Def Jam: ICON

Although never mentioned in the same breath as Virtua Fighter, Tekken and Soul Calibur, the Def Jam games have managed to hold their own. This is likely to be down to the fact that they aren’t actually developed by EA in-house, but rather by Japanese developer Yukes, best known for THQ’s WWE games. This goes a long way to explaining why the fighting in Def Jam is never as fluid or spontaneous as the aforementioned beat ‘em up heavyweights.

Def Jam: ICONYukes aren’t involved this time though – EA Chicago are doing the developing in conjunction with the Fight Night Round 3 team. Not that you would be able to tell, as it still feels a bit sluggish at times. Sure, you can hammer out a barrage of punches easily enough, but it’s nothing like Power Stone where you can run around like a child high on Lucozade and red Smarties.

As far as the graphics are concerned though we’re into Fight Night Round 3 territory, with detailed character models and faces that get bruised and battered as battles go on. But if you’re thinking that this is an EA game so there’s not going to be any creativity, then you’re in for a shock – they’ve done good with the backgrounds.

The demo is set in petrol station – complete with a worried owner hiding behind locked doors – and at first it looks like there’s an earthquake going on as the background starts to warp. It doesn’t take long to realise that it’s you doing the damage – the surrounding environments are ‘alive’ and respond to what you’re doing. Push the opposition into the petrol pumps and the corrugated iron roof ripples like water; shove them into a parked car and it’ll split perfectly into six. It’s utterly unrealistic, very stylish, and a little unexpected at first.

The full game is out 9th March on Xbox 360 and at launch for PlayStation 3, while the demo is available now on the Xbox Live Marketplace weighing in at just under 400MB. It’s a bit of a stingy demo – two characters, one place to fight in – but worth a download just to admire the background carnage. It’s fat (phat).

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