UFC: 2009 Undisputed Review - June 22nd 2009

Have you got what it takes to punch another man straight in the face?

Everyone: give Undisputed a big round of applause. Recreating one of the most complicated, demanding - not to mention face-punchingly visceral - sports around is one substantial achievement, one that could easily have been lost on THQ’s primary WWE go-to-guys Yuke's. Before them, Opus’s UFC: Sudden Impact and Dream Factory’s UFC: Tapout - both basically shallow 3D brawlers in a UFC skin – bombed harder than a Forrest Griffin slam.

Even if Undisputed’s only plus point was successfully mapping the many and varied holds, punches, kicks, clinches, slams and submissions onto a controller without being packaged with a Flowchart the size of a blackboard (there is one in the game, mind, just not the size of a blackboard), you could safely count this as the best UFC game ever. But it gets better. The control scheme doesn’t just work; it works well. Fights don’t just look authentic; they play that way too. Where previous UFC developers merely strived to make the game functional, Yuke's have effortlessly recreated the fastest growing sport in the world without losing what should be the main focus of any game: fun.

There are many fighting styles to learn and perfect.

Though Yuke's have been developing WWE games since the days Brock Lesner was a pro wrestler, Hollywood was a twinkle in The Rock’s eye, and Chyna was yet to put on 30 pounds and release a sex tape, Undisputed has little to do with fantasy matchups involving piledrivers and Lycra. The fighting system matches any beat-em-up for layers and can be enjoyed on any single one. Bad day at work? Play the striking game and kick your opponent in the head until he falls down. Feel like a bit of a tactical roll-around? Go to ground and perform the writhe-of-death, rotating your analogue stick like a lock-picking Sam Fisher until somebody taps. Though, beforehand you’ll definitely want to spend time in the lengthy tutorial to ensure you cover every fighting style. Pick-up-and-play this is not.

It’s obvious this is the first game in a promising series, the all important fighting system in place for all the tweaking in the world to happen over the next 12 months. It’s also clear, abundantly so, Yuke's are in their element here, every main facet of the sport being faithfully recreated without ever convoluting or complicating the main reason you’re in the octagon – to make someone who is standing be not standing anymore.

There's a lot to do in the single player portion of UFC 2009.

The Career emphasizes the necessity of multi-skill mastery – bad news for anyone hoping to rise to the top on a combination of right hooks and right hooks. After crafting a fighter with the unfortunately rather dated, limited character customisation (apparently fighter Clay ‘The Carpenter’ Guida was omitted from the game due to his ‘unrenderable hair’) you’re inducted into either Lightweight, Welterweight, Middleweight, Light Heavyweight or Heavyweight classes by UFC President Dana White.

Using the career structure of Smackdown vs. Raw games, matches revolve around a calendar with down time devoted to either resting, training, or raising renown. Injecting a bit of tactical choice into what would otherwise be a fairly brainless distraction from exhibition matches, you’re given a set number of points which you must share between training (fight an AI opponent for 30 seconds to level up), autograph signing (raise your renown to get offered more prestigious fights) and resting (well, you wouldn’t want to step into the ring with a hangover would you?).

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