As a professional athlete, but also a gamer, I always wondered why some sports don’t receive the same attention from producers regarding video games. It’s is no secret that almost every year several titles are released for football, basketball, golf or ice hockey, while handball or water polo games have not yet seen daylight and nor will they see it soon.
A special category are the contact sports which, although had representative games over the years, haven’t really attracted the category of gamers they were addressed to, as the FIFA, NHL or NBA series managed to do. I remember those tense FIFA 98 matches along my friends and how real they seemed, but unfortunately, those days didn’t host any martial arts, judo, jujitsu or boxing simulators, as I’d wished. It’s true that there were fighting games on the market, but these had only vague connections with the sports themselves.
Two fighters and an octagon
UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is an American organization founded in 1993 which aims to promote mixed martial arts (MMA), where competitors from all disciplines meet. Considered by many the most brutal legal sport, because the clashes occur in an iron cage called the octagon and there are very few rules, the MMA had a great ascension in the past years in terms of fans around the world. Winners are decided through K.O., technical K.O. (when the doctor or the referee stops the fight), submission or score deliberation.
One thing is clear, UFC is not for the weak of heart , who cannot watch knees hitting heads or blood on the floor and nor for the gamers which in their desperate button mashing expect to admire the spectacular strikes from Tekken or Soul Calibur. Here there are no combos, juggle, fireballs or emotional stories. UFC Undisputed is a MMA simulator in the true sense of the word; there is only an octagon and two well-trained athletes, of which only one will remain lying on the floor at the end.
Before getting into the heart of things, the best idea would be to visit the tutorial, divided into six categories, each with specific lessons for the various fighting techniques. It’s hard to believe that at the first run of the game many will listen to the tutorial from beginning till the end, but this is not a problem, you can review it any time by simply choosing only the specific lessons for the favorite strategies.
Controlling the characters isn’t one of the simplest tasks, because all the gamepad’s buttons are used; nevertheless, those already familiar with Fight Night Round 3 will have no problems, since the rotation movements of the RS (Right Stick) are almost identical. Things get complicated when besides the rotation movements, you have to take into account two more buttons which are needed to guard and also attack at the same time. Moreover, we don’t have only strikes while standing, but a very technical and complex ground battle, and here I am referring to the submissions and escape transitions.
Unfortunately for the newcomers, transitions and the escapes are the most complex sets of moves (as in real matches) and will be harder to learn. Therefore, it’s likely that many will choose fighters specialized in boxing or kick-boxing, with which they’ll want to get a lucky shot and win the game. Yeah, that happens frequently in the UFC, since I have just lost a game after the first punch. It was versus the multiple champion Chuck Liddell, so I have an excuse.
Boxing vs. Kickboxing vs. Muay Thai
The combat system is based on the most important styles of MMA: box, kickbox, Muay thai, judo, jujitsu and wrestling. Each character can be specialized in a standing style and a ground one. A kickboxer like Forrest Griffin will try to keep away Rashad Evans using strong kicks, because Rashad prefers close fights, where he can throw his destructive punches. On the other hand, a jujitsu specialist will always choose ground duels against muay thai practitioners, due to superior submissions. Unfortunately, ground combatants have no utility against the AI, because it will escape the submissions every time without too much difficulty.
A common position in the UFC is "mounting", when a fighter is sitting on the chest of the other, trying to finish him off with punches. The fighter at the bottom is clearly disadvantaged, but those who paid attention to the training will surely know what to do to try an escape. At the same time, there are many weapons against escapes, so almost everything is related to a good knowledge of the strategies and counters to get out safely from any situation. It’s true that it’s frustrating for a newcomer to fight against a jujitsu master, because timing is essential for escapes and it’s not very easy to learn. But at the same time, a match between two adversaries of the same caliber will be spectacular and tense right until the last round.
In order to be as close as possible to the real thing, the producers have chosen not to display by default any life or stamina bar on the screen. However, I recommend newcomers to activate the stamina bar, the only one included in the game by the way, for a better understanding of its importance. Stamina is consumed during the attacks, but it recovers when you guard or move back. As you get hit, the stamina bar decreases and when it almost reaches zero, you will be more vulnerable to a K.O. or a submission. So a good tactic would be to tire the opponent without giving him time to defend. Thus, the charm of the game is that although someone thinks he is at an advantage, a well placed shot at the right time can change the outcome of the fight.