The House of Pain Is Still the Same.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are live from Berkeley, California. Game Revolution presents the finest mixed martial artist/game reviewer in the world, here tell you all about Crave Entertainment's latest venture into the world's ultimate testing ground: the Playstation 2. The judges are ready. The fighters are ready. The fans are ready. And those of you reading around the world are ready as we start down the long road to the title. It's time to begin the ULTIMATE... FIGHTING... CHAMPIONSHIP! *enter meager applause*
UFC Throwdown, Crave's latest version of the UFC franchise, takes real martial artists and real martial arts, brings them together with an easy to handle control scheme and unleashes it all in one nifty little package. The result is a very cool looking fight that doesn't require any double quarter-circles or 56-hit combos. It's just too bad that Crave hasn't really bothered to update the formula since the original. The smell in this ring is starting to get a little stale.
The gameplay hasn't changed much at all since the first iteration, but just in case you have never gotten the chance to play a UFC game, let me give you the quick lowdown. There's one button for each hand and each foot, with most special moves requiring a two-button combination. The learning curve is a little on the steep side and most beginners will just end up mashing buttons, but with experience comes an arsenal of sweet looking moves that aren't too hard to execute. Pit two experienced players against one another and you can be sure everyone in the room will be tuned in. Lethally efficient control at its finest.
Several modes are available for you to choose from, but all of them feel exactly the same. Arcade mode puts you in a survival match where you must defeat ten opponents in a row. UFC mode throws you in a tournament of five fights to win the championship belt and Tournament mode does basically the same, but with three fights and the option for multiple players. Exhibition is your basic single fight and Training lets you, well, train. Been there, done that.
The only mode that does anything different is the Career mode, which allows you to create and build up a character through 'skill up' challenges, sparring and, of course, fighting in tournaments. To start off, you'll select from one of seven fighting styles including Kickboxing, Submission Fighting and the ever-popular Jiu-Jitsu. From there, it's on to the create-a-fighter, which lets you modify your fighter's appearance.
Unlike most create-a-player modes, Throwdown offers a paltry number of choices nearly unacceptable by today's standards. A mere four faces, skin tones and costumes are available, leaving players with too few choices. What's worse is that there's a good chance you'll probably run across an identical character during the course of the Career mode. Someone needs to be put in a guillotine choke for that one.
When your character is all ready to go, it's off to the fights for fame and glory. Your first stop will most likely be the 'skill up' challenges where your character will need to accomplish specific maneuvers to gain new moves. Usually the tasks are pretty simple, like tap out your opponent or defeat your opponent using kick strikes, but they can be as complex as knocking out your opponent from the bottom guard position. This is easily the best part of the game, since you can educate your fighter with your own unique touch. Each of these challenges will cost a handful of skill points as well.
But where do these points come from? After your initial allotment of points, you'll earn more by fighting in the tournament. As a prerequisite, you'll have to win five sparring matches, but usually they're an easy affair. Naturally, becoming the tournament champ will yield more points, but no matter where you place, you can be sure to have some points to use for the next level. In addition to the points, you'll also be able to select a new fighting style.
Though it has been a few years since the original Dreamcast version was released, this edition of UFC hasn't done much to improve its look. The models of the fighters look nearly the same and the game is filled with familiar moves and animations. And by god, they still haven't figured out that we want blood. That's part of the reason UFC became so popular in the first place - the unbridled carnage and insane level of violence. In the game, though, even setting blood to 'high' will only result in a very, very occasional spattering of red. Plus, there's no damage modeling at all, so your fighter never looks like he's getting as beaten up as he is.
The audio side of things isn't much better with only a few cheesy grunts and smacking sounds to relay the brutality. How about some anguished screams? I know if someone stuck my foot in my ear, I'd be a little pissed.
The only thing that really stands out are some new faces. Over 25 UFC fighters have entered the ring this time with Light Heavyweight Champ Tito Ortiz as the featured fighter.
If you've never had the chance to experience a real-deal martial arts video game, you'll definitely want to check out UFC Throwdown. Its simple controls and variety of styles will easily impress the newcomers. The rest of the vets might enter the ring for a fight or two, but this tournament isn't worth coming out of retirement.