April 24th, 2009, 19:26 Posted By: ICE
MMA is said to be the fastest growing sport in the world and we're just under a month from the first next gen MMA game, UFC 2009. The game will try to mix the stunning graphics of a next gen console with the gritty and brutal action of cage fighting. Sound good to you? Me too. Does a month sound like too long? The demo is out today!
If you're familiar with the sport of MMA you'll know that there is literally an infinite number of strikes, counters, grapples, takedowns, transitions, submissions and whatever else I missed. This sport is anything but simple and there are only so many buttons on a controller so the real question is how will it work? In short: it works pretty well. Basically you're cross and circle buttons control your fighter's left and right legs while the triangle and square buttons control the left and right arms. While stationary pressing any of those buttons results in quick snapping strikes. Push them while moving towards, away from or parallel to you're opponent and you get things like over-hand right's, uppercuts and hooks. Finally add in the L1 and L2 buttons which direct strikes at the head and body respectively and the R1 and R2 which block high and low throughout the game and you have a pretty deep striking system.
True cage fighting aficionados will know that the standing aspect is only half of the action. There's still the clinch and the ground game and UFC 2009 handles them both admirably. The clinch is accessed with the right analog stick. You can either hit it right to clinch when they're open or wait for them to strike and counter it with a well timed right analog stick movement up or down depending on the strike in question. A striking clinch like the Muay Tai clinch is accessed by pressing L1 while using the right stick as before. You can then toss your opponent around with the right stick while firing off devastating knees with the face buttons and the L buttons to aim them high of low.
Takedowns are preformed by holding the L2 button with the right stick towards your opponent. Once on the ground you can transition to different positions like side control, half guard or full mount by moving the right analog in one direction and then around in a half circle. Different directions control if its a minor or major transition. Both of these have their advantages and risks. When you have them where you want you can either beat them into a bloody pulp with the face buttons or hit L3 to do a submission as long as its properly timed. That will cause both players to begin frantically moving their right analog stick in circles to escape/make them tap or hitting the face buttons to pummel their way out. While the submissions work, they are easily the weakest link in a game with otherwise very solid gameplay.
As you can see in the screenshots above the game is very pretty. You can see realistic damage accumulate through the course of a fight and blood begin to trickle down after a vicious elbow. The crowd looks a bit bland but everything else from Joe Rogan's commentary to the stylish menu system is top notch. It looks like we might have a new sports series that will be around for a while. Release date is May 19th.
This preview was based on the PS3 demo.
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