UFC 2009 Undisputed Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

2004 was the year that saw the release of what would be the last Ultimate Fighting Championship game for five years. The massive popularity and growth of the UFC meant that it was inevitable that someone would make a modern game based on this brutal sport. THQ have given the task to Yuke’s, the developer behind the WWE SmackDown! games.

Firstly, thumbs up to THQ and Yuke’s for making great use of the licence. There’s around 80 real-life fighters included (spread across five weight divisions), familiar referees and ring girls have been included, as have the commentary duo of Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan (there’s some pretty good commentary lines, with some intelligent banter about the fighters) and ring announcer, Bruce Buffer. Finally, there’s also video montages of past fights to unlock for you to relive or witness for the very first time.

The detail goes a lot further than in the use of the licence though, as the brand new engine on show here is a true visual spectacular that is dripping in detail. Fighters look very true to life thanks to their breathing and their pained and angry expressions, not forgetting to mention their natural animations, making strikes appear very painful (occasional collision detection problems let things down), and the sweat, cuts, swelling and bruising that develop as the war wears on inside the octagon.

UFC 2009 Undisputed isn’t a shallow game to appeal to the casual audience, it actually has much to learn and a lot for the average brain to digest. Sensibly, a tutorial has been included which tutors you on all the offensive and defensive actions and then allows you to try them out yourself, there’s also a fully featured practice mode. Button mashing certainly won’t get you very far (you‘ll find yourself on the receiving end of some nasty body blows, perhaps a limb bending submission) but grasping the basics at least gives you a chance to go down fighting even if you don’t win. Learning everything will take time, practice and numerous revisits to the tutorial and practice modes, it’s definitely a game that is best picked up little by little.

High targeted strikes are achieved with the face buttons, lower blows are brought into your arsenal with a modifier button and both high and low have strong (leaves you more open to a counter) and weak (not as effective but quicker and can be combined to deadly effect with stronger moves) variants. As knockouts can come from absolutely nowhere, it’s also a good idea to keep your arms up when you can: softening those blows directed towards the vulnerable head. Clinching, on the other hand, allows you to trade blows, swap positions and throw your opponent to the mat.

Being the UFC there’s also the ground game. There‘s a number of ways in which you or your opponent can end up on the ground, including being knocked down, thrown towards it or taken down. Ground grapples and submissions are possible, as are transitions to attempt to get into better striking positions. The transitions require stick movements to attempt to alter your position into a more advantageous one, these themselves can be blocked or reversed with proper timing. Transitions can be quite difficult to get your head around, given that there’s quite a lot of positions that you can find yourself in and there’s also the potential of major or minor position changes, which means there’s a risk versus reward system in there too.

The submission system doesn’t allow for instant tap-outs at the start of the first round, instead the best bet is seemingly to wait until your opponent is tired and then do the limb bending business, obviously certain fighters are better at performing submissions, but some are also more likely to escape these deadly holds before they’re locked in to a position that would otherwise snap their limbs if they didn‘t do the sensible thing and tap.

The game also has a stamina system for you to manage. Stamina meters are turned off by default, you can opt to switch them on or keep an eye on the tired movements of your chosen fighter: moving away from your opponent for a breather when the situation calls for it. Relentless attacks can lead to total face breaking or limb bending disaster if you aren’t careful at keeping tabs on your stamina. As the rounds wear on and hits are traded, the bars get smaller, which should make you and your opponent all the more cautious.

There’s a variety of different fighting styles, including Judo, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Kickboxing, Boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Each fighter has two disciplines (one for their striking manoeuvres and another for their grappling style) and they have their own stats as well, giving them their true to life strengths and weaknesses.

The modes include career, classic fights, exhibition and online. The career mode is pretty deep, first creating a fighter through a limited creation tool and then experiencing the highs and lows of a seven year career. Your stats will increase, your cred will rise, and you’ll climb the rankings in a bid to win the title of your weight division. Classic fights turn back time and place you into real life matches from the past, it’s your job to mirror those victories in the very way that they actually played out in reality, unlocking video montages of the real fights if you do exactly what you are told. Multiplayer, on and offline, is where the game is at its best and most competitive, though in my experience, online matches have been laggy: never smooth but generally playable enough.

UFC 2009 Undisputed is a satisfyingly deep game that balances strategy and luck to a respectable degree. The amount of detail that has gone into its development is quite staggering, it was all enough to make me wince with each punch that connected and each arm bar that was locked in (the brutality and chess game like nature of the sport have certainly been captured). It’s not only great for fans of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but it’s also worth the attention of fighting game fans and those looking for something a little bit different from the genre.

I can never remember seeing flying mouth guards in Street Fighter or Tekken after all.