UFC: Tapout Review
On its own merits, UFC: Tapout is an excellent, original fighting game that's especially fun for two players.
Crave Entertainment's Ultimate Fighting Championship: Tapout for the Xbox is the latest game bearing the UFC label. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is America's premier mixed martial arts competition, which hosts numerous pay-per-view events and is the venue under which many of the world's top fighters get their moment in the limelight. Based on the Ultimate Fighting Championship game that debuted on the Sega Dreamcast in 2000, UFC: Tapout is an unconventional fighting game that pits real-life no-holds-barred competitors against each other in matches that test their fortitude and fighting prowess. UFC: Tapout presents the same fighting system that appealed to so many players of the Dreamcast version, adds a heavily updated roster, and improves the graphics in such a way as to nearly bring the fighters to life. Though it's essentially similar to the Dreamcast version, and does have a couple of shortcomings as compared with that game, UFC: Tapout is still the best fighting game available for the Xbox.
UFC: Tapout features some of the greatest real-life martial artists to ever enter the octagon. Among the most notable are current light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz, former champions Maurice Smith, Mark "The Hammer" Coleman, and a number of other savvy veterans such as Bas Rutten and Pat Miletich. Making their video game debuts are fan favorites "The Titan" Mark Kerr, current lightweight champion "Little Evil" Jens Pulver, and former UFC powerhouse Dan "The Beast" Severn. The sizable roster includes 27 fighters from the get-go--that's before you unlock all the hidden characters in the arcade mode.
The roster of fighters may be impressive, but unfortunately UFC: Tapout lacks a couple of the modes of play featured in the original Dreamcast game: The career mode and the practice mode are no longer available. The remaining gameplay modes include arcade mode, where you consecutively challenge all of the fighters on the roster; UFC mode, which is a tiered tournament where you need to conserve stamina to make it all the way to the finals; and tournament mode, where you can set up large custom tournaments for many players to compete in or simply create your own dream match pay-per-view event.
UFC: Tapout is a great-looking game, featuring superrealistic character models and incredible motion-captured animation. Many games that use characters based on real-world personalities fail to make them look like their living counterparts, due to flat textures, stilted animation, and a variety of other reasons. But for the most part, UFC: Tapout gets it right. Each of the characters is an excellent likeness of its real-life counterpart, down to the facial detail, musculature, skin tone, and tattoos. Characters' clothing also looks fairly authentic. The fighters' dramatic entrances into the octagon are nearly as impressive looking as the fighters themselves are, because UFC: Tapout makes use of an unusual method of reproducing crowds--full-motion video footage of a crowd is blended in with showy lighting effects and the real-time rendered character model.
Once the fighters are ready, the camera tightly focuses on the huge characters. The fighters look even better in motion, because the animation is superb. The fighters react to each other realistically while fighting, both on their feet and when grappling on the ground, and their movements rarely look awkward. Even relatively simple moves, such as the straight armbar, are smoothly animated, and more-intricate motions can be seen when, for example, a fighter goes from a sweep to the mounted position in one fluid maneuver. There are a few graphical shortcomings you'll notice, such as the occasional clipping problems, where a character's limbs appear to pass through the opponent's body, or a ground fighter's head pokes through the fence. But for the most part, UFC: Tapout's graphics and animation are of exceptional quality and make it one of the best-looking fighting games available today.
It may be a pleasure to watch, but one of the serious problems with the game is how poorly the camera reacts to the constantly shifting action. Since fights so often move from standing to the ground, the camera often moves to an angle meant to provide a good view of in-close grappling action, but instead it often becomes a nuisance. It's not uncommon for the perspective to shift squarely behind the referee or behind one of the posts, with your vision further obscured by the chain-link texture of the fence. Consequently, the camera problems can directly interfere with gameplay. You'll at least learn to expect this.
As good as it looks, UFC: Tapout is even more impressive as a gameplay experience. In UFC: Tapout, two fighters square off within the chain-link confines of the eight-sided ring. A single green bar measures each fighter's remaining stamina and health. Portions of the meter turn red as the fighter tires out and can then be replenished with rest, or the meter can diminish entirely while the fighter's receiving damage. Blocking moves will prevent your fighter from taking damage, but the blocked blows may still reduce his stamina. Some moves, such as a spinning backfist or a telegraphed overhand punch, may be damaging enough to stun the opponent, leaving him vulnerable to follow-up attacks, takedown maneuvers, or even a quickly cinched-in choke.