From ‘GRAW 2′ to ‘Def Jam: Icon’ … ugh

I filed the review for ‘GRAW 2′ earlier today, so it should be up and running by the end of the week. Focused a little bit on the social aspect of the game, since it arrives at a time when stuff like the Minutemen, border tensions, and immigration issues are still regulars on the mainstream media. Hell, the game even ticked off the mayor of Juarez, the Mexican border city (and the main battlefield of GRAW 2).

I won’t rehash the review here … I liked the storytelling and the pace of the action more in this game than the last one, and I had a blast playing multiplayer, despite some lag issues and the lack of a bonafide cover system that was available in single player.

What I will expound on a little is the whole Tom Clancy-vs.-brown people trend that we mentioned on Friday’s All Games Interactive. Essentially, aside from Splinter Cell, you’re asked to shoot a lot of Mexicans in GRAW, Rainbow Six: Vegas, and now GRAW 2. I’m not saying this is a problem — just something I noticed.

What intrigues me about some of the complaining concerning the Clancy games is that it centers around image. Rainbow Six got slammed because there was fear the game projected a negative image of the city. Same with the Mayor of Juarez.

Let’s start with Vegas. It’s fine with being called Sin City, it has legalized prostitution, and an ad campaign that actually pokes fun at its own reputation for debauchery. There are TV shows dedicated to the shenanigans that happens in the casinos and some of its crime — and did I mention the legalized prostitution?

But once a scenario gets cooked up when terrorists use the city as a staging ground for its operations, then there’s a problem? Everything I just mentioned was true — yet there’s an uproar about a piece of fiction that focuses on fighting terrorism.

Now comes Juarez, which has been known as a haven for violent drug cartels for years. I happen to work with one of the better immigration reporters around (if you’re interested, she’s Sara A. Carter) and I’ve heard stuff about her trips to border towns that are bone-chilling. She went to Nuevo Laredo, which isn’t exactly known for being a picnic area, either. You hear stories of gunfights and people being killed, then chopped into pieces and buried in the backyard, That’s the word I hear on Juarez … and this was long before some game came along and used it as a backdrop.

Unfortunately, I think this is going to start (or increase) a trend of nations getting ticked at game developers for having the gall to use their soil in a body of fiction. China might get angry that Sam Fisher was in Hong Kong for a mission. Russian legislators could get angry because some fictional tanks got blown up near Moscow. I’m not saying it’s GOING to happen … but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Moving on to a much lighter subject, I played some of ‘Def Jam Icon’ over the weekend. I’d heard the reviews weren’t stellar, but I also remember a discussion about the demo that centered around one’s like/dislike for hip-hop, and how it could determine whether someone “gets” the game.

And after about an hour with “Icon,” I can say this: I “get” this game. I’m just not sure I like it.

The previous two “Def Jam” games were an interesting study in styles. The first one, “Vendetta,” was a classic wrestling game, which felt a lot like the N64 games. You punched, then grappled, and then whipped out an array of bonebreaking, physically impossible moves. The second one, “Fight for New York,” took more of an MMA approach, introducing styles like kung-fu and kickboxing — even your created fighter could “blend” some style together to be a more effective fighter.

“Icon” feels sluggish and slow. It almost feels as if the game is simply happy to have realistic-looking rappers that are bogged down with random animations than actually feeling like an organic, fluid fighting experience. I feel like I’m “steering” the fighters rather than controlling them, and I’ve already been in a couple of fights that feel like schoolyard brawls where two people just wail on each other until one falls.

Then there’s the whole “music as your weapon” gimmick, which is really starting to annoy me. The backgrounds react the music and almost seem to have a soul of their own. Conceptually, I think that’s cool — but it doesn’t exactly make for the best fighting experience. I’m forced to concentrate on the song as well as my opponent, otherwise some door will open or some speakers will “pop” with the beat and send me flying across the screen. I’ll give it this — it’s a new way of thinking for a fighting game, but I’m still trying to determine if it’s worth it.

Tomorrow, I’ll have more for you. I should also remind myself that “God of War 2″ comes out this week — and I don;t think it’s a secret that I’m really looking forward to it, button-mashiness and all. Til then.

  • PEN15

    Button-mashiness… glad you are one of the few brave enough to state the obvious “Redman”.

    It also seems EA is now making games visually impressive, yet remove the “fun” out of it. I mean NBA Street Homecourt looks amazing, but lacks all of the amazing extras that are just for fun like the beach ball, yeti, or beastie boys. Icon seemed to just remove all fast paced action. I mean they lost me after the first game since the 2nd game was more button mashy.

    While some EA games on the rise are coming out that “look” fun in the end it will most likely be lacking like the 2 titles previously mentioned by me. Army of Two and Battlefield Bad Company… I’m looking at you.