UFC 2009 Undisputed Review

Dan Webb

Have you ever compared the UFC rules to the see how they fit with the rules from David Fincher's 1999 movie masterpiece, Fight Club? No? Well, out of curiosity I did, and aside from the first two rules, you couldn’t really tell them apart. Let me run you through them ... Firstly, and secondly, you do not talk about Fight Club ... well, that doesn’t apply seeing about not talking about a sport would be absurd, so we’ll ignore those two. Thirdly, if someone says “stop,” goes limp or taps out; the fight is over. Check. Only two guys to a fight. Check. One fight at a time. Check. No shirts, no shoes. Check ... again. Come on, this is getting freaky now. Fights will go on as long as they have to ... well there is a timer, but we'll ignore. And last but not least ... if it’s your first night at Fight Club, you HAVE to fight. Okay, well that doesn’t apply either, it would be quite scary if it did ... but you get my point, right? UFC is just a cool way of making Fight Club into a sport, and what happens to all the good sports these days? We get videogames of them, and thanks to THQ, we can have our very own Fight Club title on next gen consoles in our warm living rooms now ... instead of doing it in the basement with your neighbours.

Ugly from birth? Or taken a beating? You decide.

UFC 2009 Undisputed is the latest title in the long standing Yukes and THQ partnership and brings the mixed martial arts (MMA) genre to next generation consoles for the first time. With a roster of 80 MMA stars spanning 5 different weight classes, 4 genuine arenas, veteran Octagon announcer Bruce Buffer, ring girls Edith and Arianny, 3 genuine UFC refs, and commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg on show, UFC Undisputed is the most authentic UFC experience that you’re likely to ever get without being in the ring yourself.

From a gameplay stance, UFC Undisputed is an absolute beast to get your head around and that is pretty much affirmed by the fact that the tutorial is over half an hour long – half of which you forget after you’ve ran through it. This learning curve is absolutely brutal and may act as a deterrant for pretty much every non UFC nut. However, if you can get over that big hump and get a feel for the controls and what to do with them, and when, UFC Undisputed is an enriching experience.

Fighters will have to master their ground and standing games if they are to stand toe-to-toe with some of the world’s greats. Each of the different aspects has three different unique fighting styles; the standing game is broken down into boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai; and the ground game features wrestling, judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu styles. The controls are pretty complex on the whole, with combinations of buttons needed to be pressed at a time to fully grasp your fighter's potential. The right trigger and bumper control low and high blocking, whereas the left two control the height of your attacks. Throw in the fact that each of the face buttons controls a limb, and the right joystick is there to deal with clinches, transitions and initiating submissions; and everything can become a little overwhelming at first. If there was a game where you really had to pay attention the tutorial, instruction manual and utilise the practice mats, this is it. Once you do grasp the mechanics, UFC Undisputed can become an authentic and enjoyable experience.

There are a few gripes with the whole gameplay aspect however. Sure, you can sprint across the canvas by pressing the left stick in when your opponent is on his feet, but when your opponent is down and time is of the essence, your character really fails to make any sort of rush towards them. By the time you get there, your opponent is up and your chance to finish the fight is gone. It’s this aspect that can really highlight the game’s sluggish moments that really break up the play.

Mid round digital eye candy is welcomed with open arms.

There are no energy bars in UFC Undisputed per se, but you do have the ability to turn on a stamina bar which for all intents and purposes acts like an energy bar. That being said though, with the presence of flash KO’s, you could be getting dominated in a match and catch your opponent off-guard and end up triumphant. The flash KO’s are actually really well balanced and have the ability to make you smile (read, grin) every time you get one. It never gets old and you can even appreciate it when it gets done to you. Remember, never let that guard down, even if you’re absolutely nailing your opponent.

Other than the traditional exhibition mode, players can attempt to recreate classic matches in the Classic Fights mode with UFC presenter Rachelle Leah on hand to build up the fight and conclude it. There are 12 in all, and range from the finale of UFC's Ultimate Fighter, Season 1, Bonnar vs Griffin, to Penn vs Sherk from UFC 84. It’s a great mode in all and the pre-fight build up clips and subsequent clip you unlock per fight is surely going to keep the resident UFC fans out there squirming in their seats with excitement .

Of course, where would a fighting game be in this day and age without a career mode, UFC Undisputed is no different, offering a comprehensive career mode for you to build your own star to rise the ranks. The options and customisation featured in the Create A Fighter aspect are pretty in-depth and allow you to create whatever sort of star you want, customising your shorts right down to the thickness of your body hair. However, it would be nice to say the same about the career mode which in all honesty is pretty bland. It basically consists of one exhibition fight after another with the odd two minute sparring session in between whereby you get awarded points to spend on your fighter’s technical stats depending on your performance. When you’re not doing that, you’re cycling through weeks adding points to your main three fighter stats (cardio, strength and speed). It all seems a little uninspiring and not very glamorous. Would it have hurt to throw a few training mini games in to break up the constant flow of fights? Apparently so.

It would have been nice to see UFC Undisputed utilise some sort of ring entrance mechanic to give you some sort of contact with the pretty distant crowd. Aside from your trainers and the refs, you may as well be fighting in the arena alone. Throw in the inability to save your favourite moments from replays and the ridiculous amount of slow arduous loading screens, and it soon becomes clear that UFC Undisputed isn’t the perfect package.

It may not have all the little things to make it the total UFC experience but it sure does look fantastic and the character models of the fighters are some of the best we’ve seen ... ever. Not only do they look pretty detailed from the offset, but they bruise, cut and sweat ... all in real time. There is nothing better than seeing a kick across the ribs leave an opponent reeling only to come up with a heavily bruised side where you just planted your foot. The frame-rate seemed to cope at all times and I rarely suffered any sort of clipping, although I must say, that the blood splatter is some of the most unrealistic visual effects I’ve seen in some time taking away slightly from the spectacle.

As well as looking beautiful, UFC Undisputed 2009 is blessed with some of the best commentary I’ve ever experienced in a sports game ever. Not only was it informative, interesting and delivered with a real sense of purpose, but it rarely repeated itself and never out-stayed its welcome. I wish I could say the same about the crowds and whilst they got on at you if the fight wasn’t as amazing as they expected, I can't help but feel they were a little distant and seemed unconnected with the action in the Octagon. Music and sound effects wise though, you can really fault the title.

The online aspect as it is, is pretty bog standard, offering players the ability to fight with custom characters or take the reins of the best. I found that finding a match was a little bit too much like effort at times, and it may not be fair to class it as laggy, but it can get a little choppy. That being said, my experience online was a pleasant one. You may find people spamming the same moves but if you’ve learnt the basics and really put them into practice through the single player aspect, you should be alright. Although there is a leaderboard, it would have been nice to see a little variety, perhaps a tournament mode or something. I can tell you now though, it’s a mode I’ll definitely be stepping back into and that should be testament enough.

Now where did you hide my Mars bar? I won't ask again.

The achievements are a mixed bag and the list contains some grinding and uninspiring achievements, yet has some of the year’s best achievements hidden away in the middle. The list is a 55-45% split with offline achievements just making up the majority which is a little too much multiplayer if you ask us. However, there’s no doubting that heading online is great fun and unlike other games with multiplayer achievements recently, that is a breath of fresh air. The achievements do require you play through the career 5 times though and asks you to use every fighter in exhibition at least once and that feels a lot like hard work. That being said, the “That was easy!” (win in 20 seconds), “Wanted: Flying Mouthpieces” (knock a mouthpiece over 3 metres) and “Two of my favorites!” (watch the ring girl cut scene 15 times) achievements show some great thought and inventiveness that we’d love to see in every list. On the whole, the list is very uninspiring, but a few gems pull it back from the doldrums to give the list a little respect.

There is no disputing (pun intended) that UFC Undisputed is a fantastic recreation of an authentic UFC experience. The game features a fantastic control mechanism once you get to grips with it, however, the steep learning curve may put off potential suitors. The game does feature a few drawbacks and that’s really in the variety department. The game’s career mode is pretty bland and uninspiring and its basic online is nothing to write home about, although it is fun. So with its extensive roster, fantastic recreation of one of the world’s fastest growing sports and stunning visuals, UFC Undisputed 2009 is a must have for UFC fans and fighting fans alike. It’s also a great way to vent that inner anger that's been building up over the years ... or is that just me?

Some of the best sporting commentary we’ve heard in a game ever. The sound effects as you crack your opponent’s shin are sure to please everyone. It’s just a shame the crowd doesn’t seem to appreciate it as much as we do.

The fighter’s character models are some of the best character models ever rendered in the history of gaming. Even the ref, ring girls and coaches look pretty damn good. Held back from being absolutely epic by a really terrible blood splatter effect on the canvas. Did they just miss that or something?

A steep learning curve to the title but one that is so rewarding when you get your head round it. Unfortunately, people may not have the patience to get their head around a control system where even after 5 hours you’re still going back to the tutorial to find out how to do something.

The game is delivered in a simple menu system with the traditional exhibition mode, a fantastic Classic Fights mode, a bland career mode and simple but effective online aspect. All the stats are tracked and attention to detail is pretty impressive. Just need a little more substance and variation needed.

A uninspiring, bland and grinding achievement list that is saved from obscurity with a few absolute gems. Seeing some great achievements like “That was easy!”, “Wanted: Flying Mouthpieces” and “Two of my favorites!” proved that Yukes have some creative people on the team ... it’s as if they gave up after that.

UFC 2009 Undisputed is a fantastic recreation of one of the world’s fastest growing sports. The extensive roster, commentary, ring girls, Bruce Buffer and Classic Fights mode with Rachelle Leah ensures that the title is as authentic as they could have reproduced. Despite the stunning visuals though, UFC Undisputed remains on the brink of greatness with a bland career mode, steep learning curve and straightforward online mode. Although these may be fun, the constant match after match with little, to no variation means the game can get old fast. That being said, flash KO’s never get old ... especially online.

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