The rapid rise of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) across the globe has seen it become one of the world’s most popular and fastest growing sports in recent times. For those of you who don’t know, MMA is a full contact, no holds barred, caged fighting extravaganza. Think WWE Wrestling without the fake play acting and throw in a technical element to it, and that is probably as good a description as you can get. The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is the pinnacle and most highly regarded arena in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. UFC 2009 Undisputed developed by the people at Yuke’s Media Creations in conjunction with THQ, have endeavoured to recreate and bring you the phenomenon that is Mixed Martial Arts. Read on to find out whether this game is a knockout or if it fails miserably and taps out into submission. Put your game face on and get ready to step into the octagon.
When I first loaded up UFC 2009 Undisputed, I went straight to the tutorials. I rarely do this but if you have seen MMA before, then one can appreciate that it can be a fairly complex and technical sport. Not only do you have your striking, depending on the fighter’s style, there could also be ground and pound, transitions and submissions as well as choke holds. If you have no idea what any of these are, then I strongly suggest you try the tutorial before playing the game proper. The tutorial is lengthy and what I noticed from doing this is that the control scheme can be overwhelming, and it will take the average gamer quite some time to get a handle on it. So there is indeed a very extremely steep learning curve. What we must take into account is that the developers at Yuke’s Media Creations have tried to replicate all of the different elements of MMA, and crammed it all into the game controller. The end result is a fundamentally sound and deep fighting system which mirrors its real life counterpart fairly well. Aside from the in-depth tutorial, you can also polish your fighting skills in practice mode too. I found the training mode to be invaluable in terms of getting a feel for the fighting mechanics. Practice mode is great for figuring out combos and applying your submission moves, before facing off against your foes in the octagon.
There is a full roster of real life UFC fighters to choose from in five different weight classes. Each fighter specialise in two different forms of fighting. They’ll have a striking and also ground game. There is a lot of diversity in the octagon and no two fights are ever the same. The four basic attack buttons, the top two for your right and left punches, the bottom for right and left kicks are largely the same for all fighters. It is when the game goes to ground that the moves that are on offer vary for the different fighting styles. Stand up fighters will go for KO’s using their strikes while grapplers will go ground and pound and for submission moves to try and make their opponents tap out. For me, I found taking the opponent to ground and pulling off a number of different submission moves from the numerous transitional and mount positions with the right analogue stick to be very satisfying. Whilst attempting a submission move, both players must button mash rapidly or twirl the analogue stick frantically to either pull off the move or for the defender to wriggle his way out of the submission.
For every good offence you need a good defence. Defending becomes paramount when you engage in career mode. You will have to create your own character when you begin career mode and I found it a little disappointing that I was not able to select any of my favourite fighters to use for career mode. Nevertheless with the customization of your created character you can choose all the attributes such as height, weight, age, origin, appearance and fighting styles. There are also up to 16 different offensive and defensive skills which you will need to level your fighter up in, it is a fairly involving process when training and building your character’s vital statistics. Career mode is all about training and building your fighter so that he can move up the ranks of his selected weight class, culminating in a championship bout. The main interface is set up with a calendar where by you plot your training regime before your next bout. You also have emails which will keep you up to date with news on recent bouts, rankings and information regarding sponsorships which you will attain as your fighter becomes more prominent. The manner in which you use this interface, will have an affect on how your fighter may fair in their next bout. Sparring sessions, training camps are all there to provide boosts to your fighter’s attributes and moves can be unlocked at these training camps. It’s also important to rest up so that your fighter’s stamina is up to 100% right before their bout. I found the interface menus to be clunky and some what difficult to navigate through. Despite this, career mode is most definitely the highlight of UFC 2009 Undisputed. The fighter you create can be then used in exhibition and online matches.
Aside from career mode, there’s exhibition matches and a challenging classic fights mode. In classic fights mode you are given a run down on some of the classic UFC bouts of all time. Interviews and video clips are there to give you an insight into some of the great rivalries in UFC history, and some of which you can recreate via this classic fights mode. Unlocking these video clips and highlight reels can be done by winning the fight in the correct round and in the correct manner to their real life counterparts. This means using the same particular move to finish off your opponent in the fight that occurred in the real life contest. Tricky as it may sound, but the video highlights of the real fights that you unlock are definitely worth your efforts. Looking at the highlight footage, one can then appreciate how well the development team have done in recreating these fighters so accurately for UFC 2009 Undisputed.
The game’s visuals really do standout inside the octagon. Everything outside of the ring is fairly bland and very average to say the least. The fans don’t look nearly as lively as you’d expect for a typical UFC audience, and the different arenas look pretty much the same. Step inside the octagon and UFC fans will instantly recognize their favourite fighters. The characters are all beautifully recreated and are accurate to their true life forms right down to the smallest details. The animation is smooth and the manner in which blows are landed makes you feel as though each blow has some real weight behind them as your opponent recoils. Bruises and cuts will appear on a fighter’s face after they have taken a battering and I liked the fact that the blood stains on the mat remains throughout the entire fight. It’s somewhat disappointing that the programmers could not maintain the high level of visuals seen on the characters for the other portions of the game.
There commentary in UFC 2009 Undisputed is exceptional. The UFC announcers of Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan provide a well delivered and insightful coverage of the action. The entire audio setup pre-fight, during the fight and after the fight is pretty much down packed to the real deal. Even the rocking UFC soundtracks you hear on TV are all included within the game. Yuke’s Media Creations have really done their homework on this facet of the game, just like watching it on TV, superb!
Multiplayer on UFC 2009 Undisputed is best utilised in verses mode. There is alot of fun to be had when going one on one with a friend. Facing off against my friends also proved to be a good way to try out and master some new moves. One really does feel a sense of accomplishment when you pull off a reversal and make your opponent tap out or when you shift the moment of the fight in your favour with a powerful and perfectly timed strike that dazes the opponent. The online opposition is just as fun however I did encounter lag problems more often than not. The lag sometimes can throw your timing off when you strike and also make the graphics a little jerky. In the end the online mode is good value but the lag was still there, rearing its ugly head.
UFC 2009 Undisputed will thrill fans of MMA and especially for those who follow the sport as closely as I do. People who aren’t too familiar with UFC and the like will no doubt still be able to enjoy a solid fighting game once the complexities can be overcome. There are some minor issues there with the non user-friendly menus which can be a nuisance to navigate through, and the bland background graphics that are in stark contrast to the outstanding character models. This is still a great first hit out for an MMA title on the next gen consoles. If Yuke’s Media Creations and THQ can iron out some of these bugs, then I’m sure this could be the beginning of something that MMA fans can wet their appetites with. UFC 2009 Undisputed has enough content to keep fans and non-fans alike throwing down deadly strikes, arm bars and rear naked chokes for quite some time. The career mode is alot of fun and lengthy, classic fights and unlockable content are well worth their troubles, and add to it a versus mode that will keep you going for a while either against a friend or online. A little bit more polish and this could be an exceptional game.
AAG Score: 8.0/10
Superb character models.
TV-style presentation and commentary is a dead ringer to its real life counterpart.
Intuitive and complex fighting mechanics that will take time to master but will be rewarding once you can pull them off.
Career mode is deep and involving.
Unlockable content in Classic Fights mode is well worth it.
Clunky and non user-friendly menus throughout the game.
Uninspiring and bland background graphics.
Lag in online mode is a minor problem.
Reviewed and Written By Yuto Hayasaka