Icon represents the third instalment in EA's Def Jam fighting series and attempts to move in a slightly different direction than its predecessors. That fact the original titles - specifically New York - were increasingly well received against the odds, means that this is a bold move by EA.
You begin Icon by creating your own character in time tested EA tradition, by tailoring facial features and the style and build of your hip hop guru. This follows into a quite excellently presented cut scene that maps out the storyline for you and has obviously had a lot of time spent on it and it looks a plays very well indeed. This only heightens expectation about what is to follow. This finished you have three main modes to play with - 'Build a label', 'Quick Match' and the online facility (which is pretty basic.)
The majority of the game is packed in to the build a label mode where you are based at your 'crib' from where you can change your threads, check your email, attend appointments and generally perform any number of tasks central to your aim of becoming the hottest hip hop mogul. Fighting aside, you will have to decide how much money to spend on your artist's careers from public relations to airplay to merchandise. Even how much they get to spend on their 'bling' (clothes to me and you.) All of which affects how hot a property they are. All of which is a decent distraction from the fighting, but you do get the impression that much of it matters little in the grand scheme of things.
Moving on to the fights themselves and it seems that the old fighting mechanics of the previous Def Jams have been overhauled unnecessarily to produce a style that does not feel familiar or that works particularly well. The controls feel sluggish and unresponsive, many of the characters fight in similar or identical ways (a major case in point being the similarities of Lil' Jon & Sean Paul) and you only have a choice of three weak attacks when grappling that include a really weak punch, tripping or throwing your opponent at something that you think may explode. The environment that you are fighting in is meant to be the "third man" that helps you fight your opponent, but in reality you keep exploding yourself or tripping over things that just hamper your progress. By controlling the breaks and bets with the analogue stick, your character can make speakers blow up that are next to your opponent or explode petrol cans in an attempt to strike a blow. All of which means that there has been by far more of a focus on the 'style' of the combat and it really is at a detriment to the 'substance' of the actual hand to hand fighting. In a sound-bite, the fighting is too simple, but the way in which you perform is overcomplicated.
Gameplay aside the graphics and the whole "look and feel" of the game are top notch and the developers have done a great job of capturing the right mood. You do get the feel that there is a really good game bubbling underneath the surface here waiting to break out, however whether it is down to overhauling the fighting mechanism or a combination of reasons, this is just not it. If hip hop is your scene, it may well be worth a look but not if you own previous Def Jam titles.
6 out of 10