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June 7, 2009
UFC 2009 Undisputed - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
22/5/2009THQTHQYukes Osaka1-22
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Out goes the mouth guard!
If I had to write a personals ad for myself anytime soon, I'd include my two sporting interests to be mixed netball (because I'm a big girly man), and MMA – mixed martial arts (because training to beat someone else into submission cancels out being a big girly man). For those unaware of it, MMA is essentially the ultimate martial art; aside from some ‘gentlemanly' rules (no eye-gauging, no groin shots), there are no rules – it's one on one fighting until someone is either knocked out or submits to their opponent (or when the time runs out). The peak of MMA competitors fight in the competition known as the UFC – the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which pits two fighters inside 'The Octagon'; an 8-sided cage. If it sounds kind of similar to the cage matches of the WWE/WWF and professional wrestling federations in the states, you'd be on the right track, but in the UFC the fighting is most certainly unscripted; the grudges, punches and broken bones are very real.

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Someone on the ground, fight continues.
UFC 2009 Undisputed puts you in the shoes of a Mr-Nobody up-and-coming fighter wanting to make it big in the UFC. You begin by giving your fighter a name, going through a pretty standard create-a-character design process to make him match your image (because we all have rippling abs and massive guns), and then choosing fight styles for their stand-up and ground-based games. So you can have your fighter practice the art of Muai Thai and Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, or perhaps boxing and wrestling; the choice is up to you. The fight style you choose here is reflected not only in the stance and way your fighter moves, but also in the attacks, defence and attributes that they have in the octagon.

To the unacquainted, MMA fights quite often appear like a boxing match until one bloke lunges at the other, and then end up getting some man-love by rolling around on the ground for a while after. In reality however, it is very in-depth (with more to it than man-love), and this has been reflected in the game. Stand-up moves include left and right punches and hooks (both headshots and body-rips), both left and right high and low kicks, clinches, grappling, takedowns, reversals, counters and more. Ground moves have transitions between the mount, guard, half guard, side-control, north-south, with knees and punches/elbows from each position, and not to mention numerous submissions. So to come from a 'standard' PS3 fighter to something as complicated as UFC 2009 Undisputed, it's no wonder that all controller buttons are used (L3 and R3 included), and the training mode will set you back at least an hour. That said, if you actually want to absorb the training, you'll probably revisit it once or twice again.

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UFC fights take place inside a cage.
So to say that the controls are complex would probably be a little understated. That said, a sport as deep as this needs more than a simple kick and punch control scheme, and once you've got the controls down-pat it's surprising how well it works; several fights into your career, you'll be moving your character with ease, without thinking twice about what stick/button does what. This career mode in UFC 2009 Undisputed is perhaps a little deeper too than what you'd expect from say a WWE title; not only do you get to assign ‘training' attributes to your fighter prior to a fight (to improve their offence/defence to kicks/punches/takedowns for instance), but you can practice spar against a training partner with similar attributes to your upcoming fight. You also get to assign rest in the upcoming weeks prior to your fight too – so if you get sloppy in your planning and leave resting too late, your fighter will be tired going into your next fight (and it'll show when you get your ass handed to you on a platter).

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Fighters in UFC 2009 look superb.
While the control training for UFC 2009 Undisputed is complex, I really think there needs to be a general introduction or training for the sport of MMA in general included with the game. It's one thing to teach someone the controls to transition from side-control to the mount to arm-bar, but it's another to understand what is actually happening, and I think the terminology will be lost on the majority of people that pick up the title. As a fan of the UFC, it's all been crystal clear to me, but the terminology is thick and fast throughout both the training and the in-game commentary; sadly this will put off many newcomers expecting to just pick up the game and instantly understand everything that's going on. On the flipside, there'll be plenty of gamers who will stick with this game and probably learn a thing or two about MMA and what's involved, as the fight mechanics mimic the real life sport very well.

Other problems with UFC 2009 Undisputed are some questionable collision detection at times (though on the whole this has been done well), and a lack of interaction with the octagon cage walls; it's as though the cage is just an invisible wall, and can't really be used to a fighter's advantage like in real fights. An interesting flaw with the online play too is that people can quit matches without being penalised – so quite often you'll be about to knock someone out or submit them, only to have them quit the match (in order to avoid suffering a loss and ruining their reputation). This should be easily fixable with a patch, but as of this review going live it still hasn't been resolved.

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Prepare to cop a punch in UFC!
Visually, UFC 2009 Undisputed looks a treat; bodies look great (both in screenshots and in motion), and get sweatier and bloodier as the fights progress. Spot a cut about your opponents eye? Keep hooking and jabbing it, and soon there'll be blood on him, you, and the floor! Fighters, as well as the announcer, umpires, trainers, and even the ring girl Arianny look mighty close to their real-life counterparts. Sadly, in contrast the user-created fighters all seem to look pretty generic and alike, particularly with their pre-fight mugshots which all appear mighty similar, regardless of how different you try to make them. And while the fighters may be very detailed, it's weird how they're let down with most camera angles including the low-res pixellated floor. The crowd too could perhaps be a bit more animated and ‘alive'; they're generally looking lacklustre and half asleep, like something from a second-rate game show. Celebrities in the crowd would have been a nice touch (or even the Tapout crew?) given how often they get shown on the UFC telecasts, to go in with all the rest of the familiar faces that make an appearance in the game.

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Getting patched up between rounds.
When I think of the audio behind the UFC, the first thing I think of is the commentary of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, and in UFC 2009 Undisputed they don't disappoint. It's a little stop-start at times, and you'll hear repeated comments more than once during a fight, but if you mix up your strikes and defence it seems to run quite smoothly. As you'd expect, Bruce Buffer is there too to announce the lead-in and decision of each fight and it works very well. Actual fight noises consist of your typical array of bone-crunching thumps and thuds – perhaps the only sounds that fall short of the mark are the crowd noises (they barely utter a peep, even for the major title fights), and perhaps some trash talking from the fighters themselves (possibly post-fight interviews?) would be a nice touch – hearing Rashad Evans trash-bagging his opponents in-game would be absolute gold!

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UFC 2009 is a spectacular game on PS3.
I'll admit that I was very hesitant when UFC 2009 Undisputed was announced – my last experience with fighting games that involve stand-up as well as ground combat would've been a WWE/WWF title from yesteryear. They looked great, but generally had useless gameplay which simply relied on its license for sales. Thankfully, I've been more than pleasantly surprised with the UFC's first offering for the PS3 – granted Undisputed isn't a perfect game, but what it does offer is done very well; not only being a solid and deep fighting game, but also remaining true to a sport which perhaps isn't as mainstream as some others. The learning curve is steeper than what most are used to, but fans of the UFC and those willing to learn will find a fighting game with plenty of lastability, that looks and sounds a treat.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSFighters look spot on, complete with blood, sweat and tears.
SOUNDShut your eyes and it's just like being there – great commentary.
GAMEPLAYComplex controls and mechanics, but in a good way.
VALUENot as accessible to have your mates around for a quick bash, but single player has plenty to it.
OVERALLIt's a big call, but UFC 2009 Undisputed really is the Madden of fighting games – the mechanics, the visuals, the sounds and the depth of the game. Granted, for a first incarnation it isn't perfect, but enough of the game is done so well that you wouldn't even notice. UFC fans pick this up without worry; you'll be having title fights in your living room for weeks to come.

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