UFC 2009 Undisputed Review
|Release Date:||May 22nd, 2009 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
Let's face it- beating the crap out of someone (in a game) feels pretty cool, and UFC 2009: Undisputed really pushes the 'alpha male take-on-all-comers' button most gamers hide deep in their souls. So let's jump straight into the octagon.
The game is based around the highly successful Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) series, a kind of mixed martial arts/wrestling cross without the annoying fake punches thrown by its bigger TV cousin, WWE.
UFC is known for its heavy hitting, highly skilled fighters, gallons of blood on the mats and baying, bloodthirsty crowds cheering from the stands, and the game more than meets the series in that scope.
Offering online multiplayer, exhibition modes and a fairly substantial career mode, the game has plenty to keep you busy, and building your own fighter up from a bulldog to the king of the...octagon... is a very fulfilling experience.
But down to the meat of the game- the fighting. Each of the 80+ real fighters and legends on the roster have their own pair of martial arts skills, split into two specific styles- striking (boxing, kick boxing, or Muay Thai) and grappling (Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, or wrestling).
If you chose a fighter more suited to striking you will spend the majority of your time hitting your opponent's head, trying for a knock-out. Grapplers tend to force their opponents to the ground for some 'ground and pound' brutality until the umpire calls a halt to the battle or the opponent taps out, which is a very satisfying way to end a fight.
The controls for the fights are surprisingly simple and easy to use. THQ have done their best to reduce the number of button combos needed by mapping specific attacks to the controllers' face buttons, while leaving the analogue stick free to manoeuvre your fighter.
The fights are always fast and require a fair amount of tactical thinking, as each opponent has a very different style of play, and a left hook followed by a kick to the thigh may not work on the next opponent in line.
Once you have your opponent on the mat, the controls continue to make the art of mullering the fighter easy. The analogue stick now allows your fighter to try for a different grip, such as moving from behind the opponent to a straddling position, allowing for a clear shot at his face or a nice choke hold.
The smoothness of the control system makes each fight realistic and quite a challenge for the gamer, as each opponent brings a very different style into the octagon and forces improvisation every single time.
Exhibition matches aside, the main meat of the game comes from the considerable career mode, which allows you to create your own fighter and see him rise from nobody to champion while leaving a wake of broken fighters behind you. Though the character customisation isn't up to the standards of Mass Effect for example, there are enough options to fiddle with to make your dream fighter a reality.
Coupled to the create-a-character mode is an unusually deep stats upgrade screen, which allows the gamer to adjust the specifics of their fighter to better match their style of play, such as increased ability to block punches to the face or counter kicks, or general purpose attributed such as speed and damage per punch or kick.
Your character can also attend training camps to boost a specific statistic through repetition of a specific motion or round after round of sparring, which puts a damper on the experience and gets dull very quickly. Luckily these camps are optional, and most of the time I found I didn't need them.
You also have to keep an eye on your character's calendar as they have scheduled fights and training to fit into a busy month. E-mail is also featured, and sponsors often ask to add a a symbol to your trunks if you start doing well- this is all fine and good, but the email system is unusually clunky, with repetitive emails needing answering every few minutes, and this is made all the more tedious by the menu system itself which is unnecessary roundabout and annoying, as you can't press one button to go back to the home screen and instead need to navigate all over the shop to do what you need to do.
Luckily the menus are overshadowed by the fighting itself, which is backed up by some rather tasty graphics. The game is pretty good looking, with the octagon, the fighters and the umpire all textured nicely and showing some excellent rag doll effects upon knock-out. Much like in the TV show, when someone takes hard enough a hit they're going down, wherever they are at the time- I once punched a fighter so hard he fell backwards into the cage wall, rebounded off it and landed flat on his face at my feet.
However, the crowd outside of the octagon is a rare lapse in quality, remaining invisible for the majority of the fight and only appearing as badly textured sprites for the rest of the time. While I know that this is less important than the fight itself, the crowd should at least respond a little more to the brutality unfolding in front of them.
And there is plenty of brutality to be had- each fighter can take quite a pounding and the blows cause muscles to ripple and cuts and bruises to appear on face and limbs, although these always seem to be the same and aren't dependant on where the crushing blow originally hit.
There is also a nice slowdown when a particularly hard blow is landed or when a knock-out is achieved with a neat uppercut. While not as cool as the slow-mo punches featured in titles such as Fight Night, it's still amazingly satisfying to catch a worth opponent off guard.
The multiplayer mode is pretty good, offering the same conditions as the exhibition single player. However, it also suffers with 'fighting game-itis'- awful lag between button press and action on the screen- and this can put a damper on the speed and strategy the game attempts to inspire, as you don't respond as fast as you would offline.
All in all, UFC 2009: Undisputed is an excellent fighting game with a chunky career mode, shiny graphics and a brilliant control scheme. Though the menus are a pain to navigate and the Sims-alike calendar you have to watch in the career mode are minor irritations, the fighting in the octagon more than makes up for it.
- Neat graphics
- Good career mode
- Brutal, satisfying fights
Not so good stuff
- Menus are annoying complicated
- Laggy multiplayer