Ultimate Fighting Championship
This game rocks, right? I beg to differ. - Review By Mad Carl
I'll admit something right up front: I don't know a thing about the franchise known as Ultimate Fighting Championship. Going into the review of this game, I felt a bit like Roger Ebert, who admitted to an utter lack of knowledge about Pokemon when the first film arrived in theaters. I had no base of reference. I didn't know Mark Coleman from Andre Roberts (not that I do now, either). I knew of the UFC only peripherally. I had some friends who had seen a few pay-per-views, but this wasn't the WWF. I didn't have hardcore fans to ask questions of. I, myself, was not guilty of viewing the pay-per-views or of purchasing anyone's book (Mick Foley of the WWF, by the way, is a very entertaining writer and a recommended read to anyone curious about the world of "sports entertainment").
I actually was quite excited about my UFC ignorance. I figured it would allow me to view the game on its own terms, for better or for worse, without any extra baggage coming along with it. This experiment paid off well, I think. I got a glaring, unflinching look at the game as a game, warts and all, not as a licensed product full of real fighters that UFC fans know by heart. Now, did this unsoiled view of the UFC let me see a good game, or a bad one? Well, for the answer to that, you'll need to read on.
If there's one thing UFC has a lot of, it's crisp, clean graphics. The faces and musculature of the fighters are some of the best I've seen when it comes to mapping real-world people onto polygonal bodies. There's none of that "psycho killer" glare that you usually see when someone's face has been digitized and the animators were never scheduled to get around to making their eyes blink. The framerate is excellent, and keeps the action feeling fluid. The coolest visual feature in the game comes from the fighter entrances. The ramp walk is chock full of beautiful lighting, great camera angles, cool music and a general feeling that some s**t is about to go down in this thing called The Octagon. The crowd during this sequence is what I pray for every time a new console arrives and the first wrestling/boxing/sports games are announced. They're cool looking, well animated, high-poly models that look like they bought their tickets months in advance and are ready to see some blood sport. It made me tingle, I tell you.
The character models and textures are some of the best we've ever seen.
Once the game gets rolling, it's pretty easy to learn the control scheme. The developers of UFC (Japanese company Anchor) have wisely made the controls both incredibly simple to learn, and very easy to use. A and B are left and right kicks. X and Y are left and right punches. Combinations of kicks and punches result in grapples. Very simple, very easy, very Tekken. All of your fighter's moves are accessible in-game, allowing you to always quickly call up a particular move for any given situation, then execute it as soon as the game is flowing again. There's no problem at all with using either the D-Pad or the analog stick. My arcade stick has, unfortunately, been abducted by a scurvy dog who will someday pay for his crimes, so for now I have no way of commenting upon the usefulness of an arcade stick with UFC.
In case you want to work on some killer combos, you can skip over to the training mode, which has been stolen feature for feature from the better Capcom titles. This isn't a bad thing. If you're going to steal, steal from the best. This goes for the whole health/stamina bar as well. Your health bar shares the same line as your stamina. As you get tired, you come closer to being KO'd. If you can manage to back off from the fight for a moment, your stamina will refill to the maximum amount of health you possess. More stamina means stronger hits. It also means you can take more hits from the enemy. Certainly this feature has been done before in boxing titles, but it's a nice touch here.
Most matches end up on the floor, with two guys beating the crap out of each other.
My single biggest complaint about UFC is that it's just plain dull. Every single fight is exactly like the one before it, almost to the point of feeling scripted. Even though the fighters (all 22 of them) each feel at least somewhat different from one another, the fights always seem to go the same way. Fight starts. Jabs and kicks are exchanged for three to five seconds. One Guy pins the Other Guy and commences pummeling the crap out of him, and/or puts him in a submission hold. Boom -- the fight is over. If you won, then it's on to the next fight. If you lost, it's back to the main menu with you. (Nope, no continues.) Unfortunately, adjusting the difficulty really isn't an option if you're looking to make the game more fun. I got my ass handed to me on a silver platter several times over in "Contender" mode. This is the default difficulty, and equal to other games' "Medium". By switching to the easier "Rookie", I was able to dominate the universe by using nothing more than Kevin Randleman's right kick while moving towards the enemy, backing off for the return punches, then advancing again. I suspected I'd found a cheesy move and switched back to "Contender" mode to try the same strategy. Within seconds I was back to the main menu. Back to Rookie difficulty I went, and picked another fighter at random. Within seconds I had won handily, without ever really knowing what I was doing. This effortless winning was no more fun than repeatedly losing. The poorly tuned difficulty, in and of itself, washed away any fun this game might ever have possessed.
Next: More Bad and The Final Word