Ready to Rumble — Is Boxing Enough Against MMA?
by Derrek Lucas
Fight Night Round 3 was an astounding game. The controls, the graphics, the speed — it was undoubtedly the best boxing game since Super Punch Out on the SNES. But, without warning, the franchise came to a screeching halt alongside the dissolution of its developer, EA Chicago. The community’s appetite grew for a boxing sim, and we were only given disappointing games like Facebreaker and Don King’s: Prizefighter to fill the void. And it just wasn’t enough.
Fighting games as a whole began to lose ground, really. Then 2009 gave us all reason to hope. It was announced that Fight Night Round 4 was to make its long awaited debut, but another franchise was also making its return. And UFC 2009 Undisputed started throwing punches without mercy.
Now, I’ve been a fan of the Ultimate Fighting Championship for years. I own all of the previous (awful) games, watch all the events, and I could list off all the current champs and how their last 5 fights went. I’m definitely a fan, and was undoubtedly part of the target audience for THQ’s first UFC game. Fortunately, I was not at all disappointed with the result.
With a roster of over 80 characters and 6 different fighting disciplines to choose from, it was a game that I knew would offer me the variety that I crave when it comes to a fighting game. When I got this game home and into my PS3, I dove straight into the career mode. I used the ‘create a fighter’ mode to make someone who looked sort of like me, and slapped on the moniker of “Big Nasty”. Then I made it to The Octagon for the first time.
The striking in the game I absolutely loved. With boxing you have 2 striking tools — just your paws. In mixed martial arts you have 8: hands, elbows, knees, and feet. Undisputed makes sure you utilize all of ’em. The striking feels crisp, and with vicious knockouts always around the corner you need to be sure you’ve mastered the controls, or your fighter and his record will suffer. Watching the very detailed character models kicking, kneeing, elbowing, and punching each other is just as fulfilling as it sounds, and watching the replays of your opponent falling after taking a final kick to the dome is the icing on a very delicious cake.
In MMA most fights go to the ground, and the development team was all too aware of this fact. They realized that the game could not just rely on its crisp striking if it was to appeal to the millions of fans, so they made a ground game that was just as impressive. Granted, the ground game is not as exciting as the standing and striking, but when your opponent is a Jiu Jitsu black belt who just dropped you onto your back, it’s more than enough to get your heart pumping (and your analog stick rotating). That’s the way I played the game.
What I love about it is: you don’t need to play it like me!
If you’d rather jump online and choke out all your buddies, go for it! All you need to do is make your very own Jiu Jitsu ace in the career mode, and as soon as you finish honing your skills during your 8 year tenure with the UFC, you’ll be free to play against all your friends online with your freshly retired Champ. In short, UFC Undisputed has done what all its predecessors failed to do: make an MMA game that does the sport and its fans justice.
Now, Fight Night had a lot to live up to. All of its predecessors were special, and with a three year hiatus we all expected something big. And I’m happy to say that the game, like Undisputed, did not disappoint. I’d be glad to admit that all I know about boxing I learned from Rocky III and my Rock em’ Sock em’ Robots, but letting the other fighter tire himself out by punching you repeatedly in the head is only a strategy that Sylvester Stallone (or Homer Simpson) could pull off. Oh, and if your opponents head is separated from his neck in a real fight, the psychological damage will be more than enough to retire you from the sport.
Thankfully my lack of knowledge did not stop me from falling in love with this game. My Legacy mode started like most games: a pretty simple create a fighter mode. I selected my weight class and attributes, and I was brought into the ring for a much needed tutorial. Fight Night gave us a pretty unique control scheme to master, using your right analog to control what kind of punch your throwing, and paired with one of your top bumpers to control power and where you’re hitting the guy; you feel clumsy at first, but after a few fights you get comfortable, and you truly do appreciate how ingenious the controls are.
Now I’m entirely out of my element when it comes to pro boxers. Sure I know the legends like Foreman, Ali, Tyson etc. But I would never be able to tell you if the majority of the boxers you face in the game are in the real boxing world today. What I do know is that it doesn’t matter, ’cause just as every fighter in the ring today is different, so is every fighter in the game. Sure, you can build up your fighter’s strength so every punch he throws is looking to knock you out, and that will gain you some success, but if you’re facing a counter striker in your next bout, you’ll likely be throwing your controller just as the ref finishes his 10 count.
Every fighter is different, and you will constantly be changing your strategies to if you want to be the champ. The character models are the best I’ve seen in any game, and this becomes evident during the replays that rival the ones in UFC (which the game so generously allows you to watch repeatedly at different angles by tapping a single button). This game’s seriously got a lot to offer any fan of the sport, any fan of the genre, any fan of fighting games as a whole.
Now these games are similar in many aspects, and as a fan of the UFC I thought that I would only need to buy Undisputed and leave Fight Night on the shelf, but that plan didn’t work out. Yes I bought UFC, yes I loved how the game portrayed my favorite sport. But I got to thinking: everything about the gameplay in Undisputed is solid, but then I remembered one of my favorite soul searching questions about the sport — “is it better to be great at many things? Or a master in one?” to answer this question I bought Fight Night. UFC made a well rounded game, but Fight Night was able to focus solely on the boxing, and where the UFC did everything well, Fight Night‘s boxing is phenomenal. Does that make the game better than its MMA opponent?
Fight Night plays so smoothly; it’s gorgeous; and every fight and fighter is different. UFC also plays smoothly; the transitions between your many different strikes are very fluid; and the ground game is superb. Granted, every fighter model is given only 1 of 6 basic techniques, but the sheer variety of the gameplay itself keeps it all very fresh.
If you’re waiting for me to say something bad about either of these games you’ll be waiting for a while. I love both of these fighting titles. I even forgive EB for placing Fight Night on the shelves right at eye level when I was going to spend my last $100 on my phone bill. I will, however, say that if you’re making me choose between Bruce Buffer announcing your fight in The Octagon, or Michael Buffer encouraging you to get ready to rumble, I would reluctantly put myself in Bruce’s corner. The sheer diversity of UFC Undisputed is what keeps me coming back to it.
I don’t want anybody to avoid Fight Night by any means, but if you ever find yourself in a do or die scenario and you have to choose between the two games, reach for Undisputed. You won’t be disappointed.