Ultimate Fighting as a sport is relatively new. Imagine a fighting pit where two huge guys go at it with skimpy gloves as their only protection against blows that range from headbutts to knees in the groin. That’s the future of sports entertainment, so you might as well get used to it now. It’s huge overseas and is growing in popularity here. My guess, is the only thing holding it back are the UFC’s lawyers who are combing the books for legal recourse to throw willing men into unscripted harm’s way on national television. The sport actually combines some fascinating fighting styles that are intriguing to see in practice. To the new viewer it looks like the fighters just slam on each other. In fact these guys are pros and are as much, if not more focused on defense and strategy as they are on making the other guy bleed. What they do is tough and cerebral.
I found this out by playing Pride FC. It’s not your standard console fighter.
Pride is a strange thing. It can make us do stuff that, if we used our heads, we would realize are damaging and destructive. But pride blinds us. It forces us to believe in absolutes. I guess you have to have a lot of pride to get into a ring where you KNOW you will bleed. And I suppose you need a lot of it if you’re going to get sweaty with another half-naked man in front of thousands of people. Look, I’m all for watching grown men grope each other and cut off opponents’ oxygen with their buttocks. But ‘watching’ is the key word here. It’s fun to watch but is it fun to play?
I was frustrated by PFC at first. The controls are simple enough, with four buttons controlling your arms and legs. But I was wanting some quick action, and in this game that’s a formula for failure. Believe it or not, you have to think to fight. If you run into the center of the ring and start swinging, you’re going down.
I’d say I played around two dozen fights and lost them all before I realized I was probably missing something. Banging on the controller desperately to try to get out from under an opponent’s armpit is not fun to do; and you SHOULD NOT do it in Pride. I only found this out after almost throwing the game in the trash. My epiphany came when I was knocked to the mat and started fighting from down low. My opponent loomed over me but seemed cautious so I started swinging my feet and getting contact with his shins. Slowly I took him down in energy until he was on the mat with me…face down.
Oh I see! From that moment on I was hooked. I discovered the fine art of holding my opponent in a tight bear hug. I explored the joys of riding his back and raining blows upon his crown. Pride FC requires an exquisite patience. It’s not like boxing, or even wrestling. It’s more like two lions circling each other, waiting for the best opportunity to attack. The game does a wonderful job at forcing you to use your controls sparingly, smartly. If your opponent charges you can time the hit right to make him back off. Or you can step aside. Or, if you’re stronger, you can advance into him as well and see who gets who down on the mat.
Once on the mat, you need to use defense as well as you use offense. You can try to struggle free but it’s a tough move that will have you checking your energy bar to see if the strength is there to do it. Whether you have the guy pinned or you are the pinned, you need to be mindful of your openings. One false move and he’s got you. The suspense that can build in the longer fights is really fun and had me hooting and hollering as often as it had me kneeling in front of the television, silently focusing on when to strike. The only complaint I really have is that I knocked a lot of guys out by kicking them in the shin until their “Vitality Gage” went to zero. That’s no fun.
But overall the fighting is a real blast. What do you have to work with? Well, 25 fighters with many different fighting styles, ranging from aikido to kick boxing to arm wrestling (whatever that means)(Ed's Note: Didn't you ever see Over the Top? Stallone rules!). You can also create your own fighter with a robust character creator that allows you to assign moves from many different styles. Pride FC has three modes to play with- Grand Prix, One Match and Survival. Grand Prix is a 16 man single elimination tournament, Survival is one man versus everyone else for as long as you can take it and One Match is a quick match for hoots before dinner. Nope, no career mode. I guess they thought that the fighter creator was enough. It would have been nice but I’m not going to complain this time around.
The graphics are really sharp. I don’t think the PS2 will be able to do much better than this in the visuals department. That irritating twitch that all sports games have where your character stops and starts suddenly is minimized in this game. Like when you throw someone to the mat you pretty much look like you’re throwing someone to the mat. Not too many dropped frames here.
The sound is just kinda there. No real magic to it, though I love the opening of each match as the ref checks on everyone’s readiness. Slapping skin sounds like someone just snapped a towel. Hitting the mat sounds okay but it could have been the kind of moment when you FEEL it. The sound just doesn’t rise to the occasion.
All in all Pride FC is a fine fighting game. It’s not your run of the mill button basher. It’s got strategy, lots of characters, cool moves, unpredictable moments of intense action and great graphics. The game’s sound is just about the only thing I’m going to complain about. Oh yeah, and the manual. What is up with the skimpy manuals people? Used to be I could get through a whole episode of my wife’s favorite show Sex and the City with one manual. Now I’m lucky if I get through one bad one-liner. The lack of documentation could actually be a big detriment to the game. A lot of the fighting angles that I discovered later are nowhere to be found in the manual. Get it together guys. Bad manuals make people return good games.
I have to say that some of the best fun I had in PFC was watching the film clips that are included on the game disc. It’s simply incredible what these guys are able to do to each other. The devastating blows, the limps bodies falling to the mat, the rolled eyes. I know if I saw one of them coming at me in a ring the only defense I’d have is the vomit flying from my nose.
Once you get into the rhythm itâ€™s just plain fun. Great graphics and a multitude of moves and characters guarantees youâ€™ll enjoy this game for a long time. The sound and manual are dinky and the game can be hard to get into (mostly because the manual sucks and doesnâ€™t give you much pertinent info) but I have no problem recommending it.
Rating: 9 Excellent
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Ben Zackheim was born Ben Zackheim sometime before 1980 and after 1960 which characterizes him not at all. He's a writer of reviews, comics and screenplays, but aren't we all? Luxuries like food and shoes mean nothing to him. He's married to the most beautiful woman in the world, Robin, who reads all his reviews before he sends them in and says "Are you really going to write that for the public to read?" But I assure her no one reads my reviews anyway, only Charlie's, so it's kind of like a tree in the forest (without the cute little fuzzy things who smell their own poop - wait, then again there is Charlie...) She's a cross between Gillian Anderson and Hillary Clinton, which is a monster I'd love to play in Monster Rancher Advance 2. Photos are available upon request for a small fee. I'm currently writing this bio but have no plans beyond that. View Profile