The ultimate part of Ultimate Fighting Championship rings true – it takes the best parts of wrestling, kickboxing, muay thai and judo and does away with most of their rules. In fact, the only real rule is that you can’t fight like a sissy, punching below the belt, biting, scratching and pulling hair. That’ll be me out of the octagon ring in less than 10 seconds, then.
It’s in a gamer’s nature to skip past tutorials but it’s worth playing through the one that appears at the start. Success depends on knowing how to reverse attacks, get out of grapples and perform takedowns and submissions. Getting out of a submission involves wildly rotating the right analogue stick – I’m sure that a lot of joypads are going to have a few years knocked off their life expectancy because of this.
Leaning the controls also makes things much more entertaining. When playing against somebody who blocks your every move and reverses every attack (i.e – grabbing your leg when trying to land a kick and then throwing you to the canvas) fights can be extremely competitive. Knowing the inns and outs of the control system is also a good for showing off online, making new players look next to useless.
The online mode is a near identical clone of Street Fighter IVs, which isn’t a bad thing. Winning matches puts points on your profile; loosing matches takes them away. Beating the opposition in certain ways unlocks medals for all to see, while after every match your character gains some imaginary fans. You get an achievement for gaining a million aficionados, which will take bloody ages. The only gripe where online play is concerned is that if you’re not the host it’s up to your rival to skip the pre-match chatter. Having to sit through “And in the red corner, all the way from Bognor Regis and weighing in at…” is more than annoying when all you want to do punch people in the face for a bit.
I found playing online to be more entertaining than the single player career mode. It’s based around a calendar, where you can pick and choose who you want to fight against then spend upcoming weeks training and sparing to improve statistics. It’s deep and long lasting but not very interesting. Classic fight mode fairs better with videos to unlock while exhibition mode is good for quick play.
The commentary impresses as do the graphics – fighters take damage, like when kicking somebody in the side a red mark will eventually appear. Those expecting blood to pour all over the place should go back to playing Mortal Kombat – there’s only the occasional spray now and then. The presentation still could have done with a bit more polish – the menus are dull and the character creation tool is hampered by long loading times. It’s also a bit odd that given the violent nature of the game all the swear words in the licensed soundtrack have been censored.
With very few real faults this is a rock solid brawler that stands head and shoulders over THQ’s WWE titles. I’d probably still opt for Street Fighter IV given the choice, although comparing Capcom’s masterpiece to this is a bit like comparing Mario Kart Wii to Grand Turismo – they fall into the same genre but they’re both very different games.