Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has really started to come to the forefront of fighting over the past few years, with the lead runner being the Ultimate Fighting Championship). It was therefore inevitable that a MMA games would be released. Developers Yukes (famous for their WWE games) decided to step up and take the challenge, and thus, UFC 2009 Undisputed was born. So, is it a knockout, or does it get beaten down in the first round?
For those of you unfamiliar with UFC or MMA, it is a mixture of various different fighting styles and techniques, such as Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian Ju Jitsu. Fights take place in an octagon shaped cage, appropriately called, The Octagon, and can last between 3 and 5 rounds, with each round lasting 5 minutes. Ways to win the fight include Knockout (KO), Total Knockout (TKO) and submission. Now that you are least somewhat familiar with how the UFC works, let’s jump into the game.
It can be quite difficult jumping straight into a fight due to the somewhat daunting controls, but thankfully there is a rather nice tutorial included in the game to get you up to speed quickly. After the tutorial you are all set to tackle the various modes that the game has to offer such as Exhibition fights, a robust Career mode, and a Classic Fights mode where you get to try and reproduce some of the greatest fights ever seen in The Octagon. If you choose to jump straight into a quick exhibition fight you will be greeted with a wealth of fighters (around 80 in total) across the 5 different weight classes (Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight, Middleweight, Welterweight and Featherweight). Aside from the fighters, you can also choose between various venues and official UFC referees. Then the fight introductions begin, and if you have ever seen any UFC fights you will immediately notice how accurately the whole event is reproduced, from the tale of the tapes (fighter stats such as weight and reach), right the way through the announcements which are presented by the official voice of The Octagon, Bruce Buffer. The attention to detail and realism is really something else.
When you are actually in the fight you will find a robust and brilliantly designed combat system which plays like a dream. You can freely link together punches and kicks into a combo, the takedown controls which are used for taking the other fighter to the ground are slick and responsive, and the ground controls for transitioning to different positions are done with a very clever system; involving rotating the right thumbstick in various different ways. Depending on how you move the stick you can move into advantageous positions, block your opponent’s transitions and even reverse their transition attempt if your timing is right. There also numerous different offensive punches and elbows that you can land from either the offensive of defensive positions by using a mixture of the face and shoulder buttons. Now I understand that all that may sound a bit confusing and complex but trust me after a couple of fights you will see just how wonderfully the control system works.
Once you have got the hang of how to play then it's time to take on the Career mode. This mode lets you take a created fighter from the lowly ranks of the new guy in the UFC, right the way up to UFC champion, and eventually into the UFC Hall of Fame. Of course, doing this is no easy task as your fighter starts with the bare minimum in terms of fighting ability, and so your first port of call is improving your fighter’s skills. This can be done by either setting your fighter to train for the week on his strength, speed or cardio, or by taking your fighter into a sparring session. The training is done automatically and requires no effort from the player. You are placed into a 2 minute fight against your sparring partner, who in a nice touch will mimic the fighting styles of your upcoming opponent. The better you fight and the more damage you do during these 2 minutes, the more points you earn to spend on your fighters attributes. Both training and sparring take up one week in your schedule and use up stamina, which you only have a certain amount of and so need to manage wisely. There is no point doing 2 weeks of sparring and then heading into a fight the following week with 5% stamina, because you will quite frankly get owned. Therefore it is important that you manage your stamina wisely.
When you are not fighting or training you will get the opportunity to take part in visits to other gyms to improve your core fighting styles, and also get to take part in interviews and photo shoots in order to earn a few credits. The credits that you earn through events and from fights go towards unlocking new sponsors (which in turn can give you more credit), new gym equipment to improve your training, and even new sparring partners. As you can see, the career mode has plenty to offer as you progress up the ranks. The one gripe that I have with it is that once you reach championship status you tend to end up fighting the same guys over and over, which can get a bit tedious at times. Still there is an achievement for completing the career mode undefeated, which will really drive you in all your fights.
The Classic Fight modes is an equally exciting game mode (at least if you have followed the UFC), and being tasked with reproducing the results of some of the UFC's greatest fights is a real joy. Each fight is set up by showing real interviews with the fighters before the fight in question. Completing the fight in the required way unlocks a highlight reel of the actual fight, which is a nice incentive to complete this mode. However, whilst most of the fights task you with knocking people out or submitting them in a certain round, not all of the fights are as fun. One fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonner tasks you with controlling Forrest, and winning the fight by unanimous judge’s decision after 3 rounds. Put bluntly, trying to beat a guy in all 3 rounds, but restraining yourself so you don't accidentally knock them out just isn't fun.
Rounding out the options is the online mutliplayer which is what is expected; a straight up exhibition mode against other players, allowing you to rank up by winning fights. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's not bad either. Lag wasn't much of an issue in the fights I played, and it is undeniably fun beating on another player when you are mounting them on the ground whilst yelling "Take it! Take it!" at them down the mic (Ed – What the...). Fun stuff! Nex time around I would like to see more multiplayer options such as player created tournaments or something similar.
Graphically UFC 2009 is a looker and a half. Whilst the environments such as The Octagon and the audience aren't anything hugely spectacular, the fighters look fantastic. For the most part they look hugely like their real life counterpart, and the attention to detail on every part of their body, from the curves in their face to the hair on their chest looks incredible. As you get into the fight the sweat dripping off the fighters looks sensational, and every hit looks and feels like it should. The close up replays show off the ripples and blood spray as you smack someone across the cheek, and blood drips across the fighters with startling realism. The audio portion of the game is also spot on, with every impact sounding like it should, great commentary on the fight, and excellent feedback from the audience as they react to each punch and kick made. The atmosphere is just electrifying. Bottom line, UFC 2009 looks and sounds amazing.
I must admit that when I heard about UFC 2009 Undisputed I did have reservations as to how good it would be, but I was blown away by how good this game is, especially considering it is Yukes' first attempt at the genre. Even if you have no interest in the UFC, you should really check this game out, because it is just amazing. Congratulations Yukes, knockout in the very first round.