Review: UFC Undisputed 2009 (Sony PS3)

UFC Undisputed 2009
Developer: Yuke’s Media Creations
Publisher: THQ
Genre: Sports – MMA
Release Date: 05/21/2009

They call it the “Fastest growing sport in the world!” and there’s no doubt that the UFC, the biggest MMA organization, is red hot as a company right now. Fans of the sport are extremely passionate and, for the most part, have been waiting for the first great MMA experience on a video game console.

Sure, there have been plenty of releases in the past, but none have truly captured the action and style of the UFC to make for an all-around fun experience. They’ve now called on Yuke’s, a critically acclaimed development team known for making some of the best pro wrestling games of all time to right the ship, and for the first installment – they’re off to a promising start for UFC fans.

Undisputed has a few modes to choose from, but the majority of your time will be spent in Career mode. You’ll create your own fighter from scratch, start at the bottom of the barrel with pretty much no skills, strength, or speed, then train and fight your way to the top of the promotion. There’s not a whole lot in career mode that you haven’t seen in other games, whether it be a WWE or any other sports game release. You have a calendar, e-mail, and a training room, and its up to you to plan your week-by-week schedule leading up to your fights.

You have to manage your stamina, and plan accordingly on whether you’d like to “Train” by working on your strength, speed, or stamina, spar, or just rest. Sparring is basically a quickie fight, while doing any of the other options you don’t actually do anything, your attributes just simply go up or down, and a week goes away on your calendar. This whole process can go pretty quick, simulating through the several weeks between your actual fights.

Every few weeks, you’ll enter the Octagon and take on an opponent of your choosing. A promoter will e-mail you, offering a couple of different fighters with a variety of rankings and skills. The tougher the opponent, the faster you’ll move up the ladder. You can also let them pick a random fighter, where you won’t know the opponent’s rankings or skills. Win, and you earn “Cred” which is your MMA reputation, as well as points towards improving your attributes, and you’ll also inch closer to better rewards such as improved equipment and trainers.

The main motivation for going through this mode is to improve your created fighter, and getting through all the training and sparring can be pretty boring. The real action is in the ring, and the simulating menus are sort of just a repetitive routine that left me with a, “Can’t I just fight already?” mindset.

The calendar, and e-mail modes are stuff I’ve largely ignored in other sports game career modes, but in Undisputed, they’re unavoidable. It’d be nice to see mini-games in the training modes, or a way to just skip this altogether. Sparring is at least fighting, and you can earn attributes by going through these, so why not apply the same idea to the other modes? Hopefully, they add a little depth next year to make every aspect of the career mode less repetitive and more about the action in the Octagon, because that’s what its all about, isn’t it?

Outside of career mode, you can also relive several classic UFC bouts in a mode serious fans of the promotion are going to love. You’ll be asked to take over one of the fighters and win the match using certain specific holds used in the real life fight. Win, and you’ll be rewarded with clips from the real fight. This mode is a great excuse to actually compete with the real UFC competitors, and worth checking out.

Visually, Undisputed looks great where it counts most – inside the Octagon. The fighters are rendered great and you’ll find every distinct personality looking just like their real-life counterpart. However, before and after the fight is where the weaknesses really show up – specifically in the crowd. The best I can say is at least they’re NOT “cardboard cutouts”..they’re just one small step up, lacking any real detail. All of your favorite UFC personalities – including the girls, all look great, and the pre-fight introductions are well done, but entrances are nowhere to be found. Sure, fighting is the most important thing, but re-creating the whole experience is still part of the fun and creating the real UFC experience and some of the details are missing. I’ll go back to the “First Timer” defense for the series, and hope that next year’s offering fills out more of the details that help make UFC so unique from any other promotion in the world.

If you’re looking to button mash your way through the action, you’re going to be disappointed. Undisputed does a great job encouraging you to learn the intricacies of MMA, where every block, kick, and counter can mean victory or defeat in a matter of seconds. Immediately upon turning on the game for the first time you’ll be encouraged to go through a long, and admittedly boring training session. You can skip it, and in all honesty in most games that encourage something like this I usually do, but for this game that is a BAD idea if you ever want to have any fun in the long run.

Sure, you could get right into a fight and kick and punch your way through it, but it won’t be very fun. The pacing is pretty slow, and trying to do this will not only probably result in a quick loss for you, but it’ll be boring, and you’ll never understand what it takes to actually have a fun fight – which Undisputed CAN provide…it just takes some time to learn how to play it right.

The good news is that there’s a little something for everyone. The diehard fans can learn everything little detail, specialize in muy thai, kickboxing, wrestling, or all of the above. Or you can just learn a specialty, figure out what style is most fun for you, and get in on the action and have some fun. This can present a bit of a problem if you’re hoping to get a “casual gamer” experience. The pick up and play can be done, but this game most definitely qualifies as a “simulation” experience.

What also makes Undisputed different from other fighting games is the fact that you never have any idea when the fight is going to end – just like a real UFC battle. There are no meters, and no way to truly gauge your opponent’s – or your own health. One well-placed kick can end a match instantly, which depending on whether you’re the “giver” or “receiver” can be really exciting, or frustrating.

Without question, perfecting counters and kicks, and figuring out what you’re good at is what makes this game so addictive and fun. Timing is everything, and mastering every control and submission may seem like a daunting task, but winning a fight by doing something you didn’t even realize you could can be pretty exciting, and then figuring out how you did it and trying again in the next fight can be enough motivation to keep you going.

The controls are far from perfect, and the “simulation” style makes it a little slower than some may like, but overall Undisputed is a lot of fun, although not everyone is going to have the patience to discover its full potential.

The voices of UFC, Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, make for a great commentary team…as long as you’re competing with some of the 80 real-life fighters. When competing with the famous guys, you’ll hear detailed commentaries about previous matches, tendencies, and stories that really sound like a true television experience. However, if you throw in your created fighter (like what you’ll do the entire career mode) and the commentary suddenly becomes much more limited.

This is sort of a case of being spoiled with what you hear with the “real” guys and not necessarily that the career mode commentary is bad. As your career progresses, it’d be cool to hear them say that you defeated Tito Ortiz or something like that, but this is mostly nitpicking on my part. The commentary is great, the voice of legendary UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer adds to the authenticity of the experience, and the in-game music features a lot of, “Hey, this song sounds familiar” moments. Overall, the sound of Undisputed is very well done.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Good
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Great
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Good
Balance: Decent
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
ҬMiscellaneous: DecentӬ
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
UFC Undisputed 2009 is definitely a big step in the right direction for a promotion that has a fan base that has been waiting patiently for a fun experience on a video game console. MMA fans will have plenty to absorb and learn, while casual gamers may have a hard time being patient enough to learn the complex control scheme. If you could care less about UFC or MMA in general, this probably isn’t the game for you. However anybody who has any interest in the “Fastest growing sport in the world!” should definitely give Undisputed a try.

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