and though there are some questionable choices when it comes to what parts you do and don't sing on a given song, the added dimension of lyric tracking allows the game to reward you for singing the right words. Rapstar can not only rate your performances, but record them as well, and there is a community Web site dedicated to creating a video-fueled social network where players can emulate the pros by posting their videos, representing their crew, and challenging each other to popularity contests. The community features add some depth to what is otherwise a fairly predictable karaoke game, making Def Jam Rapstar an entertaining endeavor for both aspiring emcees and weekend wannabes.
6281054NoneIt's all about the self-aggrandizement, baby.
Any self-respecting karaoke game lets you get straight to singing from the get-go, and Def Jam Rapstar does just that. In any mode, one player can sing solo, or two players can either sing a duet or battle each other for a high score. Party mode offers most of the robust songlist right away, from old-school tracks like Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" to recent hits like "Live Your Life" by T.I. feat. Rihanna. Lyrics range from tongue-twisting (Busta Rhymes' "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See") to mind-numbing (Soulja Boy Tell'em's "Turn My Swag On"), and though there are some notable omissions, Def Jam Rapstar covers an impressive cross-section of the genre. The game is, however, rated T for Teen, so some of your favorites may have gaping holes where lyrics should be (especially if you're a Lil' Kim fan), though you can fill them in without penalty. Seeing the references to older songs in more recent songs helps cultivate a neat sense of continuity across the 45-song catalog, and there are already more tracks available for download and purchase from the online store.
There are two types of judging mechanics at work in Def Jam Rapstar. Melodic sections are represented by bars that indicate the relative length and pitch of each note in the phrase, as is the standard in karaoke games. Rap sections display a dot over each syllable, and a bouncing ball indicates when you should speak each one. The pace of the ball is meant to dictate your cadence, but it is small and moves quickly, so it doesn't make a very good guide. While it's possible to use the pitch bars to guess what the pitch and duration of a given note are, players who are unfamiliar with a song will likely have a harder time picking out the rap sections. If you're braving an unfamiliar track, your best bet is to listen to the rapper and try to follow his or her cadence, though some artists make that easier than others. Some tracks can also cause problems for solo players because of odd phrasing that, for example, makes you sing the lead vocals and the chorus in rapid succession (like "Put On" by Young Jeezy feat. Kanye West). Nelly's "Hot in Herre" has you sing both the male and female parts of the call-and-answer chorus, while some other melodic sections have you sing a pitch that isn't the obvious choice. Finding a spare moment to breathe and picking out the right pitch can occasionally be challenging, but on the whole, Def Jam Rapstar does a solid job of presenting the songs and tracking your performance.
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