When the first UFC game was developed by Anchor and released by Crave Entertainment for the Dreamcast back in 2000, I was immediately hooked by its unique fighting engine, not to mention a presentation that looked identical to the original SEG Pay-Per-Views. In fact, it was so good that I ended up giving it my vote for fighting game of the year.
However, future releases were not as good. Even the Dream Factory developed UFC Tapout for the Xbox wasn’t up to snuff. The PlayStation and PS2 versions developed by Opus were pathetic, and don’t even get me started on UFC Sudden Impact, a game so weak that it had to be published by Global Star Software.
Eventually UFC games had to take some time off, and until then the only MMA alternative I had was the surprisingly good Pride FC on the PS2. While it was published by THQ, what made it good was their developer: Anchor.
But now we jump ahead to the current console generation, and in a twist of irony the UFC is bought out Pride FC, so THQ also obtained the rights to the UFC license. Their first release, UFC 2009 Undisputed, is also the first MMA title to be developed by a familiar face, Yukes.
As many people know, Yukes is the team that has been responsible for the WWE Smackdown series since the original PlayStation, and over the years they have been very successful in converting wrestling (or should I say, sports entertainment) into games. But how would they fare in terms of the more aggressive sport of mixed martial arts?
Thankfully, they are off to a good start. Past UFC games were strong in terms of striking, but the ground game was limited. This was mostly a result of the controls. Striking was done with single presses of the face buttons, each one simulating a limb a la Tekken, but grappling moves and submissions were done by pressing either the two leftmost or rightmost buttons. Not really the most intuitive method for a ground game.
However, for UFC 2009, most of the ground game is done with the right analog stick. Sure the buttons can be used to execute strikes as before, but now the analog can shoot for a takedown or lean back to get in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu hold. A combination of the left bumper button and the analog stick will end up in a Muay Thai clinch to allow several devastating knee attacks to the head.
While on the ground the right stick can be used to transition your fighter to get the upper hand, and when it’s time to go for the kill, a click of the analog stick, followed by rotating it, might end up in a brutal tapout. The only thing is compared to a knockout, getting a submission out of your opponent can be very difficult, as they do a good job in reversing a hold.
Needless to say, the ground game has been taken to a whole new level, something that was sorely missing from the UFC games that were published by Crave, TDK and Global Star.
While previous UFC games had fighter counts that averaged in the twenties, UFC 2009 Undisputed comes packed with 80 fighters separated in five different weight classes: lightweight, featherweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight. In addition there are two unlocked fighters as well as two contenders from the last season of The Ultimate Fighter available as DLC. While a majority of the roster is based on current UFC fighters, it was interesting to see several past fighters as well, such as Tito Ortiz and Andrei "The Pit Bull" Arlovski (or The Vampire as I call him because of his fang mouthguard,) who is currently fighting in UFC’s rival promotion Affliction. Unfortunately there are no southpaw fighters in the game, and those who normally are, such as Rich "Ace" Franklin, are fighting right-handed for the game.
In addition to all of these fighters, created fighters can also be made and placed through a very deep career mode. Starting off at an open tryout match set up by UFC President Dana White, you will then be given the chance to trade blows with other fighters in your weight class starting with Ultimate Fight Night broadcasts. Along the way, attributes in speed, strength, and cardio can be increased by training. In addition, extra attributes can be acquired by sparring with a partner.
There are also occasions where you will be able to learn new moves from fellow UFC fighters via camp invites in both disciplines chosen, one striking (boxing, kickboxing, or Muay Thai) and one grappling (wrestling, judo, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.)
There will also be moments where you will be asked to attend a UFC PPV, an autograph session, work on your book, or your own instructional video. All of these events, as well as taking part in fights, will earn CRED, which is similar to experience points. More cred means better training equipment and attracting higher quality sponsors. Sponsors start off simple such as THQ or Yukes and go all the way up to the prime UFC sponsor, Tapout.
Eventually, by getting ranked high enough after many wins, you will be requested by both Dana White and Joe Silva to take part in actual UFC PPVs leading up to an eventual title shot. Getting up to the title shot is quite entertaining, even though I admit at times getting leveled up via training and sparring can get a little tedious, especially considering that you will be offered between six and 14 weeks to train for an upcoming fight.
There is also the impressive Classic Fights mode, featuring 12 of the most memorable recent events in UFC history. To complete the challenge, you must have the exact same type of victory that was done during the real event. For instance, the final episode of The Ultimate Fighter season 1 featured Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar in a three round slugfest that many considered to be the greatest fight in UFC history. The match ended in a decision with Griffin being the winner, and to complete the game’s challenge, Griffin must win by decision. He knocks out Bonnar, then the challenge will be considered a failure, and UFC’s resident diva Rachelle Leah will be sure to let you know that you failed.
While most of the challenges are pretty simple, such as the 3 round decision listed above, or the Rampage Jackson/Chuck Liddell fight that requires a 2nd round KO or TKO by Rampage, those that require a submission are a little more difficult. Not only because of the challenge of performing the submission, but making sure it is the right one, be it a kimura, armbar, or rear naked choke.
Each of the classic fights begins with a preview of the two fighters, in their own words, explaining how they feel the fight will go, almost identical to those that are shown during a UFC PPV, and by completing the challenge, the reward is a video montage of the actual fight as it happened. I can never get tired of watching Rampage Jackson clocking Chuck Liddell on his glass jaw and sending him down to the mat.
If this was all that could be shown for the game’s presentation it would already be considered top notch, but when the fights take place it looks like it is originating from a PPV. Starting with the official Tale of the Tape narrated by UFC announcer Mike Goldberg, we then get the full fighter introducers from veteran "Voice of the Octagon" Bruce Buffer. Goldberg and Joe Rogan provide full commentary during the fight, and actually do a good job with very little repetition, except for one line. I should take a drink every time Goldberg says "It is ALLLLLLL OVER!" at the end of each fight.
In addition, many of the well known Octagon personalities are present. In addition to those mentioned before and UFC President Dana White, we have three of the UFC’s officials (Herb Dean, Mario Yamasaki, and Steve Mazzagatti,) the ring girls, cut men and training staff. Even the fighter’s crew actually post their banners from their respective camps pre-fight. It truly looks like a PPV.
And the fighters themselves look amazing, identical to their counterparts right down to the tattoos they have on their body. There is also no sign of clipping when taking part in the ground game, but as mentioned above it does have a downside in there being no southpaw fighters. Nonetheless the game looks great, and unlike previous UFC titles, the camera never gets in the way, even if the referee is in front of it, like it does even on a real UFC event.
For a series that hasn’t seen a game in several years, I am glad to say that UFC 2009: Undisputed was definitely worth the wait. While many people might look at it as a rip off of Fight Night because of the same camera angles used (right down to the zoom in during a critical hit,) the ground game more than makes it a unique game in itself. It’s definitely a good start for a series that I’d love to see get better as each year passes.
PROS: 80 UFC fighters, current and former! Classic Fights mode recreating some of the greatest fights in UFC history (plus unlocks actual footage from the same fights.) Presentation is PPV quality. Deep ground game.
CONS: Cannot simulate fights by computer only. Building up create a fighter stats can get a little tedious. No southpaws.