Def Jam: Icon is a 3D fighting game and the third installment in EA's Def Jam hip hop video game franchise. The game was the first game in the series not developed by AKI Corporation, and was developed by EA Chicago (developers of Fight Night Round 3). Also unlike previous games in the series, the soundtrack is completely controllable and uncensored.
Def Jam Icon's gameplay is much less grapple-focused than previous games in the series, however throws and environmental damage remain in the game. Gameplay bears a resemblance to EA Chicago's Fight Night Round 3, with a focus on up-close brawling, high/low mix-ups, throws,parries and blocks, standard and strong attacks (which are done with the right analog stick). Also similar to Fight Night Round 3, there are no health bars by default, encouraging the player to observe physical features such as ripped clothing, bruises and exhaustion as an indication of health.
Due to the game's music ties (licensed by prominent hip hop record label Def Jam), the developers made music much more significant to gameplay in Icon. The environments including rooftops, subways, clubs, streets, BET's 106 and Park stage, a neighborhood in Atlanta and more (which are much different from the arenas or wrestling rings of previous games in the series). Most importantly, the music effects the environment and gameplay. The entire backdrop bumps to the beat of the background music. Different effects will occur depending on the stage, but on the break of a song, the music will interact with the environment (for example, a column of fire will shoot up from a ruined gas station). Additionally, striking attacks will do more damage if they occur in sync with the beat of the background sound, and if your playing as a character who's song is playing in the background, your character will become stronger. Additionally, if you can time it right you can throw your opponent into the environmental hazard caused by the music.Also, exclusively on the XBox 360, Def Jam Icon is able to use the player's own music playing on the system, and apply it to the gameplay. The environment begins to bump and move to the beat and rhythm of the player's selected songs, adding a touch of personalization to the experience.