Ultimate Fighting Championship Preview

Crave's Dreamcast UFC game is an amazingly complex fighting game that successfully captures the spirit of the UFC. Now see how the PlayStation version is coming along.

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For those of you who are wondering exactly what UFC is, it's a pay-per-view event that pits fighters of different styles against each other in one large tournament to see who makes it to the end in one piece. The fighters square off inside a massive octagon-shaped ring with a chain-link fence for walls. There are no rules in UFC other than no biting, no groin attacks, and no hair pulling. So, as you might imagine, things can get fairly brutal. This has caused some cable systems to ban UFC's true-to-life combat from the airwaves. Fortunately, this hasn't stopped Crave from developing and publishing UFC for the Dreamcast while passing on the developmental duties for the PlayStation version to Opus.

UFC comes with 22 fighters available from start-up and several others that are unlocked by completing certain directives. Jiujitsu, kickboxing, sumo, and pit fighting are just a few of the 12 basic fighting styles featured in the game. Certain fighters have a hybrid of styles, and, when all is said and done, there are 32 styles total. It's impressive that Opus has managed to create an interface that lets all these styles come together and interact without a hitch. There is a one-player tournament mode, an exhibition mode for taking on your friends, a fighter-creation mode, and a multiplayer tournament. One-player tournament mode lets you enter the UFC tournament and vie for the silver belt. Once you have the belt, you may enter the road to the championship and attempt to win the heavyweight title. The fighter-creation mode lets you choose your character's name, discipline, strength, size, and place of origin. You may then select your head and shorts before moving on to split up a given number of points among your fighter's different attributes.

UFC is best described as a fighting game where reversals and strategy take the place of combos and special moves. Fighting consists of two primary modes. You begin each fight in the standing position and go toe-to-toe with your competition. In this situation, UFC is a button masher, as you attempt to pummel your opponent with simple punches and kicks until you see an opening. Once you find your opportunity, you shoot in and take your opponent down. Once on the ground, the second fighting mode kicks in, complete with a new camera angle. It is here that the meat of UFC lies.

While on the ground, one player is always on top of the other, and the game becomes a chess match of sorts. If the person on top is punching you with his right arm, pressing your left-punch button causes your player to grab your opponent's punching arm and reverse the situation so that you are now on top. Now you begin to pummel your opponent by trying to mix it up so that he is unable to reverse the situation. You may also go for a submission move that, once applied, quickly ends the match in a tap out. If it fails, your opponent reverses the hold, and now you're on the bottom looking for your opportunity to turn the tables. Some of the matches end fairly quickly, as it takes just one missed reversal for a submission move to take hold. This system also helps to keep things exciting, as anyone can win a match at any time.

Ultimate Fighting Championship looks pretty nice. The characters transition from move to move smoothly and appear very similar to their real-world counterparts in both facial textures and proportion. While the action doesn't exactly fly by at a breakneck pace, the game engine keeps up quite nicely, as the frame rate is fluid at all times. The fighter entrances lack any sort of special effects, but some of the animations can be funny at times. Even so, this game isn't about flash; it's about substance.

The latest burn of UFC seems fairly complete, considering it's not due for release until mid-October. While we encountered several bugs in the game, Opus should have more than enough time to iron them out before release.

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