UFC fans have always wanted a reputable franchise game, just like boxing fans have the Fight Night series. Crave Entertainment’s multiple attempts to solidify the franchise since August 2000 was always met with a lukewarm response, and UFC: Sudden Impact in 2004 was met with unanimously poor ratings.
Quite simply put, UFC 2009 Undisputed is the first solid title in the franchises’ history, which already has it’s rabid fanbase in quite a stir. Read on to find out if it’s worth your hard earned cash: whether you’re a UFC fan, or just a sports game enthusiast.
UFC 2009 has a unique gameplay aspect that puts it above all other sports fighting games: it requires heavy strategy. You will not simply be jabbing at boxers, or grappling wresters: you’ll be battling opponents that use movesets from mixed martial arts backgrounds. The key here is to “know your opponent”. If you face a wrestler, you’d better brush up on your anti-grappling skills. When your time comes to go toe to toe with a boxer, you have to be sure you protect your head. Matches can end in either a submission, knockout, technical knockout, or decision. Submissions are a key element of the UFC franchise, and one of the many elements that differentiates the game from a typical boxing affair.
Distance will effect your moveset, and give you a host of new techniques when positioned an arm’s length away from your opponent. The advanced counter and transition system is also a huge highlight. The right stick is used to transition between different grapples: for instance, your opponent might have you pinned, and in a headlock. If you twist the right analog stick in a diagonal motion, you can attempt to escape in that direction, and turn the tables.
Now that you understand the gameplay, onto the core modes. Before you even start to tool around with the main menu, the game asks you if you’d like to complete a comprehensive tutorial session. Considering the game is quite complicated, it’s extremely advisable to choose “yes”.
Once you’re done training, you can jump right into a professional career, play a quick exhibition match, relive a classic moment in UFC history through the “classic fight” mode, create a fighter, or play online. Most gamers will immediately flock to the create a fighter mode, and will immediately attempt to recreate themselves. Wonderously, the creation system is so detailed, that accomplishing that won’t be hard at all. Creating a fighter is incredibly fun and extremely detailed. You’re able to set up your face structure, height, weight, gear, hairstyle, and more. You can even choose how rock hard you want your abs to be (nice addition!).
Career mode is what you’d typically expect from a sports series; and by that I mean it’s pretty solid. The intro and preliminary battle is a pretty cool event, and after that, you’re mostly going to be training, sparring, and of course, fighting in UFC events. The game uses a “calendar system”, which quickily teaches you that time is precious. Typically, you’ll have 9 weeks before a fight: you can train either strength, speed, or endurance once per week, and depending on how hard you choose to train, that depletes part of your stamina. If your stamina is low on fight week, you’re going to be kissing the canvas pretty quickly. In order to prevent this, you have to rest when anticipating a fight.
Every fight you engage in builds your credibility (CRED), and depending on how well you perform, or the conditions of your win, you’ll earn even more CRED. The more popular you get, the more high profile matches, sponsors, and cross-training invites you receive. CRED has a snowball effect once you start winning matches with knockouts: you’ll start to earn respect from other fighters, who will invite you to cross-train and learn their techniques and moves.
While it was a neat attempt at increasing your immersion, I never really felt “connected” to the world. I really just enjoyed beating opponent after opponent into the ground without any of the distractions the game had to offer. If you choose to immerse yourself, it can be a rewarding experience, but a lot of gamers may just get antsy and want to skip to the fights.
UFC President Dana White will send you personal emails on how he thinks you’re faring in the league, and you’ll get numerous invites to photoshoots, PR events, fights, and training sessions. Everything pertinent automatically pops up for you to either accept or deny, and any superfluous mail just gets dumped into your inbox, with a flashing mail icon to notify you that there’s unread mail. I found the mail system to be a bit distracting, and it didn’t really add anything to the experience, so other than the important messages that popped up, I ignored it for the most part. Also, there aren’t any mini-games for the events or basic training sessions: whether this is desirable not differs from player to player.
The announcer color commentary isn’t the most detailed in the genre, but it’s done well enough to keep you entertained. Sometimes, it’s a bit off. For instance, after going to my corner after the first round, my trainer told me “you block too much! Keep your hands down and start hitting him!”: I hadn’t actually pressed either block button one time the entire fight. Fans will also be excited to hear that referees Herb Dean, Steve Mazzagatti and Mario Yamasaki, and announcer Bruce Boffer all make an appearance in the game.
Classic Fights is a great mode that was built specifically with UFC fans in mind. Undisputed uses it’s own achievement system in addition to trophies for classic fights, which is very admirable. In order to receive full credit for these fights, and unlock the accompanying bonus content, you have to defeat your opponent in the exact same way as it played out in real life. Whether that means a submission in the second round, or a knockout in the first depends on the bout you choose. If you’ve ever wanted to relive the famous rematch between Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, with a full clip montage to go along with it, you can. It’s nice to see a little fanservice in such a solid game, because you can really tell the developers care about the fans. Conversely, even if you’re not a fan, you can learn a little bit of the league’s history from watching the videos.
Aesthetically, UFC 2009 is very pleasing: all of the character models look a lot like their real life models, and the animations are very smooth. This is a small gripe, but the menus are a bit off. They’re at an odd angle, and sometimes you’ll want to tilt your head to soak in all of the information presented to you. Also, the soundtrack is very “xtreme”, so if you’re not a fan of heavy sounding music, you’ll probably find yourself turning it off pretty fast. Speaking as a heavy metal enthusiast, I found the soundtrack to be acceptable, but nothing special.
Bottom line: if you’re a UFC fan, you would really enjoy this game. Undisputed is loaded with tons of fan service, and is a solid game to boot. If you’re not an avid viewer of the sport, you may feel a bit dissassociated with some of the refrences, and the legendary mode, but odds are you won’t have much trouble getting into the career mode with the comprehensive create a fighter mode. Finally, there’s a UFC franchise that’s worth continuing.
Reviewer’s note: The Playstation 3 version was tested for this review
Even though the menus are a bit askew, UFC's graphics are quite impressive, and look very close to their real life counterparts.
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All though the career mode feels a bit flat, the actual fighting system is incredibly detailed. There is enough strategy involved to keep this from being mastered in a weekend.
You'll hear alot of the same commentary during fights, and the soundtrack isn't stellar, but while you're leafing through the game's menus, the game will play various soundclips and highlights from past UFC events, pumping you up for the next fight.
It won't take too long to become the champion, especially if you utilize the training regiments. There is online play, however, and the 12 classic fights found in the game will take you a while to master.
UFC 2009 Undisputed doesn't revolutionize the sports fighting genre, but the solid gameplay and complex fighting system are hard to beat.