The legions of UFC fans have been waiting a long time for a quality videogame featuring the MMA action in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Finally the wait is over as UFC 2009: Undisputed hits retail stores across the globe. UFC fans have their fingers crossed that Undisputed will be the stand up, knockout game version they have always wanted. Standing their ground, THQ and Yuke’s make sure that UFC 2009: Undisputed has a fighting chance of being the undisputed champion of fighting games.
The first thing you should know about UFC 2009: Undisputed is that it isn't a fighting game in the typical sense of a arcade fighter, like Dead or Alive, or even the more comparable Virtua Fighter. UFC 2009: Undisputed is a sports action game that tends to side on the simulation side of things more than gamie action. THQ and Yuke’s are going for a Fight Night feel, and rightfully so, MMA is a sport and the Ultimate Fighting Championship is that sports top brand. Duplicating the magic that happens in the octagon every time a fighter steps through the gate would be a magical event. No doubt, the UFC is a spectacle to watch live, or through the payments of PPV TV, and it is great that THQ's slugger holds up to this high standard.
This is one Tutorial you won't Want to Skip
Jumping into UFC 2009 you will want to visit the tutorial mode first. Undisputed has a fairly steep learning curve to get everything rolling right and feeling natural. Sure you can jump into the action and get some beginners luck (like GSP knocking out Dana White at Undisputed's Montreal Event), but to really get a hold of the game mechanics you’ll likely want to run through the tutorial, and if you like me, revisit a few times afterwards.
The control scheme is the toughest aspect to grasp in Undisputed because the goals is a simple one, knock out the other guys teeth! but getting there is easier said then done... and this is where you’re brain will be straining for the first little while. Expect to learn a lot about Mixed Martial Arts and how the developers tried to pin down and use a natural control scheme to the on-screen action. The quick thumbstick movements and quarter turns are probably the part that will get most new users, oh and don't forget these are used in sync with the face buttons! ouch.
For the most part the controls do an excellent job making action feel like an extension of the fighter, the only minor gripe is the learning curve. Having a moderate learning curve does two things, one it makes the game experience deep enough the fighting fans will have something to sink their teeth into, and secondly it alienates a small percentage of gamers, but the gamers that you don’t want polluting your online matches. Like the sport in real-life, I’m sure the fans of this game will be equally intense.
Get Your Hands Up!
Speaking of intensity, the matches in Undisputed can be nail-biting good. The quick round one matches don’t come by that often unless you’re still is greatly better then your opponent. For the majority of time you have to work at earning each victory. This doesn’t mean every fight will be amazing, but unlike the UFC in the real world where anything can happen, the game pretty much faithfully lets each player beat the hell out of each other. Actually, I haven’t had one stopped fight since I’ve started and I am a good fifteen hours into the game. In my experience without switching off the default difficulty, most of my fights end in knockouts... and yes, it’s sometimes me who hits the canvas first.
The Exhibition Match
The modes in UFC 2009: Undisputed start with the basics exhibition mode where you can go nuts running through the divisions fighting with your favourite fighter. It’s too bad Undisputed doesn’t let you take a lightweight and battle a heavyweight, like the UFC of yesteryear. Fights are divided by weight class, much like the real world. If exhibition matches against the computer isn’t challenging enough then head online as UFC 2009: Undisputed supports exhibition matches online. Unfortunately, there are no other modes in the games first run. I we’ll have to wait until UFC 2010 for more interactive action online.
Create Your Own MMA Legacy
When you’re done playing as the huge roster of MMA fighters in exhibition matches you can create your own fighter and go through the ranks of the career mode. The first step in your new MMA career is to pick a weight class (Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight, Middleweight, Welterwieght, and Lightwieght) and design you fighter from ground up. If you have played any of Yuke’s wrestling games in the past you should know what to expect with character creation depth. Like the WWE Wrestling games, UFC 2009 create-a-fighter mode is deep with the ability to tweak almost every aspect of your character.
Once your fighter is created it’s into the UFC lifestyle of booking matches, training for your next fight and a small amount of promotions. In the career you will live in blocks broken down to weeks as you schedule your events on a calendar. Matches are usually a month or more apart so in your free time you will be training to boost your core stats (Strength, Speed, Cardio) and to get more technique you training are a number of specialized training camps and spare with your own in house staff. Unlike other sports games, there are no mini-games in UFC 2009, so if you want to earn a better defence to the ground clinch, you’ll have to hit the ring and work at it.
Depending on what two style of fighting you picked for your fighter you can work on earning points to achieve a new level of ability. For each style you can go from level 1 to level 3 and earn new moves as you rank up. Points for your fighting system happen every so often when you get a chance to train outside your home base. In these sessions you will have a little tutorial of sorts and then a task oriented match that is timed. Earning points here will help you develop the tools needed to be successful in your upcoming bouts.
The career mode is fairly lengthy and very intense. Delegating how to spend your time is important because you have to have time free to let your body heal along side all the training. If you’re not prepared it might work out that you enter a main event bout with your health drained. The obvious goal in the career mode is to win matches and become a legend in the sport by winning your weight class belt. Thankfully, Undisputed doesn’t take it easy on the player and the closer you get to that number one ranking, the stronger the opposition will be. The fighting can be tough and like the real sport anything can happen. If you’re in for the long hall, I hope you like a challenge.
Holding everything together in UFC 2009 is how accurate the sport is represented in the game. The fighting system is deep enough to make you realize that MMA is more than two dudes punching each other in the face, it’s a sport. The long list of fighters gives every UFC fan a favourite to get behind and the attention to detail in the arenas, UFC staff, and even the ring girls shines through. If you are a UFC fan then you will probably stand behind THQ’s gaming adaptation.
Yuke’s has really stepped up their game in the graphics department for UFC 2009: Undisputed, I guess all those years of making wrestling games have paid off. The character models are outstanding, and much like their wrestling titles, every inch of each character is sculpted from their real-life bodies. No tattoo or facial expression is out of place. However, even more impressive then spot on fighters is the top-notch collision detection that never clips or misses a beat. Every aspect of a punch or kick can be seen reflected on each characters body. Shots to the face will puff up and eye or slide of a check bone, shots to the body will jiggle their intestines as they hunch over in pain.
Behind the collision detection is a complex system of algorithm that calculates everything from trajectory of the punches and kicks, the players statistics, the two fighters positioning and equal amounts of data for the opponents. A punch might seem like just a punch, but behind the scenes Yuke’s has put a lot of working into making UFC 2009: Undisputed as realistic as possible. Beyond that you have the complex workings of animations on top of this data that need to be put together as smooth as possible, and Undisputed is silky.
The sound aspect of UFC 2009: Undisputed was a little disappointing after hearing how much work was put into mixing the commentary for the game. The commentary which should have been a little more outstanding was just ho-hum, ok. It’s not bad, mind you, but it’s not up to par with the other sports games. This becomes more apparent when you put a few hours straight into the career mode. You’ll hear the same lines being repeated fairly frequently. Again, this doesn’t ruin the game and it’s not horrible, it’s just not what we expected. Speaking of expectations, I also expected Undisputed to pop more with its knockdown sound effects. Also the kicks don’t seem to have the same impact as the real deal. Shamefully this takes slightly out of the match. It’s close, but not close enough to sounding like the real deal in live arena. Other than that the soundtrack rocks at 11, pushing the hard rock guitar riffs into your ears. Like the rest of the audio, UFC 2009: Undisputed makes it work, but doesn’t push any overtime.
UFC 2009: Undisputed showcases what the MMA and UFC organization is all about, intense challenging battles between two fearless competitors. Even against the computer you will face strong competition in a myriad of fighting styles while locked in an eight-sided cage. For THQ’s first run with the UFC brand, Undisputed brings the MMA sport back into the gaming spotlight to give fans another outlet for their UFC needs. For those not into MMA, UFC 2009 is a great introduction to that world of high level competition with fun and challenging gameplay to test your skills. THQ has a winner here, congratulations on the new champion of MMA gaming, UFC 2009: Undisputed.
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 05.20.09