Often hailed as the fastest growing sport in the world, UFC has come a long way since its inception in the early nineties. Once described as “human cock-fighting” (the rules, initially, were pretty lax/non-existent – groin punching, for instance, was permitted), UFC enjoys a much better reputation these days, following the introduction of more rules, fighter protection and a focus on the twin disciplines of striking and grappling. Now an international brand with an ever-increasing fan base, UFC has grown through its clever combination of brute strength, technical expertise and slick presentation. It deserves a game which understands this balance; a game with suitably deep fighting mechanics wrapped up in an authentic package. And, on their first attempt, it seems like THQ and Yukes have delivered.To anyone who has seen a UFC broadcast, Undisputed will seem instantly familiar. Authenticity was clearly a buzzword for the developer and as you take to the octagon for the first time, with Bruce Buffer announcing, Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg commentating and even the scantily-clad UFC girls err…walking, you’ve got to pay Yukes its dues for the meticulous attention to detail. Even the referees and corner men are based on their real life counterparts and it’s impressive to see such a complete package in terms of presentation. But, of course, this detail would all be for nothing if the gameplay doesn’t match up. Luckily, for UFC fans, this is not the case.In Undisputed, each of the face buttons corresponds to one of your fighters limbs, with X and Y for punches and A and B for kicks. The left trigger is used as a body/leg shot modifier while the right hand bumper and trigger handle high and low blocks respectively. Holding down the left bumper and hitting a face button will pull off a power shot and the right stick is responsible for grappling. While all this seems fairly straightforward – indeed, you could jump straight into a fight knowing the above and probably hold your own – it’s difficult to stress the sheer amount of moves that have been included in the game. As you take part in the game’s optional (and yet, in this reviewer’s opinion, 100% necessary) tutorial mode, you’ll see just how much Undisputed’s combat has to offer.  Assuming the game is simply punch, kick, grapple and block would be a big mistake as you’ll learn about striking (from various ranges), combos, power shots, standing grapples, takedowns, ground offense, transitions and submissions to name but a few of the skills you’ll need to master to become proficient at Undisputed.On a basic level, however, you can divide Undisputed’s gameplay into the standing and ground games. When standing, your focus is on striking your opponent with the wide variety of punches and kicks at your disposal. Tap the punch buttons with no direction and you’ll jab which is useful for keeping your opponent at bay, although you’ll be unable to do any real damage. However, throw out some quick jab combos and you’ll find more opportunities to follow up with the big shots and do some real damage. Holding a direction with a punch button throws a more powerful shot like an uppercut or a hook and it’s these that are likely to stun, knockdown or knockout your opponent. And, as in real-life MMA, the knockouts can be spectacular.{PAGE TITLE=UFC 2009 Undisputed Review Page 2}One of the most impressive aspects of Undisputed is how it manages to capture the unpredictability of MMA, the way that one shot can end a fight in an instant. With no health/energy bars on display, fights in Undisputed can be unbelievably tense affairs as, with most of the exhibition fighters, you know that a single well-timed shot can end everything, especially when your opponent is fatigued. Timing and stamina play a huge part in Undisputed. In the tutorial you’ll learn how to time your offence and defence in order to maximise/minimise damage and how a perfect counter-shot can shift the balance of the fight in your favour. Equally important is stamina and knowing when to conserve your energy. Throw too many punches/kicks in quick succession and you’ll find yourself in the “gassed” state where it is very difficult (although not impossible) to stop your opponent and leaves you susceptible to being knocked out or, indeed, submitted if you are on the floor. And, play against an opponent with decent wrestling/judo skills and you’ll find yourself on the floor a lot.Luckily, the ground game in Undisputed is equally deep. Ground offense works on a pyramid system, where players must transition from one hold to another in order to gain an advantageous position. Transitions are pulled off by rotating the right stick and are classified as minor or major. Minor transitions (quarter circle on the right stick) will gain you a small advantage while major transitions (about a third of a circle) give you the potential to get into the mount position (sitting on an opponent’s torso allowing you to pummel their chops in) although can be countered and reversed more easily. The ground game can be a little confusing initially, largely due to the fact that it’s not always obvious which direction on the right stick will move you up the pyramid. Sometimes you’ll find yourself going back and forth from the same two positions, gaining little in the way of advantage. But, pause and check the moves list and you’ll soon be mounting your opponent (wahey! Etc.)in no time. Once you grasp the sheer depth of the takedown and grappling system, you’ll have a whole new range of ways to defeat opponents, human or otherwise. It’s all credit to Yukes that the ground game in Undisputed is not overshadowed by the striking and another example of the developer’s commitment to authenticity.However, that’s not to say there aren’t a few problems with Undisputed and the career mode is the main offender. For all of the grade A presentation elsewhere in the game, the career mode feels a little archaic. Firstly, the main interface is horribly presented. You’re given a calendar and an email reader and almost all communication with your fighter (bar a couple of cutscenes) is via text boxes. While there’s obviously a lot of information to convey, you’d expect the developer to find a better, more interesting way to do it than throwing page after page of text at you.  Your aim in career mode is to amass “cred” and this is maximised by fighting the best opponents, winning in style and extras like sponsorship and doing favours for UFC president, Dana White. However, advancement through the career mode is slow and, sadly, quite dull due to the unattractive interface. Most of the time you’ll be staring at the calendar screen choosing whether you want to train, spar or rest your fighter, ploughing through the weeks until you get to your next fight. The biggest problem is that there’s a real lack of drama in the career mode and it undermines the authenticity on offer elsewhere in the game. You want the trash talk, the rivalries, the feeling of the huge fights but, although the game tests the water once or twice, we never really get this. Nevertheless, one benefit of playing the career mode is that it will teach you to be a better MMA fighter. As you spar and train with other gyms, you’ll pick up techniques that will undoubtedly come in useful in the other game modes.One of the more impressive game modes is the classic match mode. Featuring legendary matches from UFC history (e.g. Rampage Jackson vs. Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonner), you are tasked with recreating the outcome of the match and it’s a great example of the amount of effort that’s gone into presenting the game. Each match up is introduced with video clips and interviews with the fighters themselves and, should you finish the bout in the way it is meant to be finished, you’ll unlock a video montage of the bout in question.It’s touches like these that make UFC Undisputed an essential purchase for fans of the sport. Not only is there a pretty intuitive, deep combat system at the heart of the game, it’s all wrapped up in presentation that makes the game feel like an authentic UFC product. Just as the sport has grown up since its early days, so has the MMA game and Undisputed is likely to attract more than a few people to the world of UFC.  

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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