UFC 2009: Undisputed Review

To represent the complexities of mixed martial arts in videogame format is no easy task, and successful translations of realistic fighting have mostly evaded developers, despite their best efforts. With UFC 2009: Undisputed, however, developer Yuke’s has leapt into the Octagon with care, resolve, and attention to detail, and has come away with a winner.

The game is very thorough. Yuke’s has put together a complex and comprehensive fighting system featuring multiple ranges of combat for striking, clinching, and grappling, both standing and on the mat. Players use the face buttons for simple strikes, modifying their attacks with the left analog stick, L2, and L1 for strong, low, and technical blows, respectively. Combos are possible, though players will find the pace of matches to be much more deliberate and not as smooth-flowing as arcade fighters such as Street Fighter or Virtua Fighter. UFC 09 feels more like a boxing sim than anything else.


UFC 2009: Undisputed


Unlike a boxing game, however, combatants in UFC 09 each fight using two separate disciplines — one for striking and one for grappling. Grappling is controlled almost entirely with the right analog stick; players move the stick in specific patterns in order to clinch, throw, shoot for takedowns, and change positions during grapples, as well as to defend against these techniques. Fights are over when a fighter is knocked out, submits, or is rocked to the point of defenselessness and is pummeled by his opponent. The game’s tutorial is indispensable for getting one’s bearings as a novice, especially for the less familiar mat grappling part of competition.

The combinations of martial arts skills vary by fighter. While this variety is a welcome feature, future games would benefit from expanding beyond the current set of six styles. In UFC 09, only boxing, kickboxing, and muay thai are available for striking, and wrestling, judo, and Brazilian jiu-jistu are available for grappling. I would have liked to have access to more options, particularly in the career and create-a-fighter modes.

Career mode is the bread and butter of UFC 09, where players create a fighter and work their way up the ranks toward championship and eventual retirement. Fighters train, spar, and sign up for fights on their personal calendar, and then earn “cred,” sponsorships, equipment, trophies, and new trainers for their performance. They can also participate in photo shoots and attend special events between fights and training. Progressing through a fighter’s career, winning fights, and improving skills and attributes ends up having a “just one more round” effect on players, making it difficult to stop at will. In this case, that’s a good thing.

Players can create fighters either as part of a career or for use in exhibition and online matches. Physical features, fighting styles, and biographical information — the usual — are included, but there isn’t a particularly astounding wealth of options here. Additionally, the process is very slow, as is the entire UFC 09 menu system, with much saving and loading eating away at potential time in the ring.

To make the process slightly more bearable, audio clips from past UFC events are played during menu navigation. These keep the UFC mood intact, but after hearing the same clips repeatedly, they do begin to lose their appeal. Worse than that, though, are the commentators, who constantly repeat phrases during matches. And rounding out the general audio theme is a high-energy, licensed rock soundtrack, which again fits the UFC perfectly, but also consists of very few songs.


UFC 2009: Undisputed


The game features a “classic fights” mode, where players can attempt to recreate historic UFC matches by winning under specific condition. Each match is prefaced by an introduction and promotional montage (which really just made me want to watch the real thing instead of playing), and followed (if conditions are met) by a highlight reel of the fight in question. For UFC fans, classic fights mode is sure to be an immensely enjoyable part of Undisputed.

For the less devout, exhibition and PSN matches are a quick way to jump into the action, barring the fact that PSN forces players to watch the long but well-orchestrated fighter introductions by UFC announcer Bruce Buffer. In these modes, one simply selects a weight class and combatant and jumps in the ring.

UFC 2009: Undisputed certainly has flaws — painstaking menu navigation, limited fighting disciplines, and audio woes top the list — but overall it is a fine fighting game that has carved out its own place in the genre with a mixed martial arts control system that is almost as well-rounded as the modern day warriors it emulates. For UFC fans, this is a must-buy, and for everyone else, it’s definitely recommended.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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