First, the bad news: if you're looking for the same immersive plot that helped make rapper-filled smackfest Def Jam: Fight for NY compelling, you won't find it in Def Jam Fight for NY: The Takeover. Not only is The Takeover a side story (or maybe a prequel - it's unclear) to Fight for NY, but the narrative unfolds exclusively through text messages and old-style static cutscenes. And it doesn't really go anywhere interesting until near the end.
So forget the story. The story is stupid, inconsequential and filled with laughable, sub-Street Fighter dialogue like "Looks like the only thing that'll shut yo mouth are my fists!" You'll still want to create your own fighter and wade into the single-player mode, of course, but it's the slick, surprisingly deep fighting that'll keep you riveted - not the endless, repetitive arguments about who owns what street.
If you've played Fight for NY, you'll be impressed by how little has changed. The Takeover still delivers what Def Jam fans have come to expect: real-life rappers and fictional scrappers facing off in a cross between a wrestling game and a Tekken -style martial-arts fighter. What's surprising is that it does it almost as lavishly as its console cousins. As before, you'll be able to create your own wet-behind-the-ears brawler, eventually tricking him out with new clothes, fresh bling, tattoos and even hairstyles. You'll also be able to learn new moves and martial-arts styles, which in turn let you combine up to three styles to make new ones (Martial Arts plus Submissions and Wrestling, for example, makes Drunken Kung-Fu).
More impressively, the game's 24 urban arenas are deeply interactive, with players able to hurl opponents into car windows, scrape their faces across chain-link or shove them in front of an oncoming subway train.
Even without the brutal settings, the action is fast and violent. Whether you're playing as your custom fighter or one of the 68 other unique brawlers (with faces including Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Flavor Flav and Redman, all voiced by the real things), you'll be able to unleash a brutal flurry of punches and kicks that'll have your opponent doubled over or sagging against a wall in no time. And even if they straddle you while you're down and start delivering a bushel of face-punches, you can use the fine-tuned reversal system to turn the tables at just the right moment. (Of course, they can always turn them right back around, so stay on guard.)
Far more visceral are the Blazin' moves, powered-up finishers unique to each character (but unlockable for your custom fighter). Activated when you've really pummeled your foe, these super-moves let you do all kinds of over-the-top horrible things to your opponent. And whether it's a Vader-style throat-lift followed by punches to the crotch, or an upside-down top-like spin, you can bet they'll be unbelievably humiliating.
Blazin' moves can also help get the ropy-looking spectators on your side, meaning they're more likely to help you out by grabbing your opponent or handing you weapons. And thankfully, those are the only times you'll ever have to pay attention to them, because they look like they're made from Lincoln Logs.
Whatever your take on the fusion of hip-hop and games, Def Jam Fight for NY: The Takeover is an impressive feat. Its deep customizability and visceral biff-bam-pow make it crazy addictive, and it doesn't get old; aside from the story mode, the game also packs in six freestyle match types that can be played alone or against a friend via Wi-Fi. And hey, there's nothing quite like being able to brain your least-favorite hip-hop celebrity with a tire iron and shove him or her through a plate-glass window. That's just awesome.