Is UFC 2009 the latest badass sports title?

No matter what your feelings are on UFC, know that the sport has come a long way since the early “No Holds Barred” days. Ever since the late nineties, UFC has grown up, reformed and played ball with state athletic commissions. These days, each pay-per-view pulls in more buys than boxing and WWE events.

Basically, the brutal sport - which mixes fighting styles like judo and boxing - is incredibly popular and THQ’s UFC Undisputed 2009 will tap into that popularity. Rather than creatre a straight cash-in, THQ has built a pretty damn impressive game from the ground up. The engine is not a rehashed SmackDown engine either, and it definitely shows. We already mentioned thebest features of Undisputed, but we’re here to give you a taste of how the game feels when played.

Above: From the PS3 version

The Striking Game

To get started, we chose (current) Light Heavyweight champion Rashad Evans - a specialist at boxing and wrestling - and squared off against heavy hitter Forrest Griffin. When the fight started, we noticed the timer ticking down from 5 minutes quickly (each fight lasts 3 rounds, championship bouts 5 rounds). But then we started moving around the Octagon and noticed that our fighters were light on their feet. No worries - this feels like a deliberate choice to make the strategic fighting game feel fun and not like a slog.

Above: From the PS3 version

On the 360, the left trigger and bumper modified head and body strikes, while the right trigger and bumper blocked for the head and body respectively. And just like Tekken’s controls, the 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. As we were warned, you could mash the buttons, but improper blocking could leave you open for the kind of kicks that turn your body into mush or get you taken down.

Above: From the PS3 version

Remember, you have no HUD to rely on (unless you turn it on in the menu), so you’ll need to keep a close eye on your fighter to see if he’s been busted open or if any body part is bruising/swelling up. And just like the actual UFC, each strike that’s landed is harsh and brutal. You really get the sense that you’re beating the crap out of another guy. And if you’re overzealous or drop your guard, you can get tagged pretty hard, turning the screen gray and dulling the audio. At this point you can guarantee your opponent will swoop in and score an easy knockout.

But UFC isn’t all about knockouts and wailing on the other dude. The majority of the game - like the sport - is spent grappling on the ground.