Before I go any further though, understand that Undisputed is as much a sports game as it is a fighting game. The game modes, and even the general strengths and weaknesses of Undisputed are typical of what you’ll find with most sports games. Starting with the game modes, there are several here to occupy your time. Exhibition is fairly standard. Pick a fighter, pick an opponent, fight. There’s also a Classic Fights mode that lets you relive some of the epic match ups from the last few years. But really, what’s going to take up most of your time is Career Mode. Going from just another brawler in the gym to having UFC gold around your waist is going to be a welcome challenge for fans because there’s so much to do.
Career Mode strictly focuses on using created fighters so you begin by using the Create-a-Fighter tool to put yourself in the game. From there on out it’s all about your road to the title. You’ll spend quite a bit of time training and building your skills and attributes. Offers to attend a UFC Camp will also come your way every so often. Here you’ll fight, but there are bonuses for completing certain objectives like attaining a certain position on the ground or landing a combo that is “x” number of strikes long, and so forth. Along with training, you’ll be able to sign with different sponsors. Sponsors will ask you to attend events, sign autographs, etc. all in an effort to build your fighter’s popularity. It’s a fun mode and like I said, there’s plenty to do but it still feels like it’s missing a little something.
Regardless of what mode you’re playing, it’s going to take a little time to get accustomed to the controls and the way everything is mapped to the controller in Undisputed. Don’t get me wrong, I think THQ and Yukes did an incredible job since creating an MMA game is like creating three games in one. Striking is very simple as all your strikes are focused on the face buttons. On their own, your strikes are standard and aimed at mid-height. The left shoulder buttons modify this changing the height to aim at your opponent’s head and lower body respectively. The right shoulder buttons are reserved for blocking and once again they are divided with one covering your head and the other your torso.
With the face buttons being the center for Striking, Yukes decided to go with the right analog stick for grappling. Pressing forward attempts a body clinch with your opponent. Again, the left shoulder buttons modify your grapple attempts. This time though the upper modifier results in a striking clinch i.e. the Muay Thai plum. The lower modifier changes your grappling from a clinch attempt to a take down attempt. Here you’ll shoot in on your opponent aiming for their legs. Where you decide to take your opponent down from the clinch or by shooting in, the ground grappling is still used with the right analog stick. Rotating the stick will allow you to pass your opponent’s guard, or if you’re on the defensive, repel and reverse your opponent’s advances.
Regardless of whether you’re a stand-up fighter or more of a ground-game fighter, you’ll have fun. I’ve probably played close to fifty fights so far and I still feel like I haven’t finished a fight in every way possible. Having said that, there are a few things that I think were a little lacking. Firstly, strikes aren’t always registered correctly. There are times where I’ve knocked out my opponent and it looked really good in the fight, but when I watch the replay I wonder how the hell that could have possibly been a KO. I’ll watch a replay where I knocked out my opponent with a Superman Punch and it looks like my knuckles grazed him without any real solid contact. It’s not a big thing because, like I said, you don’t notice it very often during a fight but it is definitely something the developers should think about for the future.
Another weird issue I’ve noticed is that knockouts come a little too easy while submissions are extremely hard to achieve. Starting with the submissions, they’re easy to attempt as you simply press the R3 button. From there you enter into a three stage mini-game of sorts where the first stage has you attempting the submission, the second stage is where you essentially lock it in, and then the final stage is where you crank on your opponent until they tap out. It’s a good system, but for whatever reason, it’s incredibly difficult to actually get your opponent to tap out unless their stamina is next to nothing.
On the side of the knockouts, I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about how often flash knockouts occur. Honestly this doesn’t really bother me all that much because it’s something that happens pretty often in the UFC. Andrei Arlovski knocked out Paul Buentello in 15 seconds. Mike “Quick” Swick has won 3 fights where he’s knocked out his opponents in less than 30 seconds. Let’s face it half-a-dozen solid punches to the head are going to knockout just about anyone. If I want to knockout someone out, I’m going to be throwing head kicks not leg kicks. There are times where I want to wear them down so I’ll focus my attacks on the body and the legs, but if I want to knockout a guy I’m going to do it and I’ll want to do it in as short a time as possible. So far my record is 26 seconds.
Behind the fighting though, this is everything that you’d expect from a UFC game. The inclusion of voice work and visual likeness of ring announcer Bruce Buffer, and referee Mario Yamasaki among others. Both Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan also lend their voices as ring announcers and the lines they deliver hype up the fights a little. Add in the corner men and ring girls and you get the full UFC experience. Unfortunately this doesn’t transfer over to everything in the game. Goldberg and Rogan are good and they offer plenty of insight into the UFC fighters, but as with any colour commentator in a video game, they get repetitive. Another common problem is they have virtually nothing to say when you’re created fighter is in the octagon. I understand why, but it is a little off putting.
Realistically, you can see that all the effort went into building the best gameplay and control scheme for a MMA game and for that THQ and Yukes were successful. What’s even better is there was also a lot of success in getting the character models of all the fighters to look as good as they do and bringing in all the ringside personalities, it all adds up to creating a near perfect UFC experience. Along with a few issues here and there with the gameplay, the only real complaint I have is that the game is a little shallow. Obviously with 2009 in the title, you can expect this to become a yearly release and if that’s the case there are definitely a few things I’d like to see. If would be awesome if the developers could incorporate some form of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show into the career mode. I’d also love to see a season mode where you sign with different teams and camps the way real UFC fighters do. Going to train with certain groups will have you focusing on building particular aspects of your game. Just something to flesh out the game and give you more reason to play. Still UFC 2009: Undisputed is the mixed-martial arts game fans have been waiting for. It’s a lot of fun and definitely worth a play.