Way of the Dogg
Lest we all forget, it has been the prerogative of club-dweller and professional waterboy 50 Cent to demonstrate the effectiveness of boosting a rap sensation’s cosmic ego within the videogame space. Curtis’ main releases, the dreadfully-cobbled Bulletproof and tolerably hilarious Blood on the Sand, made damn sure to put the man himself at the very forefront of all the shoot-bang action. This, would you believe it, is where Snoop Dogg/Lion takes a left turn — in rhythm-action game Way of the Dogg, the West Coast superstar and recent prodigy of Rastafarianism props himself up as an enlightened kung-fu master and mentor. Okay, so humility and hip-hop don’t always mix, but does this Elite Beat Agents copycat at least make for a worthwhile rhythmic ride? Well, no, not really.
You play America Jones. AMERICA JONES. (Breathe it in, people.) America is a top-class fighter in the underground circuit, but runs into strange issues during a scrap with a seemingly typical thuggish opponent. As a sloppy transition eventually suggests, the fight mysteriously culminates in the untimely shooting of America’s beloved girlfriend Sierra. Naturally, revenge is sought after; and even more naturally, America goes to Snoop for help finding out what happened and settling the score. To be fair, both the story and dialogue, whilst shoddy by anyone’s honest appraisal, could have been a hell of alot worse; and although the concept art-ridden cutscenes are amateurish, it does serve to move the wafer-thin plot along with suspiciously knowing terseness.
America’s battles throughout the two-hour stint are merely window dressing for the rhythm game central to Way of the Dogg. Timed button presses and unique modifiers must be made in time to chapter-specific Snoop tracks blaring in the background (some classic, some less so). If you build up enough meter during a section of a song by hitting all the right notes, a simple QTE prompt leads the way to all-important attacks that diminish your foe’s health and boost your final score. However, not only do the required rhythms confusingly shift from instrumentals to vocals from time to time, but your ability to do so is too often hijacked by having to deal with a host of debilitating on-screen glitches.
Until I rebooted my console (note: not even the game), I had to endure seeing a slice of mid-battle feedback — the word ‘MOVE’ to be precise — lingering in the middle of the screen for at least half the experience. As you can imagine, this makes seeing particular button prompts rather difficult, forcing you to either guess the next button in a chain or glare at the screen to try and make it out before it rushes by. To make matters worse, this occurred alongside the backdrop’s busy scenes of stilted martial combat between America and his combatant, hampering my faculties even more. These scenes, by the way, look fantastically rigid and unmanaged to boot. Think of a teenager’s first attempts at creating stickmen battling each other in Flash and you’re halfway to uncovering the visual fidelity on offer here.
As if this wasn’t problematic enough, there were also times when certain button prompts just didn’t display. Circular prompts normally filled with a green ‘A’ button and the like were inexplicably greyed out with no indication of what needed to be hit (which, still in only some cases, could be remedied by merely guessing correctly). The same issue arose more consistently when presented with vital QTE commands — much to the chagrin of my desire to keep playing. More importantly, the functioning parts of Way of the Dogg aren’t exactly striking anyway. It lacks any real substance despite its theoretically workable mechanics. Even the tutorial is no more than a blackened screen with a few short preambles to fill you in on the fundamentals. Oh, and you’re probably not going to want to play the two-player multiplayer or challenge modes, which basically re-purpose the story content with unattractive leaderboards and combo-based hooks pasted in.
With a little more love, Way of the Dogg could have be a pretty cool rhythm game. Even if its framework is a silly attempt to pasteurise Snoop’s waning branded image and cultural relevance, the basic pitch is still solid and curiously inspired. But in practice, Way of the Dogg’s lifeless rhythm styling and maddening technical hiccups join forces to forge something truly ghetto.
Reviewed on Xbox 360; game purchased by D+PAD
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