Being a fan of the UFC for a long time, I've seen the UFC games that have been made over the years. The first UFC game for the Dreamcast was one of the gems of the system, and just like the sport at that time, it was overlooked by many. Essentially, it was a very balanced fighting game that made use of the grappling as well as striking. Tragically, with the rise of popularity of the UFC, other games were made that failed horribly to bring a quality experience to gamers. UFC Undisputed hopes to stops that trend and creates a worthy MMA game for MMA fans.
Those who have no idea what the UFC is (you bunch of freaks), or not big fans, can still play the game with no problems. All in all, the action is along of EA's Fight Night boxing series with of course the MMA difference. MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) includes a variety of styles but in general, for the UFC at least, the focus for striking is Boxing, Kick Boxing, and Muay Thai while grapplers use Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and Wrestling. Featured in this game is a lineup of fighters in five weight classes: lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight. Most of the fighters are well-known like Chuck Liddel, Brock Lesnar, Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, George St Pierre and Rampage Jackson.
While the word "complex" comes to mind when I think of describing the gameplay of UFC Undisputed, another word comes to mind and that's "fitting". It's one thing to be experience in one martial art but to survive in the UFC; you need to be well-versed in multiple art forms. Don't get me wrong, you can still play a game with just the basics and win, like any fighting game, but don't expect to compete at the highest level without knowing all the ins and outs of your fighters.
First step in the fighting system, and the most important, is striking. Depending on what the fighter uses for striking, your attacks will vary. An uppercut for a boxer will be an elbow for a Muay Thai boxer. Most of the time, the striking will be the same without any one being that much better than the other. It comes down to the individual's stats in striking that will make it more likely to win by a knockout punch or kick. For striking, counterattacks are key to laying out your opponent. Hit them right after a punch and you'll do some extra damage. Blast them in the chops with a well-timed fist to the face while they're swinging and there's a good chance that the guy is going down. Strikes that are right on target can lead to the guy being dazed, which makes the screen go black and white making your opponent very vulnerable, knocking them down completely letting you jump on them to continue the onslaught in hopes for a referee stoppage, or a knockout that will end the fight. Learning the ins and out of the striking game is key, but be warned, this is the UFC, not a fighting game meaning that anything can happen. Even the least unlikely of punchers can get the right hit in to knock you out so don't be surprised that a seemingly standard punch takes you out completely.
In comparison, grappling makes the striking looks like kids play. What's key to the grappling game is transitioning. Take for example, the clinch. The clinch is pretty standard in MMA, and for some martial arts, this is where all the action is. Muay Thai boxers use the clinch to let their knees wears down the opponent's body while Brazilian Jiu Jitsu's fighters use the clinch to setup submissions. By clinching, a person may keep a fighter up to get some hits in while the other fighter drags the guy to the ground. You'll have to learn how go from the standard clinch to whatever works best for your fighter, and that's if the other guy doesn't prevent you from doing that. Once again, depending on you and your opponent's stats, you can have your way with the other guy throwing him around like a ragdoll or not getting anywhere because his defense is so high. If you get your opponent on the ground, there are several positions that you can find yourself in that sometimes lead to a dominant position for pummeling your opponent while others put you in perfect position to get a submission hold on the guy. Like everything else, submitting your opponent depends on if your fighter has the stats high enough to submit your opponent and if their defense is low enough to allow it. When it comes down to it, the grappling system is more in-depth than anything else before it, but it still doesn't have all the grappling you'd see in a UFC fight. All in all, it keeps the action on the mat is limited but that's because it leaves out the positions where there's not much action going on.
Online play is another thing though. If you have anger problems stay away from this game online it is one of the most frustrating games I've ever played online. To start off with this form of online pissery, we have the laggers. Serious question, if you lag WHY do you play online? It's inconvenient for you, and inconvenient for whom you're playing with, but it gets worse. Let's talk about turbo/modded controllers. People who use these in Call of Duty games are bad enough, but in this, its complete ass. As mentioned above about submissions, you have to mash buttons to get one off. I'm sorry but when I'm playing online with the stamina bars, (Yes with the stamina bars) and I lose with full energy to a submission, something is wrong with this damn picture. My final and most important complaint is people who leave the game when they start losing like little pussies. That's how you see people with 100+ wins and 3 goddamn losses. When these problems don't occur, it's a great experience with hours of replay value.
As for graphics, UFC Undisputed 2009 looks okay at best. Reason why I say that is the character models. Sure some look detailed but the skin color really throws me off. Mainly on white guys it looks un-natural. A lot of characters look orange as if they have a weird, spray-on tan. The blood effects are cool although it seems like way too much blood hits the floor when they get hit. Another complaint is that every arena other than the gym look the exact same. In the background, the crowd does some basic, stiff movements without any real variety. They act like there watching a damn game of golf. I won't complain because the graphics aren't really bad either, just sub-par. Fighting, in the game, looks great most of the time except for when you check out the slow motion replays where you see some clear examples of punches not connecting like they should.
One thing I found to be fairly good is the commentary from Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg. Unlike games like Fight Night and other sports games, Rogan and Goldberg always say something unique about the fighters. For the user created character, the commentary follows the common strategy of giving fighters a nickname, like the Grim Reaper, Doctor or Headhunter, thus having the commentators focus on these names to create a common, yet natural sounding play-by-play. Also, they have some spot on commentary even by catching their mistakes of punches and correcting themselves which is neat. There is a variety of punch sounds not much to say about that. The menu has okay music that is somewhat dated yet appropriate. I guess songs like 'Click Click Boom' are basically played. Oh and clearly Bruce Buffer makes his appearance as the announcer of the octagon.
Overall I enjoyed this game. It has a good fighting system, good voice work, and a good overall presentation. UFC fans will want to go out and get this game right away, but be warned. This is the first outing for Yukes and the UFC license so the shortcomings are apparent. The foundations are there to build on, but it's still lacking that extra bit of substance to make the game on par with other sports games released. It'll take time for the great game to come to fruition, and for many, it maybe a safer bet to rent.