UFC: Sudden Impact
The formula hasn't changed much since the Dreamcast version. Is it worth a look?
If you've ever had the pleasure of watching an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout, you'll be all too aware of just how brutal this most extreme of sports really is; concussive blows and repeated kicks to the head are but a wine tasting session compared to a full night's worth of "the red stuff". Of course, watch enough of it and expect your bloodlust to increase beyond clinically acceptable limits, but wait - don't go out and batter the first person you see (especially not that elderly couple across the street, who keep lookin' at you all funny), instead pick up UFC: Sudden Impact... actually, come to think of it, we should really be trying to decrease your compulsion to bludgeon the elderly and infirm.
Have you ever gone back to your collection and played some really old games? Wasn't it amazing how many of them were either crushingly underwhelming or just completely unplayable by today's standards? Sure, they were entertaining back then, but there's probably been a slew of so-so updates that make playing the first game a completely redundant activity in the here and now. Sadly, Global Star Software has produced an update to UFC that looks, feels and plays like the original Dreamcast version. It's like the year 2000... all over again.
Gameplay really hasn't changed an awful lot since the series inception - the four face buttons on the PS2 correspond to your character's 4 limbs, with a small array of punches and kicks on offer. That might not sound overwhelmingly exciting, so it's a darn good job that the mat combat is a fair bit deeper. Pressing both arm buttons or both leg buttons results in a takedown throw - Once you've, erm, mounted (for lack of a better word) your opponent, you can choose to pummel them into a state of unconsciousness or apply a bone-crunching submission move. Naturally, the person being subjected to this punishment has the opportunity to reverse the hold and deal back the pain, and thus the cycle can continue depending on the skill of the players.
All in all, the gameplay is still quite accomplished even to this day, though the formula, amongst other things, is starting to show its age. Even with the inclusion of some subtle new physics and side-on takedowns, there's very little here that you haven't already seen and possibly played to death. If you were frustrated by the lack of hand-to-hand techniques in previous UFC efforts, you'll see no change here, as the crux of the combat consists of the takedowns and holds.
Possibly the most detrimental aspect of UFC is one that has remained with the franchise since the first game. Bouts rarely last longer than a minute, maybe less if the opposition isn't up to scratch. Whilst there is an element of tactical play in the game, it ends up being unsatisfying, as you never get the chance to expand on your strategy - it's all over before you know it. As a result, bouts often play out in a very similar fashion to one another, and ultimately the game can become a very samey affair.
Thankfully, some effort has been made to extend the one player experience beyond simple fighting with the career mode, a welcome if not slightly underwhelming gameplay option. In what must be a first for the series, your progress unfurls in the guise of a story, as you take control of an average Joe on the street who lacks the restraint required to control his bludgeoning urges it would seem. You choose from a small collection of character models and then proceed to go through mind numbing, almost coma-inducing training, which never deviates from the same lines for the whole (virtual) 3 years of training. All this training takes place in a dojo, with each dojo dedicated to a particular fighting style. A nice idea again, but the lack of variety is crippling and frankly makes playing through the career mode a tiring chore. It's the kind of mode you expect to crop up in mid-life PS1 games, where the concept of training was just finding its feet.
When a game lacks character, longevity and depth, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there's little to rescue from it, but the UFC games, including Sudden Impact, still have potential, albeit potential that's obscured by a jungle of useless options and poor production values. What really needs to be done is the developers need to take the game back to the drawing board and work from the ground up, picking off all the loose ends that the series keeps tripping over.