Wrestling games are one of the more popular genres in the gaming market today, mainly because of the mass market appeal of the WWE franchise. Other styles of fighting games have died off a bit, especially popularity of titles such as Street Fighter II, except amongst the hardcore, but for those looking for a game which focuses more on technical aspect then flair and glamour, UFC Sudden Impact has stepped up to the plate, and offers a fairly decent gaming experience, if not a great one.
If there is one thing that Sudden Impact does not lack its game modes. Numerous are available ranging from story mode through to arcade and each provide a decent gaming experience and give a perspective of the UFC, which in comparison to the WWE is a relatively unknown fighting tournament. The story mode, while offering one of the most cheesy storylines in a game yet (picked up from the street as a streetfighter, trained up to join the UFC) actually serves a rather important purpose in the overall experience of the game.
The story mode acts as the create a fighter mode. Rather then just building up your character and jumping right into the tournaments, you have to work your way through many years of training to receive acceptance into the UFC tournament. In terms of creating the look of your fighter, the game is found wanting without many options for players to choose from. Predefined faces, clothing and tattoos are the only changes available and you can only create male fighters, given the actual game features a female competitor, that is an interesting absence.
Once the fighter is created its time to move onto three years of intense training. This is repetitive and it does take a little while to complete, but it is important as it determines how well your fighter can handle themselves in the ring. If you complete a challenge successfully you gain more stats, however failure does not mean a repetition of that task, just less points added to your character. One thing which does make this process rather trivial is between months, a slot machine style mini game is played where the player punches a screen and gets either good, ok or bad experience which affects the amount of points the player gets. In a game which is seemingly going for realism this seems very out of place.
The other game modes are more traditional; arcade, tournament and championship. In the arcade mode you basically follow a path of belting up one fighter at a time to see how many you can defeat before succumbing to an AI fighter. The game tweaks the difficulty here and this can catch you out in other modes because the AI is not as strong as in modes such as tournament. The tournament and championship modes are fairly self explanatory with you choosing a real world UFC fighter or one you have created in the story mode and then proceeding to try and become the UFC champion. As there is none of the flair and storylines like in the WWE games, it can become repetitive as really you're just fighting with character after character.
Like the real world UFC championship, the game contains many martial arts disciplines for your character to train in. Disciplines such as Wrestling, Pro Wrestling, Kick boxing and others are all on offer for your created character. Each of the disciplines is quite unique and have disadvantages and advantages which the game displays before you pick the desired training dojo. While the game does a good job of keeping this unique style in the animation system, they do come across as clunky and slow and while the character models do look quite human like, they are not the most impressive seen to date. One thing that the animations does show is the painful moments which can be experienced in a match such as a fighter slamming and punching anothers head into the canvas. Blood also occasionally appears but fighters do not show damage or have a damage model like in games such as Fight Night 2004.
Another problem with the game is the lack of variety. You don't expect much from a fighting game of this style with variety, but there should be more then two rings; the actual tournament one and the training one. While the ring logos change between Dojos and tournaments, nothing else does which can make the game feel more repetitive then it already is. Visually the game is decent but the developers seem to have gone for a more photo realistic style for the character models then try and create something which looks stunning. As mentioned before the animations are quite clunky and slow and this can ruin the illusion of a fast fight quite quickly. In terms of sound effects, you won't hear much other then the referee and the crowd cheering, but a cheesy soundtrack is present in the story mode.
Overall UFC isn't the worst wrestling/fighting game around and does a good job in feature many different disciplines of fighting but lacks the polish to push it from moderate game to decent game. UFC fans will probably take to it like a pack of wild dogs, but for everyone else its worth a rental to see if you like the different styles of fighting and gameplay but chances are you won't be putting down the cold hard cash for this one.