Ninjas. Pirates. Lumberjacks. Up until a couple of days ago I was pretty sure that these were the three most manliness professionals around (in ascending order of manliness). Up until I played Ultimate Fighting Champion 2009 and realised that lumberjack pirates with swords just look like sissy little school-girls.
The ever-increasing popularity of this new “semi-legitimate” sport has led to an International franchise featuring professional fighters who simply beat the bejesus out of each other for a living. Televised across the globe, UFC involves two fighters in a small octagonal ring that is completely walled-off with metal fences – meaning there is no escape. What makes UFC differ from your typical fighting sport however is the vast array of fighting styles that the athletes diversify in. Boxing, Judo, wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, kick-boxing, Tae Kwon Do and any combination of these and more make UFC both thrilling and devastating to watch. UFC 2009 Undisputed aims to capture all of this in video game form.
Published by THQ and created by Yuke’s (who both brought us the Smackdown vs. RAW series) you can rest assured that this type of game is in safe hands. Their experience in the genre has meant that the fighting mechanics in UFC 2009 are responsive and rewarding. The controls are diverse enough to allow for a decent boxing / martial arts game but include an advanced wrestling engine as well – allowing for grappling, clinching and submission holds. Put simply, players can get stuck in by using the four face buttons, each used for kicks and punches, with movement around the ring controlled with the left analogue stick. It’s messy, but you can win a brawl at beginners level by simply timing your punches and kicks like a game of Fight Night. But the additional controls like left and right triggers, both shoulder buttons and the right stick will open up a whole catalogue of moves at your disposal. There is a lot to think about, especially when in the ring against a guy who looks like he should be prison for mass murder. But an interactive tutorial in the game will help you get familiar with your vast repertoire of moves.
Choosing your preferred method of fighting will be essential, for example bringing the fight down to the mat so you can wail on his face whilst straddling him (in a manly fashion of course); or perhaps you would rather keep your distance and use your longer reach with kicks to your advantage. These will depend on both your character’s strengths and your opponent’s weaknesses.
UFC 2009 has a fairly impressive character creation mode to back this up too. You can customise your fighter to resemble almost anyone, before choosing their fighting style along with tweaking statistics to suit your preferred method of play. For example you could adjust your fighter’s skill points to make him devastating with his feet, giving him extra strength in his lower body and making speed a priority. But of course this means he is extremely vulnerable when caught in a wrestling position. For those who don’t feel creative, UFC 2009 has a whopping 80+ fighters in its roster ready for you to pick up and try out – each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Most players will opt for a well-balanced approach, but UFC 2009 does cater for almost everyone.
Creating your fighter is mainly used for those wanting to take part in the Career mode – the most in-depth mode of UFC 2009. You can create your own fighter and take him from amateur to professional level, earning respect on the circuit and of course – a hefty wad of cash along the way. In between bouts you have control over everything your fighter does – from what type of training (cardio, speed or strength) you want them to work on; checking emails to see what sponsors and contracts might be opening up; sparring with a partner (which is a one round, one-on-one bout where you get to try out moves and earn extra points) or just resting for the next big fight. Scheduling in your training and ensuring your fighter is well rested is just as important as your performance in the ring.
Visually the game is well presented and manages to capture the essence of the sport nicely. The exhibition fights are played out just like on TV with all the glitz and testosterone pumping excitement fans will be looking for. Voice announcers and commentary are top notch, sponsors litter the arena, statistics are shown on screen just like in the real thing and of course, the fantastically gifted ring-side gals are all there. The Havoc physics engine is also put to good use providing a decent collision detection system that is so essential to a game of this calibre. Fighters will become coated in sweat, bloody mouth guards will go flying with meaty blows and the replay highlights are definitely a joy to watch… Even when it’s you that’s getting pummelled in every single one. The only area where the presentation lacks is in the menu system and loading times. On the Xbox 360 version menus seem clunky at times, making the whole process of setting up matches not nearly as fluid as one would like. Even the saving and loading times seems excessive with multiple “Saving” / “Saved” messages popping up at awkward times.
There is little doubt that this game is likely to be picked up by fans of the extreme sport. It is detailed, well presented and has a fighting control system that is both challenging and rewarding. For others, UFC 2009 is possibly a rental title after a hard-days work where you just feel the need to sit down and pummel some dude for an hour. Either way – it’s a winner.