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An iconic can o' whoopass

Music is everything in DEF JAM: ICON, and the rhythmic undercurrents of the bumping hip-hop beats permeate each aspect of gameplay. Every bass thump has an impact on something on the screen - whether it's the clouds that dance across the sky, the revolving sign on a gas station or the buildings of the city in the background, they all bounce along to the rhythm.

Beyond just the cosmetic beat-bounce, DEF JAM: ICON provides a number of hazards that hit with the music. As your rappers continue to battle, the environment suffers damage from the titanic clash. And in the gas station level we got to play, this meant that gas pumps were quickly destroyed, resulting in spouting flames that would flare out dangerously in time with certain drum hits. And what gas station would be complete without a car wash withthose spinning roller things that pop out and occasionally treat rap stars like Ludacris and Big Boy to a face full of suds and pain?

Continuing the music-centric approach to combat, DEF JAM: ICON gives you the option of augmenting the line-up of exclusive Def Jam tracks with music from your own collection. Each character has their own set of DJ skills that enable adding beats or even fading into other tunes. In multiplayer battles, this plays out like a DJ battle, where both players wrestle to control which track plays and, by extension, the rhythm of the fight.

The combat system itself uses the analog sticks to direct attacks, so punches, kicks and throws are all governed by some combination of button pushes along with analog flicks. The throws come in particularly handy, as moving your opponent towards environmental hazards is the best way to down him permanently.

While still in extremely early stages at this point, DEF JAM: ICON's fresh take on the semi-stale fighting genre has our interest piqued. Judging by what we've seen so far, Kudo Tsunoda might just lead EA Chicago to avictory bigger than Fight Night Round 3.