By now, many people are familiar with the world of Mixed Marital Arts. For those who aren’t, MMA refers to the sport in which fighters of many different styles compete with very few rules prohibiting their actions. Kickboxers clash with submission-based grapplers of all types inside the cage and/or ring. The most well-known organizations are PRIDE Fighting Championship and UFC- UFC being the only American-born MMA promotion to hit the big time.
The promotion has a small, but rabid, fanbase here in the states, and thus it makes sense that UFC videogames would be developed. They’ve actually been coming out for quite a while now, and they haven’t really changed drastically since the first titles. UFC: Sudden Impact is more of the same, and just like all of the past titles this game will come down to a simple question: How much (if at all) do you love the UFC, anyway?
On paper, Sudden Impact does a very good job of representing the UFC world. It features over 35 different fighters representing over 15 different fight styles. When it comes to these fighting styles, Sudden Impact does a much better job than its predecessors in making each one feel different from the other. In past games, many of them felt almost exactly the same, but thanks to improved animation and expanded movesets, the fighting styles now feel more unique than they ever did in the past. The roster includes all of the current talent, from fan-favorites like Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, and Chuck Liddell to more unknowns like Pete Spratt or Carl Uno. There’s a number of hidden fighters as well, including fighters who were in the UFC in the past but now work for other organizations, like Bas Rutten and Mark Coleman. This is a very nice touch and gives you something actually worth unlocking in the game.
All the standard play modes are included here- Arcade Mode, where you’ll battle through a random path of fighters, Versus Mode, where you can have any match of your choice, Tournament Mode where you can set up a tournament for multiple players, and Training Mode where you’ll try and polish your skills at the game. The additional two modes are Champion Road and Story Mode, both which are designed to add replay value but fall short due to the basic play mechanics of the game. More on that in a bit. But first, a rundown of the actual modes: the Champion Road sees you take control of any fighter of your choice an fight through a certain weight class (classes available are Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight, Middleweight, Welterweight, and Lightweight) before getting to try and defeat the Champion of that class at the end. Now, this is okay, but really a lot of these fighters shift between weight classes at will as they put on or drop weight, and the game doesn’t reflect that, so it’s a bit unrealistic. The Story Mode is a little better and sees you create your own fighter who you’ll have to bring through the ranks of the UFC from the very bottom.
Now, I know you’re probably thinking that both modes sound fine, so what’s with the low replay value? The problem comes from the fundamental gameplay. See, this game is not based very heavily on skill- the controls are incredibly simple, with two punch buttons and two kick buttons that you press together in combinations for takedowns, submissions, etc. Timing is important, but so is blatant luck as you can’t perfectly time a reversal every single time. Even after playing the game nonstop for a few days, I can still only win maybe 3 out of every 5 fights, at my best- and I’m not a bad gameplayer in any stretch of the imagination. Now, combine this problem with the simple fact that in order to win in the Champion Road and Story modes, you need to win many matches in a row. Think of fighting through eight straight matches, getting ready to go for the title belt, and losing in under a minute because the computer got a lucky throw into a submission. Or, even worse, they got you in the guard position and just pounded on you for the entire round until you were knocked out. Yup, you’re in for some busted controllers.
Another problem is that the gameplay doesn’t always do the UFC justice. See, these fighters possess health bars, but in real life it’s not always a game of pound-until-they-can’t-take-anymore. Much like in any sport of this nature, one punch or one kick can end a fight. This just isn’t reflected by Sudden Impact’s life bar system. Because so much of the gameplay is more like a traditional fighting game, matches in the stand-up just don’t look like real UFC fights. However, matches in the ground game are very much like real UFC fights, where the life bars do make sense for the ground-and-pound tactics and one submission can indeed end a fight no matter what the life bars say. So perhaps it’s a necessary sacrifice, as to many of the more die-hard MMA fans the ground game is much more important than the stand-up. But more casual fans tend to love the stand-up, so they may be disappointed when it doesn’t resemble anything like they saw at the last MMA event.
The presentation of the game is above-average, but nothing special. The graphics won’t exactly wow you- the player models merely look OK and the arena and fan models are nothing to write home about- but they do get the job done well enough. The animation in particular earns a higher score here because it does a pretty good job of conveying the impact of the blows. Watch the instant replays and you’ll really gain a new respect for the work put into the animation of this game.
The sound isn’t anything to write home about either- just a bunch of generic guitar riffs, really. If that’s your sort of thing, you’ll be in heaven, but as perhaps the only living crossover MMA/J-pop fan in existence I turned the sound down quite often. The sound of the actual blows are pretty good, but could be better.
Overall, as I said earlier, your opinion of this game will just come down to how big of a UFC fan you are. If you really love the UFC you’ll find this game well-worth picking up for the $20 pricetag- it’s fun, simple to play, and does a fairly good job at simulating real fights (taking into account the problems with the stand-up mentioned earlier). However, if you’re expecting a high-quality, high-end videogame, you won’t find one here- this is obviously a budget title for die-hard fans, and purely judged as a videogame it’s no better than average. Anyone other than UFC die-hards will want to avoid this game. But if you eat, breathe, and sleep the UFC, it will be the best $20 you’ve spent in quite some time. Enjoy pounding your virtual fist into your opponent’s skull!