Release Date: 06/04/02
The UFC series has seen its fair share of console ports over the years, some awfully entertaining and some just that were just awful. Sony purists may still have a bitter taste in their collective mouths from the last UFC game that made an appearance on the original Playstation, and rightly so. Sadly, those people might think twice about giving this title a chance but after playing Throwdown for a couple hours all those doubts that the last game instilled will be thrown out the window. I can confidently attest to the quality of Throwdown, it is arguably the most well-rounded and entertaining UFC title to date. No longer is the game stilted by unpredictable gameplay and choppy clip-prone graphics. The control dynamics are responsive, the visuals are worlds better, and the newly added career mode is worth the price of admission on its own.
For those who have been living under a rock the past few years, Ultimate Fighting Championship is all about two men in an octagonal ring that attempt to force the other fighter into tapping out by pummeling the opponent into submission. UFC: Throwdown is an attempt to simulate the real-life sport of the same name. Each face button on the gamepad corresponds to a different limb on your fighter. For example, the Triangle and Square buttons allow you to execute a right and left punch, respectively. Pushing different combinations of these buttons at the same time will perform special techniques like counter moves or takedown attempts. The great thing about the control setup is that it is both easy to learn and very satisfying when used with precision.
The fighting elements of UFC are pretty straightforward, basically there are two fighting positions; standing up or on the ground. When you perform a reversal move or tackle your rival to the ground you’ll be on top with the opponent pinned down. In this position you’ll be able to lay some serious smack down and have the advantage of leverage. Also, while on the ground you’ll be able to attempt a submission maneuver that will force the opponent to tap out unless the maneuver is successfully warded off in the fraction of time that is available to do so. But just because you have the challenger down on the ground it doesn’t mean that your victory is ensured, if the person on the bottom hits Square and Triangle at the same moment that he is about to receive a punch the fist will be caught and positions will be reversed. This is where the real fun of the game shows itself, once you are fully accustomed to the reversal system it will become a test of timing and accuracy.
There are a few different modes of play in Throwdown, these include the run-of-the-mill modes like Arcade, where you’ll need to fight a string of 10 fighters until eventually becoming the champion. UFC mode allows you to take part in a five man tournament where you must choose a weight-class and health is only gradually replenished from round to round. Tournament mode is all about the eight man elimination tournaments of early UFC and the eight participants can be either computer or human controlled fighters. Exhibition mode is the equivalent of a quick-fight between two players. Training mode helps you to perfect the various maneuvers in the game. However, the crown jewel of Throwdown is its Career mode. In this mode you’ll be able to participate in tournaments and spar in order to gain experience and unlock more moves until you have a well-refined powerful fighter. You’ll also be able to fully customize the appearance and talents of your fighter in Career mode, from fighting style to costume. You start out with 40 skill points and can earn more by completing various objectives, these points can be used towards entering Skill Up Challenges that increase the capabilities of your character.
Right from the onset you’ll be able to choose from 28 real-life UFC fighters ranging from long-time favorite Tito Ortiz to lesser-known fighters like John Lewis and Mikey Burnett. Each of the combatants have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, not to mention fighting style. The capabilities of these fighters are based solely on the characteristics of their real-life counterparts and are quite accurate in that regard. With so many characters available the chances are good that everyone will find at least one fighter that they’ll particularly enjoy using.
Graphically UFC: Throwdown looks great on the PS2, not quite up to par with the technologically superior Gamecube and Xbox versions, but very attractive nonetheless. Every fighter looks like the spitting image of the person they are supposed to represent and attention to detail in the facial area is especially impressive. Animation is nearly flawless, and considering the fact that the developers opted for hand-drawn animation instead of the tried-and-true motion-capture method, it makes it all the more surprising that Throwdown moves as smoothly as it does. The fighter entrances are pretty generic though and the crowd looks like a bunch of 2D cardboard cutouts. Aurally Throwdown gets the job done but falls considerably short of being impressive. The occasional music consists of exciting entrance and menu tracks but there is no music to speak of during fights. The sound of landing a jaw-crunching punch on your opponent or slamming him down to the ground purport a high-sense of power and exhilaration.
UFC: Throwdown makes a great showing on the Playstation 2 with its easy-to-learn yet difficult-to-master gameplay, realistic and detailed graphics and activity-laden Career mode. If UFC games are your bag than you really can’t do any better than Throwdown on the PS2, but if you’ve already played the newer UFC titles on the Gamecube or Xbox than there really isn’t much more to see in this title. Overall, Throwdown has a lot to offer newcomers of the series and even some entertaining tidbits for UFC loyalists.