UFC 2009 Undisputed Review (Xbox 360)
UFC 2009 Undisputed is a great game in many respects, with the most entertaining aspect of the game being its intuitive, deep fighting system. And considering the fact that it's a new franchise from THQ and developer Yuke’s Media Creations, which had previously focused on making wrestling games, Undisputed's quality is even a bit of a surprise.
Many training modes in sports video games are tacked on and usually not very valuable to gamers. This is certainly not the case with UFC 2009 Undisputed. In a game like Undisputed (see: complex), a useful training mode is essential if you want to become a better, more successful fighter in the octagon.
The Undisputed training mode encompasses movement, striking, submissions, transitions and everything in between, and I highly recommend that all gamers spend some time in this mode because it will inevitably lead to better results for them when they begin their careers, or when they’re simply going through the exhibition or Classic Fights modes.
By spending time in the Training Mode, you can become successful in the octagon.
In the Octagon
Undisputed has a terrific and adaptable fighting system. Beginners can jump in and have fun while mashing buttons, but the more dedicated gamers can spend an extensive amount of time practicing, so that they can better understand all of the system's intricacies. Even though I have been playing the game virtually nonstop since it was released last Tuesday, I still find myself in situations where I am thrown to the ground within just a few seconds and forced to tap out.
The controls mainly involve the face buttons for punching and kicking, with the right bumper and right trigger (on the Xbox 360) protecting the fighter’s face and body, respectively. The left trigger and left bumper effectively act as modifiers for punches and kicks, opening up a wider variety of attacks that can be unleashed upon the player’s opponent. Transitions and the submissions are affected by the right analog stick, though, fighters can also attempt to break out of a submission attempt by using brute force with the face buttons.
The ground game in UFC 2009 Undisputed is easily the most difficult aspect of the game’s fighting system to master. It seems that regardless of how much time I invest in the training mode, opponents can still take my fighter down to the ground and manhandle him early on in the match. As mentioned earlier, there are two possible ways to break out of a submission: a technical escape, which is performed by rotating the right analog stick, and the brute-force method, which requires the player to repeatedly mash the face buttons in order to escape a submission attempt. Brute force escapes are safer than technical escapes if your fighter has strength but lacks submission skills, but a technical escape will give your fighter a more advantageous position -- assuming your fighter escapes the submission attempt.
The difficulty levels in the game seem to be fairly well balanced, at least when it comes to the lower difficulty levels. I started on the Beginner difficulty level while I was getting comfortable with the game’s control system. From there, I progressed to the Experienced level to see how much different it was. The opponents appear to be slightly more aggressive on this level, but it still wasn’t too much of a change.
Curious as to how I would do on the game’s toughest difficulty level, I confidently started a fight on Expert level, only to have the fight end in less than one minute. This pattern continued for five or six more fights, at which point I accepted defeat and lowered the difficulty to Advanced. I have been happy with this level ever since because I feel like I still have the ability to be competitive in each match, but I also have to be completely alert since one misstep will likely bring my fighter down and result in a submission.
The artificial intelligence (AI) also appears to be tied directly to the difficulty level, as fighters on the Beginner level are easier to take down and more likely to make mistakes. On Expert, however, opponents will rarely give you an opening, which provides a much more intense experience.
Obviously, each player will have a different ideal difficulty level, but regardless, I think Undisputed gives players a lot of freedom when it comes to how tough they want the game to be.
Stunning. In one word, that is how the graphics in Undisputed can best be described. It is not often that I see a sports game that so accurately replicates the look and feel of the real-life sport, but UFC 2009 Undisputed does just that.
Each fighter looks accurate to his real-life counterpart; bodies glisten with sweat as a fight continues; blood splatters realistically on the canvas (if perhaps a bit too often); and knockouts look and sound just as painful as they should, with mouth guards flying from fighters' mouths and bodies falling to the mat.
The fighters’ faces are also incredibly realistic and lifelike. From Tito Ortiz’s short, white hair to Chuck Liddell’s tattoos on the back of his head, Yuke’s has done an excellent job crafting a visually stunning fighting game.
The visuals in UFC 2009 Undisputed are amazing, to say the least.
The presentation in this game is also very well implemented. From the main fights that the player experiences in the career mode to the accurate sponsors and details surrounding the octagon to the introductions and montages found in the Classic Fights section of the game, everything comes together nicely to present an accurate representation of what someone would see when tuning into a UFC fight on television.
The commentary in Undisputed is akin to the rest of the game: It is very good, but it still has a few shortcomings. The good news is that when fighting with different fighters, there will only be a few rare instances of repetitive commentary.
Unfortunately, when playing against the same fighter numerous times in a row, which may happen while battling in some of the tougher Classic Fights in the game, the commentators will often repeat themselves constantly. By the third or fourth fight against the same opponent, the commentary will probably begin to wear on the user, and sadly will negate a lot of the positive aspects of the commentary that can usually be found while playing various exhibition matches against the computer or another friend.
In many sports games I play, I don’t find myself investing too much time in career modes. That usually occurs because I either don’t have enough of an interest in the sport or because I find the mode to be rather tedious.
However, UFC 2009 Undisputed’s career mode has a much faster pace to it, which makes me enjoy it more than most other career modes. In this career mode, users create their own fighter, along with a nickname that will be announced before each fight. From there, players are tasked with changing the look of their fighter, which includes choosing between preset facial appearances -- the system isn’t nearly as detailed as the one found in a Fight Night or Tiger Woods game -- selecting the fighter’s build and weight class, his type of trunks and his fighting style.
After this, you are able to assign a limited number of points to your fighter’s skill set. Once done with all of that, it’s time for your first fight. Win the fight, and you are the given the chance to assign some more points to your fighter’s attributes, and then you are introduced to the rest of the options available in the career mode.
The other options available in the career mode include changing the appearance of your created fighter, training, resting or sparring with a partner. You spar with your partner in order to work on certain skills and add more skill points to your fighter’s skill set, so that he is ready for his next scheduled fight, which is normally seven to 10 weeks in the future.
The career mode progresses like this throughout your fighter’s career, though, once your fighter begins to become more skilled and accomplished, it takes more skill points to boost his skill set in various ways.
The career mode is limited to seven years, but you can take 100 different created fighters through those seven years. While the truncated career length is slightly disappointing, it is certainly nice that you can take 100 different fighters through the mode. And, with the aforementioned skill system in place, virtually each fighter can have his own unique fighting style and strengths.
Submissions are easily the most difficult moves to successfully pull off in this game.
UFC 2009 Undisputed offers ranked and and unranked matches. You can choose the number of rounds, the type of weight class and can exclude a player who doesn’t match your experience. You can also follow your progress through the leaderboards system and on the weekly top 100.
Just like in the regular game and the real UFC, a fight can end in one punch. As frustrating as that may be to some, it will not take long to jump into a new fight if you get knocked out. In fact, you can probably face a new opponent every four or five minutes when playing online. The ability to turn around quickly and face someone new after a loss definitely lessens the sting of a knockout.
The game features a robust rankings system that rewards you for quick knockouts, vicious submissions and other fighting accomplishments. There is also a mini-scouting report of your opponent before every match. Each opponent has a specific style, and you’ll realize that as you play in more online matches. UFC 2009 Undisputed does a solid job of letting you know exactly what type of fighter you’ll be battling against inside the eight-sided ring.
Also, after you’ve retired your combatant in career mode, he’ll be ready to go online. Raising your stats in the career mode will give you an advantage over the established fighters in the game. It also gives you an incentive to play the career mode in multiple weight classes or fight styles, so that you can keep sharp against your virtual peers. You can also create fighters outside the career mode and go online with them, but they are given fewer ability points.
Gamers should also be aware that plug-pulling and disconnecting are common occurrences online. There are really no penalties in place to battle against these sleazy tactics, so many gamers out there are playing dirty to keep their loss records spotless. It is a shame that the ranked matches are being tarnished by these losers.
As for lag, it is mostly a non-issue. You will be involved in some matches where lag is evident, but even during those matches, the lag usually won't completely tarnish the experience.
A final note: There are no plans at the moment for downloadable content, specifically new fighters.
For the first time in a number of years, a UFC game has been released that is definitely worth picking up. If you’re only a casual fan of the UFC, you should still rent the game at the very least. For those people who are hardcore followers of the sport, they likely already have the game in their possession. If not, though, they should pick it up now.
While the single-player portion of the game may get tiresome and predictable after some time, the multiplayer aspect of UFC 2009 Undisputed will provide this title with the legs it needs to continue spinning in your system of choice for quite some time. The fighting system is not only one of the deepest I’ve seen in a long time, it is also set up in a way where inexperienced players can still learn the controls relatively quickly and have a blast with the game.
The commentary gets a bit repetitive, the career mode isn’t quite as robust as many people may have hoped, and the ground game is excruciatingly hard to learn and master, even after spending a lot of time in the training mode. However, none of these problems greatly detract from the core experience, which makes Undisputed one of the better sports games on the market right now.
In the Octagon: This is as close to an accurate representation of the UFC as you can get. From the vicious punches and kicks to the blood splattering onto the mat to the sheer number of moves available to the fighters, you are truly in control of the fight’s outcome.
Graphics: Incredible. The fighters look like their real-world counterparts, the venues are accurate, and the presentation is spot-on. When you flinch as a punch connects with your fighter’s face, making him collapse on the ground, you’ll know that this is a graphically impressive title.
Sound: For the most part, the sound of punches and kicks connecting is very satisfying, and the commentary is equally excellent. After a few matches with the same fighter, however, the commentators begin to frequently repeat themselves, which is unfortunate when considering how good everything else sounds.
Entertainment Value: This game is deep enough to keep you entertained for a long time to come. From the career mode to the 80-plus fighters available and the number of different game modes, you will keep coming back to this game for a long time. If you have someone else to play against, the game will continue spinning in your system for even longer.
Learning Curve: Steep. Beginners will be able to understand the majority of the fights and be successful on the lower difficulty levels -- where opponents don’t take you to the ground too often -- but to be experienced and truly master the fighting system and different styles, you will need to invest a lot of time.
Online: Typical ranked and exhibition matches. Quickness of fights allow for many opponents in short amount of time. Completion of career mode will help your created fighter online. It is a terrible oversight that there are no penalties when disconnecting immediately after losing a match.
Score: 8.5 (Excellent)