UFC Tapout 2 Preview
We check out the next entry in the UFC franchise on the Xbox.
When the first Ultimate Fighting Championship game appeared on the Dreamcast, most fans of the UFC couldn't believe how closely the game resembled the intense, often brutal real-world mixed-martial-arts competition. Since then, developers have been building on the original concept and have chosen to make additions that refine the mechanics of the original game. UFC: Tapout 2 continues this trend and looks like it could turn out to be the most polished UFC game yet thanks to incredible visuals and refined gameplay, which fans of previous UFC games should be more than familiar with.
For the uninitiated, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is a competition that lets martial artists test their skills against opponents from different disciplines. Basically, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is the closest thing in real life to a fighting game, which makes the sport perfect to translate into the game medium. UFC: Tapout 2 includes the same grappling maneuvers--like arm bars and ankle locks--that you'd see the fighters use in a real match. In fact, all the real-life disciplines of the actual fighters are represented--from grapplers who study wrestling, jujitsu, and judo to strikers who train in tae kwan do, kickboxing, and karate. In all, UFC Tapout 2 will feature a roster of 43 different fighters from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, including favorites old and new, like Tito Ortiz, Chuck Lidell, Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver, Carlos Newton, and Pedro Rizzo.
UFC: Tapout 2 includes several different modes of play, including exhibition, tournament, career mode, arcade, training, legend, and champion road. While most of the modes are self-explanatory, legend and champion road offer unique experiences. Legend mode puts you in the octagon as the fighter of your choice and makes him the UFC champion. Your goal here is to see how many times you can successfully defend your UFC title before finally getting beat. Champion road breaks the UFC roster up by weight classes and puts you at the bottom of the list so you have to battle your way up to get a shot at the title. UFC: Tapout 2 also makes some additions to the series' create-a-fighter mode, raising the number of possible character variations to 149,292.
The gameplay in UFC: Tapout 2 is all about inflicting a great deal of damage upon your opponent while trying not to get hit or put into a submission hold yourself. Each one of the buttons on the face of the controller is mapped to one of your fighter's limbs, and pressing one of these buttons executes a punch or kick. The speed and power of the punches and kicks in the game are determined by the actual stats of the real-life fighter. You can also execute a counter or grapple move by pushing two buttons together when you're within range. If done properly, a grab will take an opponent down to the mat and get you in a mounted position where you can either begin raining punches down on his head or body or go for a submission hold. Opponents can try to counter submission holds and punches while on their back by timing their attacks and pressing two buttons together just as a strike or grab connects. If you time your attacks well, you can often gain the upper hand by sliding out and throwing your foe on the mat. As in real life, fighters who are more talented in the grappling department have a significant advantage on the ground in UFC: Tapout 2. One of the new gameplay mechanics in the game is the addition of side mounts, which add yet another dimension to matches that end up on the ground.
Each fight is broken up by rounds and will go until a fighter is knocked out or submits to a hold or the fight reaches the round limit, at which time the ringside judges pick the winner. Getting close enough to knock your opponent out without getting knocked out yourself takes practice. The key is to have a feel for your fighter's striking distance. If you can gauge the range at which your fighter and your opponent can deliver punches and kicks, you'll do well. Combat in UFC: Tapout 2 is all about being able to quickly move your fighter into range, get in a good combination of punches and kicks, and then get back out of range before your opponent has a chance to hit you. The one equalizer is your opponent's ability to counter punches and kicks, since any fighter can simply catch your strikes if he or she times it just right.
In the graphics department, UFC: Tapout 2 is already looking quite impressive. The models of the fighters have seen a very noticeable increase in polygon count since the last game, and there's also been a drastic improvement in the look of their skin and faces. The incredibly detailed high-resolution skin textures come complete with the same tattoos, wrinkles, and scars that the real-life fighters have. The development team is also using a real-time mesh deformation system that makes it so the fighters' muscles flex appropriately. Plus, a new dynamic lighting system has been added that enables effects like self-shadowing. If you played the original UFC: Tapout, you probably remember the cool prerendered CG intros depicting the fighters making their way into the ring. In UFC: Tapout 2, the same CG intros are included, but without the CG version of the fighter. Instead, the designers are now using the actual in-game models for the ring entrances, since they actually look almost as good as the prerendered CG fighters used in the original Tapout. They still have a few tracking kinks to work out, but it does give you an up-close look at how good the models actually are. Last but not least, the designers have also included a new particle system for the sweat and blood, which now splatter a little more realistically than in the previous UFC games.
In the audio department, UFC: Tapout 2 will try to re-create the sounds of an actual UFC event for the game as accurately as possible. One way they'll be trying to do so is by including the real voices of some of the people involved, such as ring announcer Bruce Buffer and a few of the referees from the UFC, including Big John McCarthy. In addition to the standard UFC theme songs, the designers wanted players to be able to add their own music tracks to the game using the Xbox's CD-ripping feature. The songs players choose can be selected as the default ring entrance music for the different fighters in the game.
While there's no doubt we've been impressed with the quality of the new look of UFC: Tapout 2, the only real question for fans of the previous UFC games is if Tapout 2 will offer enough new content to warrant a purchase. For some the new, almost photo-realistic fighter models may be more than enough reason on their own. For others, the roster update, graphics overhaul, and addition of the side mount might not seem like a big enough of a difference. In either case, we'll have to wait until we get a final build of the game before passing judgment. The one thing that is certainly fair to say is that UFC: Tapout 2 definitely looks like it's shaping up well. UFC: Tapout 2 is slated to ship this February for the Xbox.
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