Def Jam Fight for New York (PS2) : Reviewing a Hip-hop Slugfest

Def Jam: Fight for New York is a revered PlayStation 2 title among Hip-hop and fighting game fans alike. Create your own street tough fighter and hit the fight clubs of New York to take on iconic music artists for control of the city. With appearances from legendary rappers like Snoop Dogg, Method Man, Redman, Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, Fat Joe, and more, this game was undoubtedly set to hit the top of the charts. With an exceptionally picked soundtrack, great graphics for its ear (2004), and a bunch of extra perks, let’s take a deeper look at what makes Def Jam: Fight For New York such an amazing title on the PlayStation 2.

Track 01 – The Intro

A fighting game with actual celebrities in it is already a pretty epic idea. Imagine the viral video possibilities. Now, take that concept and turn it into a hard-core underground fight club style game with extremely popular music icons and you got yourself a top tier video game. Def Jam: Fight for NY is loaded with talent, awesome music, and intense action. EA Games definitely did the early 2000’s era Hip-hop some major justice with this jam. As one of my personal favorite games of 2004 (a very popular year for great games), let’s see if it still holds its own weight in 2023.

There are more than just one-on-one fights in this game, like 4-man free for all’s and two-on-two team fights.

Track 02 – Storytelling

The story in Def Jam: Fight for NY is absolutely flawless in every way. You start out as a new hitter for a boss named D-Mob’s fighting crew. At first, you are pretty much just a nobody, but by the end of the game, you’re taking over the city with your fists. Fighting against, and even alongside, plenty of well-known rap artists from the 2000‘s, you grow close to some allies, betray a few people, and are even forced to work for the bad guys for a while. The gameplay itself is sort of like a gauntlet-style cage match the entire way through. The goal is to beat the top fighters at each venue and take control of the spot for whoever you’re working for at the time. From time to time, you will get into some out-of-ring fights due to growing beef between your crew and your rivals. You get to throw hands with epic celebs like Danny Trejo, Slick Rick, and David Banner while making a name for yourself. By the end of the game, you’re basically a one man army as you set out to settle a personal score with Crow (played by Snoop Dogg) the main villain of the game. The story keeps you engaged the entire way through, its actually really hard not to fly through the main storyline just to keep up with the drama. The game story is so good, in fact, they could easily make a live-action TV show or movie based on the general plot.

Face-off against over 60 legendary artists and entertainers from the Hip-hop music industry!

Track 03 – The Sticks

The mechanics of Def Jam: Fight for New York are definitely good. It’s not without its flaws, of course, just like every other game. Overall the ease of kicking the crap out of anyone who stands in your way is pretty on point. The AI can be highly aggravating, however. It becomes apparent at a point that no matter what you do, the NPCs are programmed always to counter specific attacks, making it increasingly more difficult to pull off clean victories. The use of environmental factors like giant speakers, a crowd of spectators, and a variety of different weapons give way to plenty of options to KO your opponent. The Blazing Move skill is probably the best part of the gameplay, though. Think of it as your “finishing move” in a wrestling game. It used to take your opponent’s health down by a lot or completely knock them out altogether, and there are many of them to choose from. Your character can learn multiple fighting styles like Wrestling, Martial Arts, and Street Fighting, as well as be assigned up to 4 different Blazing Moves. They really took their time to make the fighting in this game both brutal and epic.

Earn development points and cash for showing off your skills and winning big fights.

Track 04 – The Visuals

The graphics of Def Jam: Fight for NY are extremely good for the era this game came out. Every single character in the game looks exactly how they should. They are near-perfect video game recreations of their real-life selves. For a game made in 2004, its safe to say the graphics still hold up well today. Obviously, not in comparison to modern titles, but they’re so clean and well done that turning this gem on, even in 2023, still looks really, really good. The colors and shading are top-notch. The special effects add a Hip-hop intensity. The cut scenes and character movements are flawless. Even the clunky, boxy graphics PS2 is infamous for are less apparent in this absolute visual delight. Throw in some well-designed gore and graphic fighting moves, and you got yourself one of the best fighting games of the early 2000s. These graphics are so good in this game, in fact, I don’t even think it would take much to remaster it for release on next-generation consoles.

Use crazy moves to KO your opponents!

Track 05 – Bring It Back

Not only is Def Jam: Fight for NY a good story, it has plenty of other reasons to play it over and over again. With a roster of 67 playable characters, your own custom characters, and plenty of match types, you can spend hours just trying to beat every character in every type of matchup possible. The soundtrack of the game is absolutely flawless, with some fantastic classic rap tracks like “Make It Hurt” by Busta Rhymes and “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J. There are plenty of clothes, bling, hairstyles, and tattoo options to choose from. This makes room for you to make your created characters super unique. Last but not least, the co-op option in the game also makes for some pretty intense one-on-one action, or even team matches, with your friends. Def Jam: Fight for NY is easily one of the best games of its time. So much so that I tend to go back and play it at least once every 2 or 3 years and have done this since the day it was released.

You can build your own playlists from the available music!

Track 06 – Outro

As far as PlayStation 2 games go, Def Jam: Fight for NY falls in line with some of the greatest of all time. Overall, I would give this classic “rap battle” game a solid 9 out of 10. It doesn’t receive a perfect score for a few errors along the way, like the prominent over-powered characters stated above and some very minor audio and graphic glitches throughout the game; besides those two minor things though this game is a top-tier product. Finding a copy in today’s market can prove to be a bit tricky, but if you manage it you won’t ever want to let it go. I will probably forever play this game, whether it be on the PS2 or even on PS Plus Classic Catalog one day. No matter what, this game will live on in my memory as one of the GOATs in the fighting genre.

Def Jam: Fight for NY is a hip-hop-influenced action game published by EA Games. It is the sequel to Def Jam: Vendetta (PS2) and is followed by Def Jam: Icon (PS3). Another version of the game was also released on the PSP, called Def Jam: Fight for New York The Takeover.


  • Elite Story
  • Iconic Characters
  • Perfect Soundtrack
  • Great Graphics
  • Excellent Action
  • Holds Up Through Time


  • Very difficult at times
  • Some audio glitches
  • Some gameplay mishaps

Def Jam: Fight for NY

An instant classic that stands the test of time!

EA Games pays homage to early 2000s Hip-hop with an amazing cast of music icons and super intense street fighting action. This game is near perfect on many levels and at almost 20 years old, still impresses to this day!

Zachary M. Cain
PS2 version reviewed