UFC: Tapout Updated Preview
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After experiencing a brief delay, Ultimate Fighting Championship: Tapout has almost arrived on store shelves. Developed by Dream Factory and published by Crave Entertainment, UFC: Tapout is the Xbox version of the popular Dreamcast fighting game that brought home the reality combat sport with a remarkably complex grappling system and a wide selection of real-life fighters. We recently had the opportunity to play the final version of the game and have gotten a good look at the features and minor touches that should set it apart from its very similar Dreamcast predecessor.
The most noticeable difference between the Xbox version of UFC: Tapout and Anchor's original game is the revamped graphics. The stylized ring entrances are handled in a relatively novel fashion--the prerendered arena is blended with streaming crowd footage and used as a backdrop for the real-time character model's stroll to the octagon. The blending is much more seamless on the Xbox and looks very good. Each of the character models from the original game has also been given a face-lift, resulting in an incredible amount of detail in the fighters in this game. Much greater attention has been paid to the minute details this time around, and you can really tell the difference when you take a close look at the muscle tone and facial expressions. The Xbox's powerful shading capabilities literally bring these characters to life. Despite the fighter animation and the high model detail, the game never dips below its constantly smooth 60fps frame rate. Joints and limbs are much smoother in this game, and you see very few of the angular components and awkward seams that plagued the last game. Droplets of blood fly after successful strikes, and the amount of blood can be adjusted in the options menu from non-bloody up to where the mat turns red as the match progresses. The camera still seems to frequently fall into an awkward position as it shifts along with fighters on the ground, sometimes placing itself squarely behind a ring post or the referee. Overall, however, it appears that UFC: Tapout may deserve a spot among the better-looking fighting games on current platforms.
The relatively simple button layout behind the controls in UFC: Tapout belies the remarkably deep fighting system contained within. While nearly all the fighters have access to similar strikes, takedown maneuvers, and submissions, there are individual moves and combos that greatly change the way they are played. Jeremy Horn, for instance, has a two-punch, spinning backfist combination that can absolutely wreck the opposition. Bas Rutten, who is renowned for his submission skills as well as strikes, can follow a feint kick nearly immediately with a powerful high kick. Kevin Randleman is a particularly imposing striker, even more so when in the mount and dropping his punishing double axe-handle strike. Other characters have interesting ways of executing takedowns--Mikey Burnett, for instance, makes use of a remarkably deft rush after a spin move. Dan "The Beast" Severn, a UFC veteran, isn't known for his boxing ability, and he uses wild swinging slaps instead of proper punches. Additionally, instead of a punch counter, he uses a two-handed shove to disrupt his opponent's rhythm, often setting up a shoot-in for a takedown. The huge variety of fighters offers quite the opportunity for finding one that matches your personal preferences.
The create-a-fighter feature in UFC: Tapout allows you to build a roster of personally created combatants to accompany the beefy 27-man roster. Your fighter is ranked in four categories and is allotted a set number of points to distribute among punching and kicking strength, life, and stamina. Heights and weights can be manipulated liberally as well. Grappling capabilities and move variety are tied directly to fighting style, and there are a number to choose from. Capoeira practitioners have a wide array of flashy techniques, which nicely complement the more conservative jujitsu and mat-wrestling experts. Not to be left out, pro wrestling is an available style, allowing you to bring in an over-the-top battler who excels at pulling off suplexes, giant swings, and Boston crabs. Sumo, street fighting, muay thai, tae kwon do, and other popular disciplines are also available. These created fighters can then be imported to compete in any of the other modes of play.
While the final version of the game features several play modes to experience, including arcade, UFC, and tournament, the game seems like it will be best suited to competitive play. Two players can go head-to-head at once, while a tiered tournament can be set up with up to eight human players who compete to see who can win all three of their fights. UFC: Tapout hasn't strayed very far from its roots on the Dreamcast, but players looking forward to a fighting-game alternative to Dead or Alive 3 for their Xbox should keep an eye out for this one. Take a look at some images and video we've taken, and keep an eye out for our full review of the game when it hits stores in February.