The trend of old games getting new life on the PlayStation Portable rolls on unabated with Def Jam: Fight for NY: The Takeover, an updated version of 2004's Def Jam: Fight for NY. A weird mixture of wrestling, fighting, and hip-hop, Fight for NY was one of the big surprises of that year, providing a brutally enjoyable combat system and an oddly engaging character-customization system to go along with some great presentational components. Ultimately, it's because that original game was so great that The Takeover manages to fly. It's certainly not because of new or original content, because this port is decidedly lacking in that area. But if you never got around to playing Fight for NY on consoles, you'll find that The Takeover is a great way to experience what you missed out on.
Think of Def Jam like Battle of the Network Stars, but with rappers instead of low-rent TV celebrities, and actual battling instead of lame track and field events.
For those uninitiated into Def Jam's urban world, the basic premise of the series is that New York's underground is run by a series of street-fighting crews. Money is made and respect is earned by these various brawlers by duking it out in arenas across the five boroughs. Also, many of the brawlers are played by real-life hip-hop personalities, ranging from East Coasters like Busta Rhymes and Method Man to West Coast stars like Snoop Dogg and Xzibit to dirty South crew members like Ludacris and David Banner. There's even a few celebrities from outside the confines of the hip-hop world, with actors like Omar Epps (House, Dracula 2000), Danny Trejo (Heat, Con Air), and Henry Rollins (Heat, Jack Frost) all making appearances as playable fighters. All told, there are 68 fighters available in the game, with a significant portion of those being real-life people.
The clashes of these various personalities and characters occur primarily within the game's story mode. Though The Takeover's storyline deviates from the original game's (it's actually supposed to be a prequel to the older Def Jam games, despite its liberal recycling of characters and situations from Fight for NY), you'll still play a nameless up-and-coming thug brought into the world of underground street fighting after rescuing one of the game's personalities from certain doom (in this case, Manny, the tattoo artist and fighter, rather than D-Mob, the gang boss from Fight for NY). Once you're in, you're given the opportunity to sculpt your character using the same type of sketch-artist system as the first game. There aren't a ton of options available from the get-go, but you can make a suitable character of varying races, builds, and facial constructions. When that's over with, it's on to battle.
After you've claimed one of the five boroughs as your hood, you get to work almost immediately, jumping into battle against the various brawlers of this fair city. You'll be doing a lot of fighting, too, so it's good that the fighting engine is so strong. Like the Def Jam games before it, The Takeover uses a version of the old AKI wrestling game engine, though this isn't just a wrestling game. Each character is given a choice of up to five fighting styles, including wrestling, submissions, kickboxing, martial arts, and street fighting. When you start out, you can only choose one basic style, but over time, you'll earn training points that can be used to buy both new moves and new styles. In all, you'll be able to add up to three different styles to your arsenal. Combining new styles fundamentally changes the dynamic of how your character plays, as well as what moves he uses. A wrestler will start out relying heavily on grapples, but if you toss in submission moves and eventually kickboxing, you'll find yourself shifting more toward kicking combos that set up for a grapple and lead into a submission hold. And if you prefer to focus your efforts, you can learn the same style three times to up your skill at it and gain new maneuvers.
Many of hip-hop's best and brightest are on hand here, though the roster is pretty much the same as it was back in 2004.
In the ring, or the arena, or the warehouse, or the bar, or whatever other seedy place you're fighting in, your goal is to knock your opponent out or make them submit. Most times you'll just be KOing them, however, and apart from your typical moves and special attacks, you can use the environment to your advantage. Throw opponents up against the wall, grapple them, and then use one of several different ways to smash their face into the aforementioned wall, for example. Or, you can toss an opponent toward the crowd, and they'll hold the fighter while you walk up and smash a beer bottle over the person's face. You can even toss clouds of dust into an opponent's eye if you happen to be on a particularly dirty floor.
With so many different ways to bust down an opponent, and the relative ease of the controls and combos, The Takeover is not an overly tough game. If you find the normal difficulty too breezy, there is a harder difficulty mode. But the satisfaction derived from the combat is more about the sheer brutality of the action than it is the difficulty of it. Every single hit in The Takeover looks like it hurts badly. From the way the camera shudders when you lay in a particularly brutal strike, to the cringe-inducing cracks and smashes of people's faces, bodies and limbs being broken into pieces, to the sheer ludicrousness of the game's various finishing maneuvers (playing jump rope with your opponent's body, anyone?), The Takeover is raucously entertaining in its depiction of street combat.