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UFC 2009 Undisputed Review (Xbox 360)

INFO GAMES

Developed by the people that have brought you Smackdown vs. Raw for nearly a decade, UFC 2009 Undisputed is an ambitious and often very successful attempt to make the first mma game on a next gen system. I'll go a step further. Yukes made the first EVER mma game. I remember the UFC game for the Dreamcast, and I remember loving it. And in some ways that was a spiritual partner of the UFC at that time: rough, unpredictable, haymaker-heavy, more brawl than sport. But, this new offering captures the spirit and complexity of the modern UFC, one full of technicians and strategists not bouncers and barroom brawlers. Precise thumbstick motions open up an engaging though somewhat limited ground game experience and the striking is just plain ole stomach-muscles-clenched fun.

At the heart of UFC 2009 Undisputed is the Career Mode. First you create your own fighter his look. Yukes does modeling as well if not better than anyone else out there and is certainly the best at providing the user tools to create great models themselves.

Next is styles, there are respectively 3 for striking (kickboxing, boxing, mauy thai) and grappling (judo, bjj, wrestling). Mix and match as you want. Each style has its own set of unlockable special moves, earned by amassing points at training camp events. These mini fights teach you the game, how to maneuver in and out of positions when grappling and how to effectively combo when striking.

After choosing your style, you will have a fight and be introduced to a couple of things. Note, between fights, managing you stamina while training and sparring is a paramount concern. To train, you focus on three physical characteristics: strength, speed and cardio. You can then opt to train any one lightly, moderately, or intensely. Each level will reduce your stamina proportionally and will increase that stat in similar fashion. You want to be close or at 100% by the time a fight happens so watch how much you are training.

Sparring is the other main component of down time between fights. Scoring points during a sparring session, which mimics your future opponents styles of fighting, has a direct relationship to point allocation for specific skills like grappling defense, submission offense, kicks, etc. A word to the future player: make sure to spar. It took me a while to figure that out and I suffered two ass-whuppings by Wanderlai and Forrest Griffin for it.

But the game's not all mouth breathing and knuckle cracking. You also have to manage your time with media outlets, taking interviews and living the life of a cold-blooded star. That kills a week of training but it builds your cred, which is a good thing. The more cred you have the better sponsors you can get which means better training equipment and gear. Better training equipments means more growth of your stats during training. It's a rock-paper-scissors of championing, training and brawling.


You don't have to worry too much about the cred system though. If you win fights, you earn cred. Period. People will sponsor you and placing their logos on your trunks will increase the amount of cred you earn from each fight. Adorning your ring wear with logos requires you to access like 7 menus, which is all sorts of silly.

Frankly, it's a pain in the ass, but you'll only do it so often. Why? Because you'll spend the rest of the time fighting, and the fighting in this game is very, very fun.Striking is excellent. Kicking, punching and comboing is a matter of button presses modified by a bumper or trigger. Movement is controlled by the left thumbstick and shooting for a take down is mapped to the right.

Grappling is another story and the area of the game that demonstrates the least amount of polish. Jockeying for position in a grapple is a matter of moving the right stick in a diagonal then semi-circle motion. I really love this choice by the developers. It requires you to slow down and think about what you're doing, what direction you want to move, what you want to try before you do it. And that is exactly how a real mma bout works. Both combatants are working through permutation trees on the ground, looking for openings and trying to maneuver into a better situation.

Unfortunately, the game shows a lack of depth when it comes to possible submissions from each possible position, and a lack of fluidity when transitioning from position to position. It's as if the game see the game thinking as each transition is made.

Further, the most glaring and confusing thing I saw is the standing to falling transition. When you knock an someone down, instead of pouncing on the fallen opponent, your fighter will shuffle towards them cautiously (read: slowly). It doesn't make sense and initiating a run and punch combo to get them isn't a solution. Often I knocked someone down and would try to take the advantage of the situation only to watch the fighter spring up to his feet or throw up up-kick after up-kick from the ground.

Still, this is a piddling quibble during fights, which are some of the most fun I've had during head-to-head competition in a game in a long while. Hell, career mode fights are great. Fighters can take damage and dish it and you never know when a knockout is coming. Well, you know a KO isn't coming in the first 15 seconds: all the fights I've been in go at least 30 seconds. And for those thirty seconds, my feet shoot straight out and my muscles clench as I teeter on the edge of my bed.

This is serious fun, people. Fully worth it's price tag of $59.99. Fans of the sport can rest assured in the faithful work done by Yukes, and THQ can be confident they've found a successor to Smackdown vs. Raw.

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