UFC 2009 Undisputed Review: Settling Things In The Ring
THQ’s latest release, “UFC 2009 Undisputed” is based on “the fastest growing sport” known as Ultimate Fighting Championship. In short, two guys enter an octagon ring and use a series of kicks, punches, and grapples to knock out or tap out their opponent. It’s mixed martial arts based, and, as a video game, it has a brief history of poor games (so bad the UFC President had to mention it!). The newest release is “2009 Undisputed,” and it’s living proof that all you need to get exposure is not a great game, but a great license.
Before we get to the inevitable bashing, let me just say that “UFC Undisputed 2009″ has one of the best presentations ever. The commentary, the crowd cheering, the ring announcers, and how the HUD looks all respect the UFC license very well. You can simply have the audio blaring from your speakers and the casual listener will probably mistake the game as a real UFC fight! It’s just that good. This game’s options are also surprisingly meaty as it gives you a full plate instead of just the bare bones experience that is often expected from the genre. You have the usual create a fighter, career, and multiplayer, but you also have a mode called “classic fights” where you try to re-enactment famous fights move-by-move.
However, for those of us who see past through the marketing blitz and the flashy looks, we are introduced to perhaps one of the worst fighting games this year. If you like a game with sluggish controls, questionable hit detection, no variation between fighters, and canned animations, buy this game. If you don’t, avoid it, because that’s exactly what “UFC 2009 Undisputed” is.
In any game, the controls are vital, but they are particularly important when it comes to the fighting genre. When a button is pressed, or motions are done with the stick, the game should immediately do the appropriate action. “UFC 2009,” for whatever reason, does not follow this notion. Most of the time you’ll be rapidly pressing buttons to defend against a submission or take down attempt but nothing happens. Or you’ll be twirling the stick in quarter circles to do transitions in the ground game but instead you’ll be watching your guy give your opponent an amateur attempt at a massage. In short; it’s broken. The game tries its best to get you to understand comprehend what’s going on with its tutorial, however it’s not very helpful. It will show you the command on how to do it, and explain why they need to be done, but most of the time you’ll find that the game simply doesn’t respond on what you want it to do. For example, in order to get out of a submission in an “aggressive” manner (a.k.a. punch the opponent), you tap buttons. Most of the time this doesn’t work, and you will lose, but what makes this even more frustrating is that there is no HUD to show how much you are winning or losing by, so the only thing to do is tap buttons and hope the game is nice enough to let you pass. There isn’t even a HUD to show your health, and because there are no graphical effects to show your guy as tired or ready to be knocked down until the very last few punches, it all becomes a guessing game.
“UFC 2009″ boasts about its 80 real life fighters, and while this does sound like an impressive number, the reality is the game offers very few variations between the fighters. Each fighter has two of six available styles; one for ground and one for standing. The problem is that two fighters with the exact same style would perform identical to each other, so fighters in this game are only unique in appearance, and not through their moves. The only difference between each fighter is their stats for speed and cardio, however they don’t appear to be visually different in the game.
For those of you looking for a single player experience, the career mode is a mixed bag. It’s pretty shallow, allowing you to create your fighter with the usual place of birth, nickname, height, weight, and fighting styles. The entire game is based around the calender system, where your UFC matchmaker tells you which guy to fight, and you have a certain number of weeks to train for the match. At first things are pretty simple as you train for cardio, strength, and speed while sparring with your opponents to upgrade your fighting talents. As the game progresses, certain events might arise such as attending a camp to make your guy stronger in his fighting style, or being interviewed at websites for extra “cred.” The entire problem with this is the sheer repetitive nature of it. All you do is pick an opponent, train and manage your stamina, attend a camp, attend a photo shoot, fight your opponent, and repeat. It’s an endless cycle until you win the championship and the game forces you to retire.
The single player repetition wouldn’t be so bad if the A.I. wasn’t predictable in the fights, but it simply has two modes: take down often and go for the submission, or beat you on the stand up game. There is no variation at all, and the A.I. isn’t all that challenging, although it suffers from “input reading” that we see in other fighting games. Even after a few hours in the game, the hardest difficulty will provide little challenge since the game has very few scripts to follow. You aren’t facing an intelligent opponent, just a robot who can’t handle a bit of creativity.
Your best bet for intelligence, no matter how little, is taking the game on Xbox Live (or PSN, for anyone with a Sony product out there). Like most Xbox Live games, you have ranked and unranked matches, and in this game’s case, different weight classes. This all sounds good, especially since this game is bound to have numerous players online due to its recognizable license, but it’s nearly impossible to connect another human being. Most of the time you’ll be facing a “game cannot be found” screen, and if by sheer fluke you manage to join someone’s game, it will be one laggy one. The game suffers from horrible netcode making the game even more unresponsive, and has each character in the octagon ring skip around the ring instead of moving around smoothly. Much like the rest of the game, it’s broken.
If there is one lesson that could be learned from “UFC 2009″ for both players and game develorps, it’s that you just need a license. There is no reason to attempt to create a good game, as “Undisputed” has demonstrated that in every possible way. The only praises this game could possibly garner from this reviewer’s experience is the meaty content, and the slick presentation that understands the nature of the UFC franchise. But as a fighting game, it’s horrible due to unresponsive controls, repetitive nature and little variation between the fighters. Avoid it.
“UFC 2009 Undisputed” was developed by Yukes, and released by THQ on May 19th 2009 for the PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.