Using music as a weapon is nothing new. Westlife songs regularly cause us agonizing pain, while Radiohead makes us want to slit our wrists in despair. But never have we seen music used to such brilliant effect in a fighting game, and after the series' more typical PS2 entries, we really didn’t expect the latest Def Jam title to be so amazingly inventive.
When you select your character, you also choose a song to represent them and play over the top of fights. Environments now contain plenty of interactive hazards that pulse in time to the beat, and if you smack your opponent into one of them at the right moment, you create even more damage. This includes exploding pumps at a gas station, the blast from a broken fusebox on a rooftop, a hefty kick from an annoyed pole dancer in a club, and a swinging light rig inside a TV studio.
If a hazard isn’t triggered by the song, you can go one step further and add your own beat. By holding a button and moving the Right analog stick in a circular motion, you “scratch” the record and inflict incredible damage. Of course, your opponent can also deploy strategic scratching while he’s on his feet to stop your scratch attack and send you flying, or to dodge his way out of grabs and escape being trapped in a tight corner.