Like all rabid UFC fans, I've been anxiously awaiting the release of the new UFC video game for months now, trolling gamer message boards in search of scarce tidbits and details that could hold me over until I had the game in my hand. Well, THQ was nice enough to send over a copy a few days before it's released nationwide, and I spent many hours last night shooting for takedowns, trading punches, and trying to submit my opponents. The game, overall, is fantastic, but let's be a little bit more specific, shall we?
The submissions are really hard to land
Fine by me. Submissions are really hard to lock in. You can't just get on the ground and get an armbar, just like that. The overall grappling engine is beautiful, and the transitions on the ground are seamless - just a quarter turn on the right stick to get yourself in a better position. Clicking the stick in will make your fighter go for a submission, and once your fighter grabs his opponent, rotating the stick will make him try to lock in the move. That's the tricky part, and it's realistic.
The fighter selection is fantastic
I always judge a fighter - whether it be wrestling, boxing, or other - on its character selection. It's incredibly easy to get bored with a game when there's only a handful of selectable fighters. Thankfully, UFC offers a ton of fighters in each weight class. I think there's 80, total, but there may or may not be several unlockable fighters (I only had a few hours with the game last night, after all) as well. While every big name in the sport is in, from Anderson Silva to GSP to BJ Penn to Brock Lesnar, and so on, there's plenty of less-heralded guys who help round out the experience. Makes it seem more realistic when you get updates on UFC cards, and you see that the lower-tier guys are working the lower end of the card. This is not a game with the top-10 fighters. It's much more of a WWE/Fight Night hybrid, as far as the structure.
Career Mode is deep and thorough
THQ made a choice to structure the Career Mode in such a way that you have to play through it with a created fighter. Everything you do, whether training, sparring, or fighting, gives you a certain amount of points that you can allocate to your fighters skill-set or overall fitness. Your activities are controlled through a calendar, where you choose to train or rest as you lead up to a fight. An email interface lets you communicate with Joe Silva, who will book your fights, Dana White, who will always let you know what he thinks, and the UFC newsletter, which will update you on events that occur as you play through the mode. They're often quick little write-ups that help make the experience more personal. The announcers will not say your name, but they will use a nickname placeholder. In writing, when you click a newsletter, it will use both your first and last name's in a way that makes you feel like a real UFC fighter. While the game could benefit from having a long list of common name pronunciations, I'm willing to overlook that. In one of my first fights, I was emailed a Q&A with my opponent, who was asked about the economy. He responded, "don't bet on Guarneri." I'll be damned if that didn't make me want to beat his pixelated face in.
There's not a true single-player mode that you can play through with the shipped roster. You have to create a fighter to play through Career Mode. I like the incentive to use the create-a-player interface, and it's fun to build up your own character earning points as you go, and sure, it also offers incentive to go play online, but still. A true single-player mode where you could take an established fighter through the grind of the UFC schedule would be welcomed.
But this small complaint should not detract from how successful the game is at capturing the real UFC experience. While creating your fighter, the soundtrack is spliced with notable audio clips from past ring-side post-match interviews. Hearing GSP tell Matt Hughes, in his accent, that he wasn't all that impressed with him, is cool. Hearing Wanderlai Silva gasp for breath as he tells Joe Rogan that he just tried his best, is very, very cool. These are just tiny little details, all which fail to accurately describe how rich the game feels. If you're a fan, it's a must-buy.