Review | UFC 2009: Undisputed
Format: PS3 / Xbox360 | Genre: Fighting | Publisher: THQ | Developer: Yuke’s Osaka | Out now: £49.99
By Paige Barclay
UFC 2009: Undisputed is the first game in the series since UFC: Sudden Impact way back in 2004. Given the tradition of yearly sports updates, it seems unusual for this particular franchise to wait five years for its return to the spotlight. Still, it’s been worth the wait.
The UFC is a mixed martial arts organisation that attracts fighters from a range of fighting styles. A UFC fight will consist of either three or five rounds, each lasting five minutes, with the winner determined by a knockout, a submission (forcing your opponent to quit) or by judges’ decision. Some fighters choose to focus on boxing and standing combat styles, while others attempt to defeat their opponent via Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts that focus on chokes and holds.
The possible depth of the combat provided in UFC 2009: Undisputed is enormous, even compared to other fighting games out there. A lot of thought has evidently been put into the this area of Undisputed, and it has certainly paid off.
There are options to take the fight to the floor, grapple with the other player and of course simply stand while fighting. Additionally, each combat variation comes with a variety of techniques and strategies to wear your opponent down, and essentially squeeze in the most hits.
The basic fighting foundations even have variation to them. Kicks and punches can be executed fast yet weak or slow yet powerful. Plus, with the simple holding-down of the left trigger, you’ll be able to aim your punches at body instead of the head, to wear down your opponent. These are essential when fighting and using a combination of the two will deliver the best results. Kicking your opponent while standing will depend on the range between you and them, so if you’re both reasonably close the kick will turn into a knee to the stomach instead – and the same goes for throwing punches. It may sound like a simple mechanic but it adds more realism to the game.
For first-time players, the depth of the system could prove intimidating and may well scare people off. But for any newcomers to the fighting franchise, Undisputed makes sure to inject all possible knowledge into them right from the start. Before the title menu even pops up on-screen you’re given the option to educate yourself regarding the controls and techniques of the game. This tutorial is one of the longest I’ve ever trudged through. The format is essentially the same for every new move mentioned – your opponent will show you the move, and then you’ve to copy. It’s great to learn all the moves, don’t get me wrong, but there’s little variation to keep the gamer hooked enough go through it. Especially with so much depth to the controls and fighting techniques, Undisputed could have integrated a more user-friendly system to show the player exactly how much fun they could be having with this game once they get stuck into the action.
Raising your profile
Your best bet at learning all the moves is to dive into career mode, which enables you to create your own fighter to plough up the UFC food chain. The options concerning your character’s creation aren’t as deep as some other games, but in this case they don’t necessarily need to be. You’re provided with all you’ll need, including their initial appearance, fighting style and chosen equipment for fights. Between said fights you’ll be using your trusty calendar to allocate your fighter’s time to training, sparring, attending media events or simply resting in the hope of regaining some much needed stamina.
Training is an automatic process that works without the player having to even lift a finger, and the end result is an increase in your fighter’s stats in speed, cardio or strength, depending on which area you selected for the session. Your fighter’s stamina will largely affect whether the training session will be light, moderate or intense and, of course, these will affect the fighter’s stats differently. The option of sparring will actually load up a ring for you to fight against an opponent in hopes of training for your next match. What makes this even more worthwhile is the fact that said opponent will be programmed to fight in a style akin to your next UFC opponent. So this mode can prove invaluable in providing yourself with a better chance of victory and time to fix up your game plan.
Meanwhile, media events help to boost your character’s profile and, in turn, gaining popularity offers you the chance to unlock new equipment or even work on your techniques at established fighting schools and camps. Attending these events helps you unlock sponsors so you can place logos on your shorts to achieve credibility. Unfortunately, this process is time-consuming and involves trailing through around six menus to implement. You’ll also have access to your emails, which will regularly be spammed with meaningless UFC newsletters or, if lucky, emails from rivals or the UFC Chief Dana White. The latter will usually involve choosing your next opponent, giving you a choice of three and providing you with an overview of their stats to aid you in your final decision. Despite some minor annoyances, it’s a solid system, adding more depth to the fighting and allowing you to feel personally involved with your schedule.
There’s also the ‘classic fights’ mode, which you’ll most likely want to check out. In this, you’re given the task to re-enact certain and win them in the correct way – meaning you may have to use a certain move in a certain round, or suchlike.
It does, of course, ship with a multiplayer component: after all, beating an AI opponent is never as satisfying as thrashing a friend or complete online stranger. However, lag is something that brings this part of the game back down to earth again, and can occasionally get so bad that it’ll put your timing off.
The high-performance visuals go some way to softening the blow. Fighters are recognisable and the blood and sweat is unmistakeable. It all flows incredibly smoothly and opponents recoil after each heavy blow, making the hits feel as if they have real weight behind them. Cuts and bruises are your indication of your fighter’s health, which is a great change from green bars filling up the screen. However, there’s little variation to these cuts and bruises, meaning you may well tire of seeing the same ones every fight. The venues have few distinguishing features, and the crowd aren’t as lively as the cheers and shouts may suggest. The commentary, on the other hand is great, it really adds to the sense of being involved in a real match.
It may have a few flaws here and there, but UFC 2009: Undisputed is one of the better fighting games currently available. Even if you’re not into the sport, this game should appeal to a wide audience, and you may well have a changed opinion after having a play-through of Undisputed. Exciting, great-looking and chock-full of different combat options, Undisputed proves that it deserves the title of top fighter.