Reviewed: November 10, 2002
Reviewed by: Alan Smith

Crave Entertainment

Dream Factory

Released: February 28, 2002
Genre: Sports
Players: 4
ESRB: Teen


Supported Features

  • Vibration
  • Memory Unit

  • Can street fighting be an Olympic sport? Well ballroom dancing is an Olympic event, so why not balls to the wall, all out brawling? Certainly the promotional machine behind the Ultimate Fighting Championship would have no objections. The UFC made its debut as a pay-per-view special in 1993, uniquely bringing together world-class fighters trained in karate, jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, sumo and any other form of martial art that doesn’t involve weapons. Successful beyond expectation, the series has run for nine years and over thirty-five worldwide events.

    UFC: Tapout brings this exciting and violent sport to your Xbox, offering four modes of play and the option to create your own fighter. The fight options are Arcade, UFC Mode, Exhibition, and Tournament. Arcade mode is all about quick one player action against the game. You can use your own fighter, or one of the pre-defined fighter profiles, each one modeled after real championship UFC fighters. UFC mode is an eight man round robin where you must win three fights against different opponents to win the tournament. Fights are run quickly, without much time to regain diminished health and stamina points between fights.

    Exhibition mode is a fight between a single player and the game, or between two players going mano-a-mano with player created or pre-defined fighters. Tournament mode is similar to the UFC mode, except it allows up to eight players to control the fighting action. As in UFC mode, the player who wins three of his matches takes home the Championship belt.

    Even if the game misses the mark as a showcase for international culture, we don’t give a rip; we came to see a fight. The power behind each blow struck by a fighter is dependent on his fighting style. Kick boxers are best at kicking and wrestlers are best at wrestling. This doesn’t prevent any fighter from using any other type of move, only that he will pack more power when delivering a blow using his specialty. Left and right punches and left and right kicks are controlled with the A,B,X,Y buttons. Button combinations are used for more elaborate moves such as takedown attempts or blocking. Add a handful of joystick moves to the mix, and it’s clear that lots of practice is required to master the fight.

    To help you out the game features a pause mode where you can pull up a “Moves List” that details what’s available to your fighter in his current position. The problem with this chart is it’s small and difficult to read. The printed manual does an equally poor job of fight training, devoting only a few thinly illustrated pages to the subject. What UFC really needs is an interactive tutorial to coach new players and to serve as a sparing partner while you learn the ropes. Since there is no such tutorial, the only way to master the game is through experimentation, and getting punch drunk as you muddle through the learning process.

    Winning a round can be done with a knockout or a tapout. A tapout is when you pin the other guy and twist his arm until he cries uncle. A knockout is when you draw blood and your opponent loses conscious. A knockout ends the round and wins the fight. A tapout ends the round and counts toward the decision if there is no knockout round. The number of rounds in a fight can be varied, as can the length of each round.

    At the end of each round there is a short instant replay of the best exchanges. Unfortunately, there is no way to save the instant replay. Not only would it be cool to save the highlights of your big championship win, reviewing an instant replay would be a useful training aid. Every Xbox has GIGABYTES of hard drive space, why aren’t game developers taking advantage of this? I realize that not every console has a hard drive, but flash memory is all that’s needed. Consider the Gran Turismo series on the PlayStation platform. From the very first version you could save an entire race on a single memory card.

    Fighter creation is the feature I enjoyed the most. Pick your name, nickname, age, weight, height, strengths, face, clothing, voice, hometown, and fighting style. Every category offers a wide range of choices, and once these basics have been selected you are given additional points to enhance your attributes for life, stamina, kicking power, and punching skills. The result is an individualized fighter that will become your alter ego.

    One thing that puzzled me is way the game only displays your created fighter’s face after he enters the ring. In all the setup menus created fighters are seen as only faceless black outlines. Could there be a hidden feature that allows players to use their own face on a fighter, if there is - I couldn’t find it. Could this be another unfinished feature that didn’t make it to the final version, or could the closed nature of the Xbox system make transferring digital images into the game impossible? This “quirk” and another “quirk” that allows the game to display a blank and very bright white screen for a second or two at the end of a fight gives the interface an unfinished look. How these two “quirks” slipped by the no less than fourteen people listed as quality assurance for the game is beyond my understanding. Deadlines and commitments I suppose.

    The knockout highpoint of this game is the character animation. The 3D renderings are state of the art and the best I have seen on any console platform to date. Each fighter has a unique look starting with his hair, or lack thereof, right on down to his shoes, or lack thereof. Facial features, body shapes, and skin tones all work together to give each animation a realistic and individualized look.

    Twenty-seven fighters are included with the game, and a short bio for each can be found in the in the thirty-three page manual. These guys represent the cream of the UFC tour and cover the whole gamut of fighting disciplines. Not only do these digital doubles look convincing, the crew over at Crave Entertainment went the extra round to capture details like “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz’s signature boxing shorts. And when Tito wins, you have to see his victory moves to appreciate them. Yeah these guys got style, and UFC has captured their style very well thank you. Blood splatter? Crank up the option and you will get plenty of that too!

    Writers have to make do with POW! BAM!, and BIF!, but game programmers are blessed with magic; magic that can generate any sound in the world using today’s game console wonder boxes. When that sound is pumped through a powered amp and sub-woofer, the low frequency punch makes every blow personal, but without the hurt. Which is my way of saying the fighting audio in UFC is spot on. But no fight is complete without the referee, the announcer, and the crowd. UFC blends these effects together to create the background ambiance that says “you are there”. Well done.

    What is lacking from both the audio and the background art is variety in the fight locations. Although there is an option to select host cities from around the world, there is no audio or visual difference between the different cities. Each city features the same referee, the same announcer, and the same crowd. Even the scantily clad babe walking the ropes with the round counter above her head never changes. What’s up with that; a feature unfinished perhaps?

    UFC: Tapout is an addictive fighting game with plenty of hidden characters to unlock. The four gameplay modes and the unique create-a-fighter mode will keep you busy for many, many hours. It will take you several days just to make your way through the extensive Championship mode. The multiplayer action will be a real crowd please and a great hit at parties or when friends just want to duke it out on the Xbox.

    Rough edges and unfinished features not withstanding, UFC is fun to play, and the superb graphics and audio set it above the crowd - a most excellent choice for showing off your Xbox. Fighting games are perfect for two players because both players are always inside the ring and visible without resorting to a distracting split screen. Learning the basic moves only takes a round or two, and for myself going one on one against a friend after a just a few minutes of setup is a blast. Without realizing it you’ll both be trash talking as you stalk each other inside the ring.

    Fans of the real UFC will appreciate the attention to detail and lifelike modeling of the real fighters. Mastery of the control system takes much longer than it should because of the weak manual and lack of an online tutorial. Players that want to take UFC to the limit need commitment and desire to sustain themselves through lots of trial and error learning. UFC is a decent game, but one best purchased when the newness has worn off and the price has dropped by a few bucks.