This is the fourth version of UFC I've seen on a home console, and I'm about ready to tap out. It's been almost two years since the Dreamcast original was released, and all the series has seen are some piddly little tweaks to the roster and fighting engine. This PS2 edition has the best gameplay balance (which thankfully translates to longer matches), the most fighters to choose from, and a decent version of the Career mode that was awkwardly absent in the graphically superior Xbox version. But all the tuning in the world can't turn the fundamentally boring gameplay model into something more palatable. If you're new to this wrestling-meets-bar-fight sport on consoles, the combat is pretty novel at first. You really feel like you've accomplished something just by landing a four-punch combo. But it's not long before you're yearning for some excitement that just doesn't come from kicking your opponent's shins and tusslin' with him on the ground. See, a lot of Throwdown's problems are imply inherent to the UFC sport. It's an incredibly realistic fighter--realistic, but not necessarily fun. I wouldn't expect a lifelike arm-wrestling simulation to have me on the edge of my seat, even if it featured 50 of arm wrestling's greatest combatants. Two player mode's the only way to enjoy your time in the ring, mostly because you can taunt your friend incessantly as you go three rounds countering each other's punches and holds.
From afar, the UFC games might look like a goofy wrasslin' affair with all its mullet fanfare, steel cages and wailing guitar solos. But this stuff is for real and Throwdown captures all the brutality of a UFC match with its simple, straightforward controls and sparse yet effective graphics. The violence here is nothing short of total realism. You can almost feel the snap of a bone as your opponents bend your elbow 90 degrees too far--the other way. Throwdown certainly isn't the deepest fighter out there, as novices can button mash to victory, but I dig it for its uncompromising portrayal of UFC and unpredictable grappling gameplay mechanics.
Throwdown's nowhere near as purdy as Tapout (Xbox), but it is the better UFC, if only because of its enhanced Career mode Oust a flashier name for its create-a-player feature). Unfortunately, it still doesn't offer enough variety to completely customize the look of your character. Aside from Career mode, Throwdown is not that different from previous UFCs, except that replays have more flash, and the grappling system seems faster. The problem I have with this game and the series thus far is that I tire quickly of its shallow combat. Under normal conditions, I couldn't play this for more than 20 minutes at a time. For fans of the real UFC only.