Ultimate Fighting Championship: Throwdown Updated Preview

We went hands-on with Crave's latest build of Ultimate Fighting Championship: Throwdown for the Nintendo GameCube.

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During a recent visit by Crave, we had the chance to play a near-final version of Ultimate Fighting Championship: Throwdown for the Nintendo GameCube. Developed by Genki, the game will feature 25 of UFC's popular fighters, including light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz, heavyweight champion Josh Barnett, and welterweight champion Jens Pulver. The game features a number of gameplay modes, including arcade, exhibition, tournament, career mode, legend, create a fighter, and training.

The warriors of the UFC come to play on the GameCube.
The warriors of the UFC come to play on the GameCube.

UFC: Throwdown's championship mode pits you against a series of opponents in an attempt to win a UFC championship. Fighters can participate in various UFC championship challenges, separated by weight class--heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight, lightweight, and welterweight. Upon winning any of the different championships in your weight class, you can save your fighter with his belt, and then participate in the legend mode, where you enter your reigning champion fighter and defend the title against seven consecutive challengers, attempting to keep the belt around your waist for as long as possible. The training mode from the Dreamcast version of the game has also returned, albeit in a more fleshed-out fashion. You can define the actions of the CPU opponent and learn the ins and outs of each character.

The GameCube version's create-a-fighter mode is one of the deepest in the genre, and it's a rewarding game mode in itself. We had the chance to create a custom fighter and check out the process you'll be able to endure in the hopes of making the baddest fighter in the cage. First, your fighter's background is created, including name, hometown, size, weight (which defines his weight class), appearance, attire, and fighting style. Choosing each created character's different fighting style is the most important part of the process, as it defines not only his most basic abilities and move sets, but also his potential. Each fighter begins with near minimal scores in the areas of punching, kicking, wrestling, life, and stamina, and these scores can be raised with experience points gained from sparring with AI partners. Sparring sets your created character against AI-controlled opponents in a three-round format, where your performance is judged and you are rewarded with experience accordingly. For example, you can jab and feint your way through three rounds, winning a close decision and earning 10 experience points, while a first-round takedown followed by a submission victory may net you 16 points. These points are spent on a sliding scale that corresponds to your fighting style's natural affinity--jujitsu stylists can raise their wrestling and stamina attributes fairly easily, but specializing in kicks will cost them dearly.

The fighters sometimes do their nastiest when on the ground.
The fighters sometimes do their nastiest when on the ground.

Created fighters initially begin with only the most basic maneuvers--a couple of weak punches and kicks, a shot, and perhaps a basic submission maneuver. Spending points in punching and kicking will unlock useful combos to add to your arsenal, and spending points in wrestling will earn you better tackles and submissions. Raising your fighter's attributes across the board will in turn unlock a variety of new moves to add to his repertoire, eventually allowing created characters to completely master each facet of their martial art.

The fighting system in UFC: Throwdown is essentially the same as the system that was introduced in the original Ultimate Fighting Championship for the Sega Dreamcast. Fighters will have to manage their stamina and health, all while avoiding submissions and knockouts. The game allows for a number of different positions and situations, including toe-to-toe fighting and grappling on the ground, and submission victories are possible at any time. When on the ground, one fighter has a dominant position over the other and can rain down powerful blows on the fighter on his back. There are three major positions when on the ground: the guard, the mount, and the back mount. The guard is the safest of the three positions for the defensive player--his legs are wrapped around the opponent above the hips, so he is able to eliminate virtually all of his opponent's leverage. The mount is more dangerous, as the fighter on top is above the defending player's hips, meaning that he's free to rise up and put power behind his strikes. The back mount usually results in a loss for the defensive player--it's where the fighter on bottom is turned around, often to avoid getting hit in the face, but this means his neck is often exposed for a rear naked choke. Fighters can shift out of bad positions with frantic motions of the analog stick, allowing for desperate escapes.

The action takes place in the steel confines of the Octagon.
The action takes place in the steel confines of the Octagon.

Visually, the GameCube version of UFC: Throwdown appears to be a noticeable improvement upon the Xbox version, with cleaner textures and character models pushing upward of 9,000 polygons apiece. Each character has been painstakingly rendered to provide an accurate resemblance to the real-life fighter. Textures used for the fighter models include details such as body hair, skin and muscle tone, and tattoos. Complex animation routines bring the many styles of mixed martial arts to fruition. The game also features stylistic fighter entrances, with announcing by Bruce Buffer. Every entrance begins with a broadcast-quality tale-of-the-tape overlay, relaying the character's fighting style, height, and weight. In a marked contrast to wrestling games, the crowds in the entrance sequences of UFC look great--they're composed of streaming full motion video that mingles nearly seamlessly with the rendered character models.

Setting the scene is the voice and presence of Bruce Buffer.
Setting the scene is the voice and presence of Bruce Buffer.

Those players who have exhausted the possibilities of UFC: Tapout for the Xbox may be inclined to give UFC: Throwdown a look, if only for the new roster. In addition to the full complement of current UFC champions and mixed-martial-arts stalwarts such as Mark Coleman and Maurice Smith, the GameCube version of the game features a number of first-time appearances by current popular fighters, including Ricco Rodriguez, Dave Menne, Matt Serra, Shonie Carter, Carlos Newton, and BJ Penn.

Look for our review of UFC: Throwdown for the Nintendo GameCube when the game is released next month. For now, check out our selection of exclusive movies and screenshots, and stay tuned for more in the near future.

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