Be whoever the heck you want to be.
Beat Down gives you five possible avatars to choose from, but that only dictates their fighting style and the color of your skin. Once you get a little cash under your belt (if you choose to wear one), then you can go shopping for clothes, accessories, or that new face you always wanted. After a quick haircut and a nose job your character won't even resemble the one you started with, though you can revert back at any time if you choose.
From lip piercing to a choice of lips, Beat Down has the most extensive appearance customization ever dropped into a videogame, at least until Saint's Row is released. These changes also lower your wanted level with both the police and the mafia, avoiding unwanted harassment and possible arrests. Though you won't have to spend money every time to drop the heat, since switching to an old outfit can also throw them off your trail. If you get tired of the choices available, go out and interrogate some thugs to score some shop upgrades...by beating them down, of course.
You spend the entire game smacking the snot out of people, but surprisingly Cavia kept coming up with new and sometimes interesting excuses to turn someone's face into an anchovy pizza, extra sauce. The seven chapter treatment of betrayal and revenge that makes up the main storyline will only take you about four to five hours to blow through, even less if you master the fighting system early on. What ends up being the bulk of the Beat Down experience is working on your sub-missions and blacklist. The fifty sub-missions consist of relatively short term objectives with big payoffs. Some of them are no more than go to a certain place and beat the tar out of a certain punk, while others get a bit more creative, like where you have to deliver a ticking time bomb that will go off if an enemy so much as taps you. You need to grab them while they're available, however, because uncompleted missions don't carry over to the next chapter.
The blacklist keeps track of every thug and lowlife scum in the city, which you can recruit into your army after some not so friendly persuasion, or just add their cash to your own back account. The AI is pretty clever, from to using dropped weapons in brawls to making the game's limit of about a half dozen different fighting styles seem like five times as many. They even level up the more fights they get into, though for some reason, you aren't able to equip any of their items. The annoying thing about tracking them down, however, is certain thugs only appear in certain chapters, and even then there's a random chance for those that aren't story related. Adding how easily it is to just beat them instead of recruiting them... you see where I'm going with this. The fact that save points are few and awkwardly placed only raises the annoyance factor.