Oh Snoop, where did it all go wrong? You were the king of the rap game for years and then it was a downward spiral of lions and a WrestleMania appearance. Of course this weird career that is Snoop's culminates in...an Elite Beat Agents rip-off dipped in the Rastafarian, blaxploitation and kung-fu flavors that make up every great rapper-themed game, right? The Way of the Dogg is, surprise surprise, not what I wanted from a Snoop Dogg based game. I have fond memories of Snoop in the old Def Jam games but this is quite different. Instead of the evil king of the city we get a Rasta-Zen master whose bloodshot eyes do little to make you feel empowered.
So what exactly is The Way of the Dogg? Well that much is simple: The Way of the Dogg is a rhythm-based fighting game that puts you up against an opponent as you fight to the songs of Snoop. The Way of the Dogg has two main singleplayer modes, story and challenges. Challenges are basically story missions with specific goals but the story is where most people will find the real meat of the game. In the story mode you play as, wait for it, America Jones. Yes, quite possibly the second best part of this game, second only to Snoop's music, is the main characters amazing name. AJ, as they call him, is a pit fighter who has had it hard on the streets and is looking for a come up. He's an undefeated and talented fighter but the bigger game of the city is about to get to him. In one of his biggest fights something goes wrong and he goes to Snoop for training. Naturally.
From here the game breaks up into three main parts; Snoop training sessions, main fights, and cutscenes. At the start of each story section, typically represented by the main person you're going to fight, you train with Snoop. This is a smart idea as it teaches you what is going to be needed in the later fights but my main gripe is that often times the training sessions taught more than the fights ever had. Gameplay in The Way of the Dogg is fairly simple; as the song begins a beat map appears with buttons and directions. Players press the buttons in sequence with the map and fists go flying. As the game goes on more buttons are introduced and things like holding buttons or pressing them repeatedly come into play. While none of this is terribly difficult, it can be infuriating when the buttons seem to be unsure as to what they are mapped to.
At times you'll be pressing buttons to the beat of the song only to have the next two buttons be mapped to the lyrics, it's as if the designers couldn't pick one so they smashed the two together. This makes for some really tricky, in a bad way, situations when it comes to the later sections of gameplay. This is especially true when you take into account the fact that many words are removed from the songs, to make for the T rating, leading to even more problems with timing. In a game that is all about timing and rhythm The Way of the Dogg seems to be against letting you time anything properly. I also had issues with diagonals and half circles as the game seemed to not pick up my movements at times.
As you press buttons and listen to Snoop Dogg classics your fighters go back and forth behind the button prompts. Most of the time fighters recycle the same few animations for a few seconds before culminating in a big move that is performed by a short quicktime-event. This move is performed by hitting a special button prompt at a specific time. When done correctly this leads to a short cutscene and a quick drop in your opponent's health bar. I shouldn't really call it a health bar as it's mostly just a momentum meter that only matters for you. If the player's drops due to missed button presses you lose, but if you drop your opponent's down the fight continues until the final cutscene. It's weird design choices like this that made me wonder how this game even came about.
Progressing from fight to fight makes America Jones run into more and more powerful villains, both in terms of physical power and influential power. The game is littered with stereotypes, from the crooked cop, to the rap mogul, to the business suit man who runs the city, to the...Kung-Fu master? Yeah, that last one caught me off guard too. Turns out Snoop is a martial arts expert and he knows a bit more than he lets on at first. It was right around the time in the story that time travel is introduced (yes you read that right) that I felt interested. At first I felt like I was playing a watered down version of Def Jam: Fight for NY but the time travel made me think things were about to get real! Sadly, much like the rest of the campiness in the game, the time travel is used as a way to extend gameplay by letting players replay the entire game over with minor differences. It's sad really, there is such dumb potential in that idea and it is wasted in such a pathetic fashion. That's basically how I feel about a lot of The Way of the Dogg, it has the potential to be the perfect B-movie wonder but instead it takes too few risks in terms of sheer audacity and stupidity.
Creativity is also lacking in terms of character models as many of the characters look uninspired or just bad. Snoop himself looks a bit odd and I could never quite get over the fact that his eyes are red 90% of the time. A little on the nose, no? America looks a lot like a young Drake and the rest of the characters fit into their stereotypes without any real interesting features. Although, the one standout character has to be Don Blank, the business mogul, as he literally looks like he was drawn by a 12 year-old flash animator in 2004. Boring and generic is the best way I can describe the characters in this game and that goes double for cutscenes. Each character appears as a static image during cutscenes while the camera pans to create some action. During these motions there are times when the fight scene flickers into the actual cutscene. It's as if, for a second, the cutscene is being interrupted by a fight scene that is right underneath the surface. It's a weird bug that really gets annoying as it continues to happen over and over throughout multiple cutscenes.
The saving grace of The Way of the Dogg, by far,is the music. Listening to classic Snoop is never a bad thing and the music selection is really quite good. I was happy to hear Deathrow Snoop when I started up the game rather than the new Snoop Lion stuff. The other fun bit has to be the character bios in the gallery section, Snoop's alone is worth the price of admission as it is so strange and ridiculous that I actually laughed out loud. However, if you don't want to spend $10 to listen to classic Snoop Dogg and read some funny character bios I suggest you stay away from The Way of the Dogg. While the music is great and the story has potential, this game falls on its face with bad design choices and some frustrating gameplay. Do yourself a favor and just buy an old Snoop album for $10 on Amazon.