XboxThere’s a general opinion that the Xbox isn’t retro and that it just has versions of newer games with shitter graphics. These opinions are wrong.
Yes the Xbox has spawned some successful franchises, including Halo, Fable and Forza Motorsport, but you can also make the argument that it’s one of the last truly creative consoles.

Microsoft was on a mission with the Xbox, a mission to prove that it had the flair, money and know how to compete with Sony and Nintendo. The console certainly didn’t have the best of starts, including a serious price cut shortly after launch, but it also solidified online gaming in a way that the Dreamcast hinted at, but never fully delivered.

HaloI’ve fond memories of playing games like Ghost Recon, Unreal Championship and Project Gotham Racing 2 online. There’s something strangely gratifying about playing games on a console, knowing that you’re all on an even keel. Online PC gaming could feel very unfair at the time and the Xbox levelled the playing field.

Yes there are a lot of first-person shooters and racing games available for the system (hardly surprising when you consider it’s the console equivalent of an American Cadillac), but there are also a lot of exciting gems to be discovered. You’ll never experience a game like Steel Battalion on any other console, while releases such as Phantom Dust, Stranger’s Wrath and Panzer Dragoon Orta would make any Xbox owner happy with their purchase. Oh and speaking of Sega, it released some absolute gems on Microsoft’s console, including Gun Valkyrie, Crazy Taxi 3, The House Of The Dead 3 and the aforementioned Orta. In many ways it actually felt like the Dreamcast 2, with a library consisting of genuine crowd chasers but inventive, quirky stuff as well.

gun valkyrieAnd let’s not forget Microsoft’s excellent sports library, which consisted of some genuinely fantastic games that covered everything from tennis, to American football and golf. I can still remember the rage when I realised the games were being stopped to make way for EA’s own sports games.

The Xbox lacked the sheer diversity of the PS2 and you can easily make the argument that many of its in-house exclusives couldn’t match the might of Nintendo’s releases, but in many ways it didn’t matter, not when you could gawp at the grass in Halo or play satisfying multiplayer games, either online or locally.

The Xbox currently exists in a weird sort of limbo, with many gamers seemingly unsure of whether they should consider it a retro console or not. To those still sitting on your fence, I’d say it’s time to open your eyes, because it would be a pity if nothing more than complete stubbornness is stopping you from enjoying such an interesting console. Oh and you can currently pick up many of its games for peanuts, making it the perfect time to discover Microsoft’s forgotten console.

Def Jam-01I’m not a huge fan of rappers. I don’t really enjoy their music and their personas (which I appreciate are often exaggerations of their actual personalities) just make them come off as pretentious divas (I do like Xzibit in the car shown though).

You might find it strange then that I’m getting so excited about a game that entirely about rappers and their music. “So why on earth are you recommending Def Jam?” I head you say. Well let me answer your question with another question. Why wouldn’t you want to play a game where you can smack Sean Paul repeatedly in the face and then through him onto a subway train track so that he gets finished off by a train?

Def JamThe cast list is staggering, with nearly 40 rappers and hip hop stars in the cast, including Xzibit.

The brutality of Def Jam: Fight For New York is simply staggering. I can’t think of any recent fighter (with the exception of the gloriously silly Mortal Kombat 9) where the action is this bleak, this visceral. Stunned fighters can be slammed against poles; thrown in front of subway trains; have their heads slammed repeatedly in car doors; get thrown into car windshields – the list of atrocities is endless and it’s simply brilliant, brutal fun.

And the sounds. Oh dear lord the sounds. Many of the arenas you fight in are lined with spectactors who will happily hand out weapons that you can main your opponent with. Hammers make contact with a sickening ‘thwok’, brooms break noisely over people’s heads, bottles sound as lethal as they look. It works brilliantly well, highlighting just how brutal and draining Def Jam is. It’s draining on the player too as most fights can often take a good while to win. This is particularly noticeable in the five-minute bouts where the crowd eventually decides the winner. Play for this length of time and you feel as bruised and battered as the fighters you’re controlling.

It’s worth noting that while the combat engine is good, it’s not spectacular and it’s easy to see why so many fighting purists like to turn their nose up at it. Created by Aki, it’s predominatenly based around a wrestling game, but introduces street fighting and other disciplines. It’s certainly clunky at times, but boy, when those moves hit you feel every last kick and punch. This is most notable with the ‘Blazin Moves’ powerful signature attacks that all the fighters have access to that can dramatically turn the game in your favour.

Bo__martial_artist__vs_pockets__kickboxer_In addition to getting weapons from them, the crowd can also be used to stagger opponents and you can even team up with them for deadly attacks.

In addition to its exhilerating combat, Def Jam is absolutely loaded with content. The sheer amount of unlockable stuff is staggering and we can only imagine the DLC field day EA would have with this if it ever went back to the series today. There are over 70 fighters to unlock, loads of arenas (20 compared to DEf Jam Icon’s 8) a silly amount of multiplayer game modes and a genuinely enjoyable Story Mode which never outstays its welcome. It even caters for four players making it even more of a chaotic, silly experience.

Ultimately, it’s the sheer amount of stars who were willing to be beaten up in the name of entertainment that makes Def Jam such a joy to play through. While the gameplay is perfectly fine, the addition of Omar Epps, Snoop Dog, Method Man and countless others (you can even unlock Danny Treko) really tips it over the edge, creating a game that appeals not only to genuine fans, but those that just want to see the grins knocked from their smug faces. Hell, you even receive your training tips and techniques from Henry Rollins!

Don’t be prejaudice against Def Jam becuase it’s based around the world of rap. Simply pick up a copy, get some mates over and have the time of your life. You won’t regret it.