Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 06/03/02 | Genre: Fighting
I'm sure there are a few people who have never heard of The Ultimate Fighting Championship. Ever seen a Jean Claude Van Damme movie? Such as "The Quest" or "Kickboxer"? That's what the UFC is all about. Fighters from all over the world and from all fighting styles (be it Jiu-jitsu, Kung Fu, or Pit Fighting) meet in one winner-take-all tournament. What does the winner take, you may ask? Well, they get money, pride, and the glory of being known as the greatest fighter in the world. Sounds like a good video game plot to me.
After the excellent opening movie, the game takes you to the main menu screen. There are tons of different modes and ways to play. There's exhibition, tournament, arcade, UFC mode (where the player can earn belts and unlock hidden characters), training, and a career mode. It's pretty obvious what most of the modes consist of, but this game's career mode is incredibly in-depth and engaging. When it begins, the player puts in some basic information about the character they are creating (name, height, weight, etc.) and chooses a fighting style. When matches first start, the character is very weak, and very prone to draining his energy by throwing too many punches. By completing skill challenges, the character gets stronger and learns new moves for his fighting style. After competing in a tournament, more skill points are earned, and the character can either learn moves from a whole new fighting style, or learn stronger moves in his current one. After Career mode is finished, the character can be used in other modes to take on the world's best fighters.
The career mode is excellent, but it indirectly demonstrates a flaw in the game. UFC: Throwdown has an insanely steep learning curve. During matches, there is a moves list. The problem is that the moves list doesn't say what the move is, it just says the combination. It will say "Grappling" and list button combinations. The move could be a standing submission, a fireman's carry takedown, or a grapple followed by a knee to the face. Since moves aren't listed, it is very hard to jump into the game as a real UFC fighter. It is very hard to win as any of the real fighters (which include past and present great such as Dan "The Beast" Severn, Frank "Don't call me Ken" Shamrock, and Tito "Whoa dude, I'm like, a surfer!" Ortiz) and this can prove to be very frustrating. Make a good created character, because you'll play as him most of the time.
But what kinds of moves are available? Well, since it is a realistic fighting game, there are no fireballs or jumping, spinning uppercuts. There are typical punches and kicks, combos, takedowns, and submission holds. There are two ways to win a UFC match. Either pummel the opponent until his life bar is completely gone, or lock him in a submission and he immediately gives up and the match is over. Some characters are better submission wrestlers, while others are better strikers. It is very easy to reverse submission holds, so they don't dominate the game. That is usually the easiest way to win a match though.
The graphics are a two-headed beast in this game. Some things are very well done, like the very realistic crowd, the character animation, and the blood that stains the mat. Some things are not done very well, like the character entrances and character models (It looks like big head mode, the bane of my existence). The graphics would be good for a launch title, but it would be nice to see Opus put a little more polish on a game this far into the PS2's life-span. The sound is also a lot like the graphics. The good: Sound effects during submission holds are brutal. There are horrible bone-cracking effects and screams of pain as the victim taps out. Very nice. The bad: Everything else. The generic rock music on the main menu and the heroic sounding music accompanying entrances are awful. Many of the sound effects sound like they were ripped from a cartoon. There are many yells and grunts at very odd times. The sound is definitely the weak link in this game.
If you aren't looking for a game that will blow you away technically but is just a lot of fun, UFC: Throwdown is what you are looking for. It's very rewarding bringing a character through career mode and stealing away the UFC belt with him. However, with exceptionally average graphics and lackluster sound, it can't be recommended for everyone.