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During the demo appointments leading up to Undisputed’s release, we knew we were seeing something good. The tactical, yet undeniably brutal sport (if it’s recognized by many state athletic commissions then yes, it is a sport) is rendered the best it’s ever been in digital form. From the striking to the grapple contests, Exhibition to Career mode, UFC 2009 Undisputed is a great game for sports and fighting fans alike.
What we mean is that the controls are simple AND complex enough to feel like an arcade AND sports sim. Fans of Fight Night Round 3 should love the lack of HUD, the realistic bruising, the bloody cuts, the way the mouthpiece flies after a fierce superman punch, the incredibly detailed fighters and the spot-on controls. And while Undisputed lacks cheesy sparks that emit after a punch and stupid anime intros, there is certainly enough in the way of straight brawling and complex grappling to satisfy even the combo-obsessed fighter enthusiast.
Above: How non-fans see UFC (sans Wolverine, of course)
Above: How actual fans see UFC
We’ve gone in-depth on how the controls work on our last preview, but let’s give you a quick refresher. On the 360, the left trigger and bumper modify head and body strikes, while the right trigger and bumper block for the head and body respectively. Face buttons correspond to each limb (X for a left punch, B for a right kick), with the modifiers indicating how you throw the strikes. Body shots and quick strikes wear down the opponent by injuring him or lessening his stamina and power. High attacks can knock him the f*ck out.
Add to that the grapple controls, initiated with flicking the right stick. Grappling or clinch holds are triggered with a tap towards the opponent. Flicking up or down counters your opponent’s clinch and flicking away at the right time will block your opponent as he shoots towards you. Used in combination with the modifier buttons and you can either attempt a takedown or clinch (which looks like hugging), but really means you have a grasp on your opponent and try to wear him down with knees and elbows. Of course, your goal is to get the other guy on the mat, get in and control him through a series of transitions and hopefully make him submit.
Above: Do you understand the controls yet?
We haven’t even begun to discuss the minor and major transition controls (requiring quarter-circle right stick gestures) to gain control over your opponent, but that serves to highlight how overwhelming the controls can feel. Like our preview appointments, it was difficult to wrap our head around blocks, reversals, transitions, clinching, when to strike the body, when to block our face from getting rocked and more. Quite simply, there is a shit-ton to keep track of. But no matter, these worries fall away the more you play. And soundly beating the crap out of another guy will be a walk in the park.
We recommend the following to get used to UFC: please for the love of god, go through the tutorial mode when you start the game. Tutorial will go through all various controls, moves and situations. Next, play some exhibition matches, get your ass kicked, go through Practice mode and wail on some dummy, before doing a couple more exhibition matches. You’ll feel your skills improving and gain more confidence. Maybe you’re knocking guys out quicker? Maybe your mat game looks less like a homoerotic dance of sweaty tickles and more like an intense chess game of reversals. Once you get your game up, then you’re ready for the big time, kid.
Career mode in 3 easy observations
1) You will become a greater fighter here than just playing exhibition mode
Career mode is designed to take your created combatant through the lifestyle of an actual UFC fighter. Once you create your badass, you assign a weight class, fighting style in striking and in grappling (we chose Muay Thai and Judo), and allocate point attributes in three areas: strength, speed and cardio. Then you assign points within the Fighter Skill category in 15 areas: from standing strike offense to grapple defense.
After an intro where you briefly spar with an opponent, you begin your up-to-7 year career, full of training, sparring, endorsement deals, televised fights and slow rank climbing. In our first few fights with created fighter Punch Rockgroin (fans of MST3K should get the reference), we noticed how we moved away from the stand-up striking game to focus on our grappling. This was somewhat based on our ability to only knock out opponents and the fact that we found we were being overtaken in our grapple game. We neglected to practice clinching, submissions and transitions. Also, one dude got us in a takedown and when we got back up he knocked us the hell out.
This helped us add newly gained (more as a pat-on-the-back, “sorry you lost,” gift) Fighter points in our grapple abilities. The next fight proved a little better. We worked on our clinch game and actually knocked the guy out by kneeing him in the face a bunch. It’s not a submission, but hey, we’ll take it. This complexity led us to think…
2) Holy crap, this game is as deep as a JRPG
Seriously, Undisputed is one complicated old-school role-playing game about point allocation and abilities. In between your scheduled fights, you have between 4-12 weeks on average to train, spar, distribute points, rest and so on. After your previous fight, your stamina is listed in a percentage. Obviously, you want 100 percent by the time of the next fight, but you also want to upgrade your skills.
Above: Give out your fighter points right and you can be doing this!
Your three main attributes – strength, speed and cardio – are available to train, with each being available for light, moderate or intense workouts. The tougher the workout, the more stamina you’ll drain. On the flipside, your permanent attributes will increase. Also, you have the option to spar, which can earn you Fighter points to assign to the 15 main fighter skills you have. Each activity will cost you a week in the schedule, however. So you need to strategize and plan how to allocate your time effectively and improve your skills.
3) Career mode presentation is slick
During Career mode, you earn cred, which is a kind of currency. The more cred you earn enables you to unlock more sponsorships and equipment, which help you train and develop skills as a fighter much faster. You’ll also receive emails about each new UFC event, which changes up the rankings and your standing as a fighter. Additionally, you can select new coaches to assist you, which assists in unlocking more sponsorships.
Above: Ready to dance
Basically, all the flourishes serve to make you feel like you’re an actual ultimate fighter, or rather participating in the ultimate fighter lifestyle. Another plus, each training exercise we mentioned earlier isn’t done through some terrible minigame – it’s all menu-based. We love that. Cuts out the monotony and gets us back into strategizing and training.
In Classic Fights, there are 12 fights from UFC’s past that you replay. If you satisfy the win conditions, then you unlock a video montage of the actual fight. However, the conditions are kind of difficult. A few fights want you to win by decision meaning you go all three rounds, which sounds easy, right? Well, not if you’re used to pouncing and trying to knock the other guy out. You may be better suited for reliving the Liddell/Rampage fight, which just asks you to knock out Liddell in the first round. No sweat. Liddell goes down like a chump.
The presentation is pretty cool, but we’d hoped for better unlockables then a short-ass montage video of the fight, like the whole fight for example. Okay, if that’s too much video to compress and put on a disk, then how about unlockable legends?
And what about the downsides? How about the long load times? Actually, it’s not that they’re slow, but like WWE SmackDown, THQ loves to put you through several…
Hold on, we’re loading the rest of the review.
Okay, now our paragraphs about the career mode are loading.
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And now the rest of the review!
Get used to it! ‘Cause it kinda blows. Can any of this be optimized or happen in the background? It’s getting bothersome and cumbersome to sit through a loading screen for another menu. All told, it does take a while to begin a fight.
That’s because we slowly watch an overhead shot of the Octagon with no sound to speak of, before the tale of the tape (stats on each fighter). And then we see a good six skippable screens of Bruce Buffer announcing the fight, the fighters themselves, more introductions, and then an unskippable cutscene of the ref asking if we’re ready to fight. YES WE ARE. It’s kind of why we have the game. So we can play it. Watching WWE entrances are fun because there are pyrotechnics, intro themes, and animations of wrestlers running down the aisle. In UFC, it’s two guys prowling a cage, hopping up and down and getting ready to fight for real. That’s kind of boring to watch.
And the multiplayer? It works very well. A glance at the Achievement list makes it known that THQ really wants you to hop online and play against other people. While we didn’t do that for this review, we did play against other humans locally and had a blast. Also, please don’t be a dick. Let your buddies get used to the controls before you start putting them in hammerlocks and whip kneeing them in the face.
WWE SmackDown! vs RAW 2009
Not necessarily. Both are different beasts when it comes to replicating “sports.” SmackDown is a game of timing, reversals and grapple controls but feels completely different from Undisputed. It’s probably because we felt like we were training and improving our skill set to actually dominate and destroy our opponent. The match options for SmackDown are robust, but that’s because UFC doesn’t have matches that allow the use of flaming tables and barbed wire bats.
Fight Night Round 3
Not entirely. Fight Night handles the boxing controls extremely well, yet doesn’t allow for kicks to the face or tackling your opponent. So if you want more of a fight, we’d say go for UFC. If you want something that appears a little less like men writhing around on the ground, hit up Fight Night.
UFC: Sudden Impact
Oh god, yes. Sudden Impact blew.
May 15, 2009