E3 2010: Def Jam Rapstar PreviewBy Sterling McGarvey - Posted Jun 17, 2010
What We Already Know:
Take one part SingStar and one part licensed tracks spanning 20+ years of hip-hop. Emphasize stacatto-driven lyric delivery over note pitches and accuracy. Shake well, serve chilled.
What We're Seeing Today:
At E3, 4mm Games debuted more details on its online mode. A Def Jam rep performed Outkast's "So Fresh, So Clean" while recording himself on with an Xbox Live Vision camera. After finishing up, he showed off how the game lets you edit still images of yourself, add color filtering effects, insert clip art into certain parts of a track (one replayed video performance of Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day" featured pop-up clip art of a guy dunking during the "which park are y'all playing basketball" line of the song).
The rep then uploaded his video to the Def Jam Rapstar servers. In my opinion, there's not a lot here that you haven't seen executed in karaoke games before -- My SingStar has already made huge strides in building community around it with most of these features -- but it's all done with a bit more...swagger here.
Although it definitely resembles Sing Star's hub, it's all done on the web, which makes community participation easier, since you can interact from anywhere (rather than just on a PS3 console). The Rapstar website looks to have plenty of features that should make it simple for gamers and non-gamers to participate in voting and commenting on user videos. Facebook Connect functionality ensures that your performances will show up on your wall, and friends can comment and vote on your videos, even if they don't have a game console.
In addition, a few producers, such as Just Blaze and DJ Premier have commissioned instrumentals -- they played one of Just Blaze's, and the nod was in effect within 16 bars -- for you to freestyle over and upload as well. That ties well into another section of the site. When people vote on your videos, they can call you out in a battle for votes on who performed a song best, or who delivered a better freestyle.
Your account will have a certain amount of reputation tied to it, so if you've gotten enough positive votes, you'll have good rep, but you can sabotage it by not accepting challenges. Rapstar representatives then showed off the battle page on the website, where you could see two videos side by side, as well as each player's rep standing. The interface looks fairly easy to use, and voting is a cinch.
In my opinion, the online mode in Def Jam Rapstar is nothing you haven't seen before in other karaoke games, but its accessibility is the real hook. By taking the community hub outside the game and putting it within the grasp of your friends and family, it's much easier to build up participation. I think it will live or die based on a combination of this online feature and how frequently 4mm Games can deliver DLC tracks. For now, it doesn't look like a bad start.