I chickened out. I wanted a rap video game. I argued that we're overdue for a great one. I got a chance to play one. I got a chance to rap. Too many people around. I declined.
I will play Def Jam Rapstar. I promise. But I think my first session of it will be alone, not, as was almost the case earlier this month, in front of three guys who work in the offices of 4mm Productions, the company teaming up with Def Jam Interactive to release it this fall.
I couldn't be Dre. I couldn't be Snoop. I let two of the guys showing me the game take two wireless mics and rap through Nothin' But A G Thang.
I let you all down.
The Rapstar guys know that their game, essentially a rap riff on karaoke hit SingStar, will give some gamers stage-fright. Rap songs are, often, a form of bragging. Rapping is commonly performed with the confidence of someone who wants to remind you that they are great, they command attention, they have swagger.
So who wants to try rapping and suck at it? Give me a private room and a chance to make sure, just once, that I'm any good. Or give me a drink.
I can say that the Rapstar guys had no such apprehensions as they started rhyming through the Dre and Snoop Chronic classic. They kept the game's difficulty at moderate and nailed most of the 300-something words-per-minute the song demands. Def Jam Rapstar checks for pitch and consonants, won't let you hum through things. It won't fail either, a safety net to keep things fun and less daunting for a nervous rapping neophyte like me. The game doesn't care if you curse, but doesn't expect you to. The developers are only using radio edits of songs — you can fill in the profanity without fear of penalty. They expect a T rating.
Getting through a song solo or in a rap duo gets you rated. More songs unlock. Plus you gain access to freestyles, beats from as-yet-unnamed top hip-hop producers, over which you can rap anything.
As we've reported in the earlier previews of the game, Rapstar is going to be built for people with confidence — the confidence to have a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 camera record your best 30 seconds of rapping and upload that to the game's website. People will be able to rate your performance, as your clips are pitted in a battle against the rest of the world's.
The game is set for a fall release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii and is being developed by 4mm, Def Jam Interactive and Terminal Reality. The game will ship with 40 songs, but mic bundling plans, price and downloadable content is all to-be-announced. Next time I'm near the game, I'll play it. I promise.