Over the years, fighting games have truly evolved. But you know what hasn’t? Wrestling games. Not to say that WWE Battlegrounds is shabby or anything, but there was a point in time where people got excited about wrestling games. We’re talking the heyday of WCW vs. NWO World Tour and WWF Wrestlemania 2000, where players could enjoy throwing each other around for hours on end.
And that brings us to a golden era in which wrestling games took an unconventional – yet awesome – turn. In 2003, EA worked alongside the developers at AKI to produce a game called Def Jam Vendetta, which was released for PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube. It revolved around a storyline that included a number of rap superstars in the place of conventional wrestlers but created a fun, overwhelmingly awesome experience that players couldn’t get enough of.
A year later, following the game’s overwhelming success, EA struck gold again with Def Jam: Fight For NY, which released for GameCube and PS2, along with Xbox. It became an even bigger hit, thanks to an expanded roster of characters, a better storyline (including good ol’ Snoop Dogg), and improved fighting action that made it a blast to pull off special moves and take down opponents.
And then, just like that, the hype stopped. Granted, we did get a spin-off for PlayStation Portable, The Takeover, which was pretty cool. On top of that, EA did try to make a conventional fighting game for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 called Def Jam Icon. But outside of that, the Def Jam license wasn’t really used ever again. That’s a shame, and here’s why.
People love the Def Jam games. Even after all these years, they continue to be an overwhelming draw with players, whether it’s with AKI’s awesome mechanics or simply being able to beat up folks with DMX while “X Gonna Give It To Ya” blares in the background. Everything about these games connected players, just as well as the previously mentioned Nintendo 64 wrestling games. In fact, the hip hop mood – and the overwhelmingly packed roster of superstars, including obscure favorites like Carmen Electra – gave the games incredible replay value.
If you don’t believe me, take a close look at what the games resell for on eBay. Vendetta clears out around $40-$50 easy with a complete version, especially on the PS2. And Def Jam: Fight For NY is astronomical in its cost, with a version that includes instructions and case going for around $150 in some cases, depending on condition.
There’s heavy demand for the Def Jam games, so when there were rumors that a new game was in the works, fans got excited. But we haven’t heard anything since then…and we’re wondering why.
While EA has taken more of a traditional approach to sports games as of late, it’s seriously ignoring what propelled them to popularity in the first place. Yes, players loved Madden. But they also loved SSX and Mutant League Football and other offbeat efforts that drew them in. And don’t even get me started on how ignored NBA Street has been. (Honestly, EA should’ve made a new version of that instead of trying to play catch-up with its NBA Live franchise.)
So what can be done here? Well, honestly, we’re not too worried about a new game, because, well, it’d likely end up the same as Icon. It wasn’t a bad game, but it was completely different from what made Vendetta and Fight for NY stand out.
What we need are remastered versions. We’re talking Vendetta and Fight for NY running at a beautiful 60 FPS with an array of great songs (even if they can’t get the licenses to all of them, they can get most) and rap superstars. We’re talking improvement to controls and maybe something that takes advantage of new features, like the JoyCons and the DualSense. We’re talking online play and leagues, in which players can challenge one another to see who truly rules the streets.
Think about this as well. Sure, EVO’s on the rocks right now between the pandemic and controversy. But when it does come back – and it likely will – how great would it be to see Def Jam somewhere at the forefront? With tournaments, introductions, a concert, something like that. All EA has to do is throw it some development and marketing dollars, and make the game the right way alongside the team at AKI, and it could find immense success. It just has to try.
Of course, it’s probably worried about making money on the backend with something like this. But we’ve seen the company cave in to demand in the past. After the fiasco that was Star Wars: Battlefront II’s initial release, it gave the players the multiplayer experience that they wanted. On top of that, we also got a single-player Star Wars experience (Jedi: Fallen Order) and a TIE Fighter-esque multiplayer romp (Star Wars: Squadrons). Now it’s just a matter of turning back to its EA Sports Big label and actually giving us sports games that we can appreciate, and not just endure because, well, there are no other options.
C’mon, EA. You see the demand that’s out there for the older Def Jam games. Give us the remasters – or, hell, even a new game if you’re up for it – and let us mix it up with DMX and Redman the way we were meant to. We gotta “give it” to someone, and not all of us have the luxury of affording a PlayStation 2 or GameCube.