After a long hiatus, UFC makes its return to gaming with THQ’s UFC: Undisputed. The reins have been turned over to Yuke’s, most widely known for the WWE Smackdown series of games. With Undisputed, Yuke’s goal was to create the most realistic simulation of MMA to ever grace a console. Luckily for fight fans, they’ve succeeded.
The game features a full seven year career mode, exhibition mode, and a really great classic fights mode. This mode allows you to replay some major fights in UFC’s history, with the added bonus of unlocking real video highlights from the fights if you finish them in the same round and the same manner the actual fight finished. The game also features online multiplayer, which allows you to square off against another player using either UFC talent or your created fighter from career (once you finished the career and retired).
When you first boot up the game, you’re going to want to hop into the tutorial section first thing. The gameplay in Undisputed is very deep, and if you don’t learn the ropes (or in this case, cage) you’re going to be staring at the lights pretty quick. The stand-up game utilizes the face buttons to punch and kick, the left trigger to adjust the level (high or low) of your attacks, and the right bumper and trigger (R1 and R2 on the PS3) are your block buttons. You’ll also have access to special style specific attacks using the left bumper (or L1) as a modifier. Punches and kicks can be either weak or strong attacks, depending on whether you press forward on the left analog. Strong and special attacks cause more damage than weak ones, however they drain your stamina quicker. The stand-up is really great in Undisputed, and certainly holds it’s own with the likes of Fight Night.
The real draw of the Undisputed is the ground game, however, and Yuke’s has certainly gone out of their way to make this the most realistic interpretation of grappling in a UFC title to date. There are multiple ways to takedown your opponent, mostly accomplished by means of the right analog stick. Once you get your opponent on the ground, you’ll have to make use of both minor and major transitions to work your way towards more advantageous positions. Transitions are also accomplished via the right analog stick. You’ll accomplish them by making either a half (major) or quarter (minor) circle motion. Major transitions will result in a more advantageous position change; however they are more difficult to perform. On defense, you can either hold the stick any direction to block your opponent’s transition, or you can flick the stick with more precise timing to reverse the transition, resulting in a better position for your fighter.
As in the real UFC, submissions are a big part of the game. As your opponent’s stamina drains, you can slap on a submission by pressing in on the right analog stick while in a ground grapple position. Your fighter’s submission skills will play a big part in your success or failure in submission situations, but you’ll also have to put some work into sinking that rear naked choke regardless. You have two options for muscling your way to a tap out. You can focus on button mashing to apply the submission (or escape it) and rely on your fighter’s strength stats. The other option is to rotate the right analog stick in quick clean circles; this method will take your fighters submission skills into account.
There are many more aspects to the gameplay in Undisputed as well, so many that if I went into every one this review would drag on and my EIC would probably throw a fit, so we’ll leave it at that. Suffice to say, if it exists in the real UFC, you’ll most likely find it in Undisputed 2009. There are a few exceptions to this, for example the game does not feature a southpaw stance. Also, I would like to see a flash submission feature to match the flash KO feature already present. Even with these missing features, Undisputed’s gameplay is simply fantastic and an incredible approximation of the sport.
Speaking of realism, UFC: Undisputed’s graphics hit the mark in that department as well. The character models for most of the over 80 UFC fighters are spot on. There are some exceptions to this, UFC President Dana White included, but they are few and far between. The damage modeling in the game is very realistic, and the cuts and bruises look great. The presentation aspect of the game is somewhat lacking, however. The menu’s are mostly lackluster and feature excessive loading, especially within career mode. Menu’s also have the problem of being overly complex, turning simple exercises like adding logo’s to your fighters trunks into frustrating affairs.
Besides the phenomenal gameplay, the main draw for me in Undisputed is the career mode. You’ll begin by selecting your weight class, then designing a fighter using a fairly detailed Create a Fighter feature. You’ll pick from one of three striking styles (Kickboxing, Boxing, and Muay Thai) and one of three grappling styles (Judo, Wrestling, BJJ). Once your virtual pugilist is finished, you’ll kick off a seven year UFC career, hopefully culminating in your fighter’s induction into the UFC Hall of Fame. Along the way, you’ll have to budget your fighters energy into training your base stats (strength, stamina, speed), sparring to increase your specific stats (i.e. Takedown Offense, Submission Defense), performing publicity actions to increase your reputation, and resting to make sure you’re in good shape for your next fight.
The career mode does some great things to draw you in to each bout in your fighter’s career. The game communicates with you via an email system that, in addition to keeping you updated on fight results, also feeds you interview style emails that will feature comments on your upcoming fight from your opponent. These really help to draw you in to each match-up and help to add a layer of personality to the fight. The career mode does suffer from some of the unfortunate presentation flaws as the rest of the game, however. Load times seem excessively long within the career. You’ll also notice some minor flaws as well, for example if you make your created fighter 20 years old when he starts his career, you’ll find that 7 years later when he retires as a grizzled veteran of the octagon he’ll be the ripe old age of…20 years old. Stuff like that just should slip through testing, and is especially surprising given the level of polish that went into the gameplay side of the game.
The sound quality is the game is top notch. Featuring commentary from Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, the game does a decent job keeping up with the action on screen, although it does occasionally suffer from some repetitive lines. Crowd noise is decent, although a little subdued. The game also features fighter introductions from the “veteran voice of the Octagon” Bruce Buffer.
As great as the single player experience is this game feels built for the multiplayer experience. In addition to being a fantastic local multiplayer experience, the game features a ranked online multiplayer component as well. The netcode for the online portion seems pretty decent, although I did experience several matches with a considerable amount of lag.
Overall, UFC: Undisputed 2009 is a fantastic game for both the hardcore UFC fan, and the casual fan alike. With its deep gameplay structure and great selection of game modes, Yuke’s has laid down the foundation for a really solid series here. With some tweaks to the presentation and some additions to the gameplay, next years UFC title has real knockout potential. As it stands, fight fans should definitely pick up Undisputed 2009. It’s easily the most realistic UFC experience this side of popping in the mouth guard and going a few rounds on your own.