|Im a sucker for
all things Roman, especially those gloriously depraved gladiator matches. But times being
what they are and ethical evolution being what it is, gladiatorial combat seems to have
slipped into disrepute. Gone forever are the days of gladiators, lions, and loud applause.
The brutality of the coliseum is gone, and I guess Im all for this kinder, gentler
world. Weve outgrown gladiator combat and in its place we have team sports like
football, where the athletes still kill people, but now they do it on their free time
instead of on the field.
Ah, but all is not lost. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is unlike anything else out there. Its violent, and graceful, and the fights are deceptively complicated. There is an odd duplicity in watching two athletes with a lifetime of training enter into violent combat and still manage to look almost elegant at times. For those of you not familiar with the UFC, the premise is pretty simple. Combatants from various martial arts disciplines enter into a ring and proceed to beat the hell out of each other. You might see a wrestler take on a Kung fu fighter or a boxer take on a Judo Expert. The fight ends when one person is knocked out, he gives up, the ref stops the fight, or the time expires. Since its origins around five years ago the UFC has hovered on the brink of mainstream success, but has never quite been able to move out of the margins. Theyve also faced numerous legal challenges that threatened to shut them down and pull them off the air. The UFC responded by instituting new rules and safety measures in an effort to legitimize the sport, and despite its inherently violent nature, no fighter has ever suffered a serious injury while in the ring.
Now the worlds most controversial sport has a new home, your Dreamcast. The first thing youll notice about UFC is the absolutely amazing graphics. The fighters are very smooth and lifelike. Each fighter is proportioned to accurately represent his real world counterpart. This means that height, weight, and build are tailored around each fighter, rather than stuffing all the characters into three body sizes like many sports games do. Simply put, the graphics are as good or better than anything on the Dreamcast.
As a game, the UFC is caught in a gray area between a fighting game and a sports game. If youve ever seen a UFC match then you know that very few of the fights actually involve the two combatants standing on their feet and striking like youd see in a boxing match. Instead fights usually end up with one person tackling the other one and pummeling him, or the fight looks like a wrestling match where two fighters roll around on the ground and try to put their opponent in an arm lock, ankle lock, leg lock, or some other cool-looking submission move. This represents a bit of a challenge to the conventions of fighting games which have been dominated by the more fantastic styles of Tekken or Street Fighter.
UFC solves this little riddle and makes a fighting game unlike any that has ever been made before. All the fighters have different strengths and weaknesses. Some are good strikers and so will try to stay on their feet while looking for punches and kicks. Other fighters are good at submission, so they will look for an opening to shoot in and take their opponent to the ground where they can look for the quick win. The game presents both realms of the match masterfully. No one has ever created a more realistic, more in-depth system of fighting for a videogame. While on the ground, the game essentially becomes an anything-goes wrestling match full of punches, submissions, reversals and counters.
The counter system is deceptively simple. When an opponent puts you in a submission move you either counter it or you tap out (give up). The counters are pretty simple, and there is a button combination assigned to each appendage. If your opponent goes for an arm lock, hit the arm counter to get out of the move. If youre too slow your fighter will be caught in the hold and will automatically give up. The up-side to this system is that the bouts are always shifting back and forth, no one is really ever out of the fight, and its something thats never even been attempted in a videogame before. The down-side is that the counters and submissions are both pretty simple and this means the game isnt as deep as it could have been. Beginners will likely have really short fights in which one person defeats the other one with a submission move in the blink of an eye. Once both players have the hang of the counters the system, the exact opposite will happen, as both players go for submission after submission and each person reverses the other as fast as they can hit the buttons. Eventually the system finds a happy medium in which players learn to mix up their submission attempts with punches and get sneakier about how to get their opponent into that rad-looking leg lock. This allows the combat system to be deeper than it first appears, but not as deep as it could have been. All in all the effect is both spectacular and groundbreaking, and the fact that it is just short of perfection is forgivable in the big picture.
UFC features twenty-two fighters that have a lot of variety in their skills so theres bound to be someone for everyones style and taste. UFC also features a career mode that allows you to craft your own fighter, train them, and then play them in all of the single and multiplayer modes. There are a variety of body types and fighting styles available to choose from that are not available in the starting line-up, which allows for even more variety in picking a fighter and a style that appeals to you.
UFC is rated teen, which is worth noting since the fighters look and act in such a realistic way. Theres not much chance that little kids will play Street Fighter and then try a super flaming dragon punch on their friends, but UFC features chokes, arm locks and awesome, realistic combat, so its perhaps best to pay heed to the age suggestion. The blood content is minimal and not done exceptionally well, and in any event can either be turned way down or cranked all the way up.
UFC certainly isnt for everybody, but fans of both sporting games and fighting games will find action, drama, and fun. Its a great single player game, and an even better multiplayer game, where the limits of smack talking know no bounds. Best of all, UFC features an innovative fighting system unlike anything youve ever seen, and one that has set an example that will be mimicked and improved upon for some time to come.