reviews\ May 20, 2009 at 8:00 pm

UFC 2009 Undisputed - PS3 - Review

At a time when the fighting game genre lacks variety, innovation, or anything fresh, you wouldn’t think that a real-world license could help turn things around. In most cases, a license is something you slap on the front of the box. It does not dictate how a game is developed, how it should play, or the kinds of people it should entertain.

UFC 2009 Undisputed might be the one exception to all three of those rules. First and foremost, it was made to attract as many UFC enthusiasts as possible. But in trying to produce a game that lives up to the expectations of those fans, Yuke’s and THQ have created one of the best and most original fighting games of the PS3/360 generation.


Engine Officially Revved

Think of the difficulty of trying to master Tekken’s moves for the first time. Slow the game down a bit, and move the fighters closer together, mirroring that of a wrestling experience. Make the right analog stick an essential (but not ridiculous) part of the combat system. Throw in several grapple moves to enhance the wrestling effect, and layer every move with several block, counter and/or reversal options – enough to overwhelm anyone expecting the usual pound-or-be-pounded, button-mash-or-get-mashed fighting game style. Include several distinct fighting styles (Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Judo, Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu) and merge them in a way that makes every character blend together. Merge them not for simplicity but for fluidity so that the game has an even flow.

Think of all that and you’ll begin to understand the true beauty of UFC 2009 Undisputed. Smackdown vs. Raw is the only series you could compare it to, and that’s only because the character movements are similar. Other than that, it’s hard to find any distinct similarities. Even boxing, a fighting style that has been tackled by countless fighting games, is notably different.


A New Level of Seamlessness

Each style is linked with four types of combat: standing, clinch, ground and submission. From there, the complexities of UFC 2009 Undisputed grow to unexpected levels. Standing (basically normal) combat is the one area where players will attempt to button mash and occasionally succeed. Left and right kicks and punches are assigned to the face buttons, which default to high attacks. To attack a lower part of your opponent, you’ll need to press the modifier (L1) button. Now you have another four attacks. While tapping one of the face buttons, you can push the left stick toward your opponent to modify the attack once more – your moves become stronger but are unleashed more slowly.

Of course, you aren’t the only one throwing punches. The enemy AI isn’t skilled enough to drive us crazy, but it isn’t dumb enough to give players a free ride either. Thus, you’ll need to defend yourself. That’s where the high and low strike counters come in, which are executed with a flick of the right stick (up and down, respectively). Timing is everything, though it must be said that it didn’t take more than a minute to successfully perform my first counter. This might have more to do with my history of fighting games (nearly 20 years of playing them) than the game’s simplicity. But if you’re patient, it shouldn’t be too challenging.

Counters can lead to a clinch (sort of a standing hold move where you can inflict minor damage while keeping your opponent at bay) or a takedown (exactly as it sounds: you’re taking your opponent down to the ground). Both clinches and takedowns have counters, and both can be fought off after a successful execution. Takedowns are vital to your success but are difficult to initiate – mark my words: your opponents won’t go down easily.

When they do, there are several ways to make them feel pain. While kneeling over your opponent, you can punch him repeatedly until he finds a way to break free. He may retaliate (just because he’s down doesn’t mean he can’t punch back), and he may block some of your punches. But in this scenario, you’re the one with the advantage. From there, you can adjust your position by performing one of several fairly easy rolling and zigzag motions with the right stick. If done correctly, you’ll be in somewhat of a laying clinch position. Now you can push and pull your opponent’s appendages, causing extreme amounts of pain – and possibly a victory by submission.


It Looks Good Too

UFC 2009 Undisputed isn’t just a game with a great engine: it also looks like it belongs on the current generation of consoles. Aside from the occasional and very brief frame rate lockup (which could be a loading glitch), the game is beautiful. The character models are incredibly detailed, rivaling those of the recent NBA 2K games. Sweat, blood, scrapes, cuts and other realistic effects are subtly present. Most impressively, every movement is seamless – visually and physically. You won’t spot any awkward animations or unrealistic transitions. Every part of it is insanely refined.

When you’re finished drooling over the graphics, you’ll be entertained by the usual array of game modes: Career, Exhibition, Online, Tutorial (annoyingly simplistic at first but it’s a must if you want to learn every move), Classic Fights and Create a Fighter. The Classic Fights mode lets you relive old UFC competitions, while the Create a Fighter mode is your typical by-the-books offering. Since this is a fighting game, online play is limited to two players, but that does not make it any less fun. Career mode is awesome because, in addition to cutting out all the useless story crap that so many sports and fighting games offer, the fighting, training and sparring implementations are really well done.

Review Scoring Details for UFC 2009 Undisputed

Gameplay: 8.8
UFC 2009 Undisputed is one amazing, hard-to-resist fighting game that does something none of the big-name sequels have been able to accomplish on PS3 and Xbox 360: it provides a fun and significantly different battle engine that requires you to learn something new.

Graphics: 9.0
If Street Fighter IV is the best-looking fighting game from an artistic standpoint, UFC 2009 Undisputed wins the crown for being the most realistic.

Sound: 7.0
Repetitive commentary and music that will only appeal to those who like this kind of rock.

Difficulty: Medium
Not every battle is difficult to overcome, but this is definitely not a run-of-the-mill, button-mash-till-you-win kind of fighting game.

Concept: 8.5
While not an entirely new kind of game, UFC 2009 Undisputed is vastly different from its competitors. Its attempt at merging several fighting styles proved to be successful and incomparably seamless.

Multiplayer: 8.5
Two-player battles (online or offline) ensure this game will live on long after you've finished the Career mode.

Overall: 8.8
A must-play fighter for any fan of the genre, UFC or both.


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