When I purchased my XBox, UFC:Tapout was one of the first games I bought. I've always been a semi-fan of the sport (whenever it comes on TV, which is rare, I'll sit and watch), and the game represented another dimension that I could explore.
The game can run in several different modes. The first is an exhibition mode, where you can chose your fighter and your opponent, and basically hone your skills without the pressure of knowing you're in a tournament. Speaking of which, you can also play tournaments, where you can pick the participants or have the system do it for you. There is also an Arcade mode, the goal of which is to rack up as many consecutive wins as possible.
Finally, you can also Create-A-Fighter. I am a big fan in general of customization in sports games, but frankly, this one disappointed me. While you can choose things such as height, weight, hometown, face, etc., I was a bit disappointed to learn that none of this could be altered later. I made a spelling mistake on the name of one of my fighters, and not only can I not go in and change it, I can't even delete him and start over. Also, the creation mode doesn't offer as many options as one would like. When you get to the fighting skills section, there are only four areas you can beef up (all with the understanding that you have so many "points" to spend, so if you max out one level, you'll be skimping on another). The customizations are vague (kicking, punching, stamina, and life), and there's very little in the way of creating custom moves or holds.
Overall, the gameplay seems much like every other wrestling/fighting game out there. You have basic controls for punching, kicking, and takedowns, but then with that there are at least 50 custom controls to memorize (XY may be one hold, while XA is another, and so on). While this is not a bad thing per se, it limits the casual player in terms of ability. Those who don't wish to take the time to learn what combinations do what in which situations will find themselves mashing down on all the buttons in rapid succession in order to win. I have recently graduated from this method, and I'll admit the game is extremely enhanced if you invest the time in it. The moves that you can do are real and true to the sport. You can get your guy in different mounts, dive in for a submission right away, etc. The opportunities are limitless. But as with other wrestling games, it takes a good degree of trial and error to figure out what button combinations complete which moves. Unfortunately, some really cool moves (like backmounts, and the holds that go with them), are nearly impossible to pull-off. Yeah, hang on, I'll turn my back to you so you can grab me and pull me down... uh huh, right.
One downfall (or upside, depending on your tastes) is that the game does tend to move quite quickly. Rounds can be customized to last between 3 and 5 minutes (you can also change the number of rounds), but very rarely is more than one round necessary. This is a break from the real UFC, as strategy in this game takes a backseat to an all-out slugfest (who has the fastest trigger finger). Also on the negative side, the fighters seem to lack their own personalities. A submission fighter doesn't go for any more submissions than a street fighter. While he may be more successful at submissions, you'd think a little shrimpy submission guy wouldn't want to go toe-to-toe with a street fighter, and instead opt for the takedown. Well, they don't.
Graphics in this game are pretty well done. Each fighter has his own entrance, and the faces look real. One thing that would be interesting to see would be more subtle details. Sweat glistening, a blood-stained mat, etc. would go a long way in adding to the realism. Also, there are different arenas available, but honestly I can't tell the difference between any of them so it's really a non-factor. Thankfully, despite the nice graphics there is no lag or delay, and load times are fairly average (not slow).
A word about blood: thankfully, the game has customizable blood effects, from very little to a veritable bloodbath. I suppose this is helpful for younger players, although the fact that a guy is getting his head beat in may make blood effects the least of a parents' worries. :-)
There's not much to say about sound. Bruce Buffer announces each fighter, which is nice, but other than that the sound effects are canned. You have that persistent crowd buzz (with the occasional, oft-repeated heckle), and grunts and groans. That's really it. There is no soundtrack, and the sound effects exist, but that's about it. Nothing remarkable.
Overall, anyone who takes the time to learn the moves and work on a fighter strategy (knowing that you should backoff when you're getting beaten to a pulp) will enjoy this game provided they are fans of either UFC or wrestling in general. If you haven't really heard of UFC and you already own a wrestling game, I'd advise you to skip it (or at least rent it first). There's really nothing in this game thatyou haven't seen before. As the only fighting game in my collection, it falls into a little niche all its own. As the 2nd or 3rd in someone else's collection, it doesn't come out of the box very often.
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