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[ Writer ] = BAD
[ 11/04/06 ] = With Great Sacrifice Comes Great Rewards

I had originally planned to cover Ultimate Fighting Championship: Tapout (XB) later, but I've decided to do it sooner to congratulate Tito Ortiz on his third victory over Ken Shamrock in UFC 64 (10/10/06 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Miami, Florida). Feeling he was cheated after their short (1:18) second bout, Shamrock demanded a rematch. Ortiz gave him the beatdown he begged for, rightfully so, considering all the crap Shamrock said working up to the fight ("I'll steal your soul" is my personal favorite). Tito won, and it was good to see. He said he would make Shamrock retire, and he did exactly what he said he would do. The timing was great because I recently got Ultimate Fighting Championship: Tapout (called Ultimate Fighting Championship: Tapout 2 in Japan) for around $2.00 new, which is a steal because it's actually a good game! I was surprised by the price of the game when I bought it, but I was even more surprised by the game itself.

A joint effort between three companies (!), the American version of the game was made by Japanese developer Dream Factory in conjunction with American developer Crave, and the Japanese version was picked up, polished, and released by Capcom. They also picked up the first Ultimate Fighting Championship on the DreamCast and released it in Japan. They did the same with the PlayStation 2 UFC game, but they screwed-up the title and called it UFCT2, making it seem like it's the same as the XBox UFC game (something Capcom has done before). Both games are in fact different, and their titles should have remained unchanged from the original American titles (UFC: Tapout for XB and UFC: Throwdown for PS2). Then we have the GameCube UFC (also a different game), almost-named properly in Japan (UFC: Tapout 2 - Final Spec) but still misleading in the States (UFC: Throwdown). I got this information from an exhaustive search of American and Japanese sources (both online and in print), and hopefully it will help others as confused as I was. Anyway, on with the game...

It came out around the time CVSS2EO came out on the GameCube, but nobody I knew had it, and a lot of XBox owners refused to play a fighter other than DOA3. UFCT plays something like DOA3 (not counting the endboss); no fireballs, no weapons or projectiles, just fists and feet. Other 3-D fighting games have been praised for their proximity to realism, but I have to say that UFC2 has them all beat. The game is probably as close to real as it gets. Most fighting games have a distinct, unique gameplay feature that separates them from all of the other fighting games out there, and in this game it comes in the form of grappling. The Strike attack system in UFCT is similar to the attacking in Dead Or Alive 3 (with "tap-tap" combos and power hits), and combos are effective, but more time is spent on ground. The game can be played in the hit-for-hit fashion of other fighters, but grapplers are at an obvious advantage during the fight, and it gets really intense when someone lands tackle. Where other fighting games put emphasis on Special Moves, UFCT puts emphasis on Special Holds, and there are a lot of them (just like real UFC fights). Bone-breaking arm bars, thunderous slams, brutal chokes, dizzying name it. It's all there. Some of them look downright painful, and the character's facial expressions show it.

As the name of the game suggests, submission (rare in most fighting games) is key, and the position of your character during a ground grapple (Mount) is important. There are three different Mount positions (Top, Bottom, and Back), each of which determine what techniques you can use (elbows, leg bars, and rib hits, just to name a few). From there, it's either "ground and pound," submission hold, release, or reversal. There are a few different types of Reversals (depending on position), and successfully performing them can really turn the tide of the fight. Loosely similar to the "catch" Counters in DOA3, Reversals are a challenge to land, but they are very useful, and together with submission holds they make the game exciting. Even if your opponent has a full lifebar and already beaten you to a pulp, it is still possible to win the match. Even if your opponent has a longer lifebar than you do, you can catch him/her in a reversal and win the match with a submission hold. In DOA3 your opponent gets back up and starts fighting again after you perform submission holds like arm bars, but in UFCT the same submission holds actually end the match. Matches are unpredictable, and that is what makes UFCT fun.

The visuals in UFC Tapout are pretty good. Whether or not the graphics of UFC Tapout (XB hardware) are better than UFC Throwdown (PS2 hardware) is completely in the eye of the beholder (the texturing is different), but the character models don't look bad. Even though Tito seems a bit shorter than his real life counterpart, the detail put into to each character's physical stature is impressive, and accurate right down to facial features, body weight, and tattoos. If you're a UFC fan, at least a few of your favorites should be in the game, since the roster is pretty big. Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell were roster shoe-ins of course, along with other favorites like Maurice Smith, Jeremy Horn, Kaoru Uno, and Evan Tanner. Dan Severn's in the game, too, and it's awesome because he looks like Haggar! From this, we could theoretically say that Haggar is in the game as a regular character. Hidden characters like Ice-T (yes, you heard right, and I don't know what the hell he's doing in the game), The Mask (??????), two huge referees (the ones you see on TV), and two female fighters (??????) are also playable, but not nearly as enjoyable to play as the regular characters (who also look cooler). That's not it, though. Capcom also put E.Honda and Zangief's faces in the Create Character mode, so they make an appearance in the game, too (at least in the Japanese version)! I also made Gunloc, Biff, and Grater from Saturday Night Slammasters! And for those who think Dan Severn doesn't look close enough to Haggar, I even made the alternate, blue-colored Haggar from Final Fight 2!

A lot was put into the Create Character mode in UFCT, and it was enhanced for UFC Tapout (XB) from what it was in UFC Throwdown (PS2). The character making in UFCT is pretty cool. You can create your own fighter from the ground up, from body weight and face, to skill and fighting style. Attributes like agility and power can also be customized (with points). This is probably one of the best character edit modes out there for a fighting game, simply because there are so many different skill attributes to choose from (all of which determine the way your character plays). If you're a fan of hit-for-hit fighting, you can get the most out of attributes like "Powerful Strikes," "Ground and Pound Stylist," or "Good Puncher with Long Reach," while fans of wrestling and/or submission would benefit from "World Class Wrestler," "Superb Takedowns," or "Quick on the Mat." There are literally a plethora of these different attributes to choose from (including stuff like "Stunning with the Ladies"), ensuring that no two customized characters are the same. Though more costumes should have been added (it's impossible to make characters like T. Hawk with the given attire), the selection is OK, and fighting fans will find at least one they like. I spent hours making characters from other Capcom games, and it's safe to say that I will be spend many more making my own characters. Hell, I don't even think I'm done making the Capcom characters, yet! I'm still compromising ways to make Dee Jay, Fei Long, Darun, and Allen...

As far as effects go, there are no flashy hit sparks or color blasts when a match is won, and there are no trailing shadows behind powerful moves, but there is some blood in the game. Drops of crimson fly out when hits connect, and during "ground and pound" sessions blood spatters the mat. Sometimes you'll even see blood splatter the Capcom logo (proof that Capcom did more than just publish the game). There are really no backgrounds (since every fight is in the octagon), but this couldn't really be helped, and the impressive surroundings outside the octagon make up for it. Character entrances look very good, with lots of bright lighting effects and well-rendered, rowdy fans. A ton of small details that were put into the crowd, and they animate smoothly. I'm not sure if the entrance cinematic scenes are just in-game characters walking on FMV backdrops or what, but either way it looks good. The way they made the fighter entrances also reminded me of the entrances in Capcom's 2-D wrestler, Saturday night Slammasters. So, by now some are probably wondering about how the game's visuals compare to Dead Or Alive 3 on the same hardware. Well, the stages definitely aren't anywhere near the grandeur of DOA3's, and even though the fighters in UFCT look good, they don't look quite as good as DOA3's cast.

There are also a few modes to enjoy in UFCT, as described below:

[ List ] = Modes Of Play
[ Mode ] = Arcade
Similar to the Survival Mode seen in other Capcom fighters, where the goal is to get a record number of wins. As far as I know, it never ends (there were character repeats), so you're free to rack up as many wins as you can get. My personal record is 59 Wins with Tito Ortiz, and I think I could have gotten more, but things outside of the game forced me to quit early. The only difference is that your lifebar starts again at full at the beginning of each fight. This mode is for endurance.

[ Mode ] = UFC
This is the standard single-player mode with an ending. However, since the remaining lifebar is carried over from the previous round to the next, it also plays like the Survival Mode in DOA3. The mode offers three different paths to choose from, which include Lightweight (smaller guys only), Heavyweight (big guys only), and Openweight (dogpile).

[ Mode ] = Tournament
Like the tournament mode in Super Street Fighter II - The Tournament Battle, this is a bracket style, one match mode for group play. This mode is perfect for the casual rowdy game night crowd or the serious college campus tournament. I was surprised to see that this mode was in the game, considering its rarity in other fighters. It's a shame that mainstream stupidity and elitist mentality will probably prevent this mode from ever being used in a sponsored tournament, though.

[ Mode ] = Create Player
This mode speaks for itself, and has been previously mentioned, but according to Hyper PlayStation 2 magazine Capcom Mook, the Create Player Mode in UFC Tapout was enhanced from its UFC Throwdown incarnation. It is different from the Create Player modes in the other UFC games!

As far as audio goes, the music is pretty good, with lots of guitars and drums. There's also a surprisingly fitting, hard, screaming intro by the band Diecast that should make moshers happy. The sound effects are alright; nothing too bad, nothing too great. Hits connect with a few different sounds ranging from slaps to thuds, but you won't hear the variety different hit effects heard in other fighters on the same hardware. You can hear people specifically cheering you on, too, and the crowd noise level goes up and down depending on what happens during the match. The intros also sound cool, and just about everything is announced by the actual UFC announcer from real-life. Thankfully, Tito's Limp Bizkit intro didn't make it into the game.

Why should you play this game? Because it you have ever been disappointed that your favorite fighter didn't win the title, you can change the outcome by playing this game! Capcom did a good job publishing and enhancing the game, not only because it filled the void of MMA fighters in Capcom's fighting library, but because it reminded me of SNSM in some parts. DOA3 is faster overall, also with an assortment of leg bars and arm bars, but UFCT still has raw fighting to bring to the table. There are special holds to learn, and a lot of them. Designing your own octagon fighter is fun, too, and the possibilities are endless. It's funny because when Dream Factory made games with Square (Tobal No. 1, Tobal 2, and Ergheiz) they sucked, and they were boring. But with Crave and Capcom they did a good job with UFCT. They made a game that faithfully brings the thrills of the real-life UFC straight to your room. Brutality and all...

[ Extra ] = Features
[ 1 ] = Tito Interview
[ 2 ] = Tito Video Interview
[ 3 ] = Tito Ortiz Official Site
[ 4 ] = Crave
[ 5 ] = Dream Factory