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UFC 2009 Undisputed
Score: 88%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Yukes
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Fighting/ Sports/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:
Over the last few years, the UFC has skyrocketed in popularity and taken over the sports world. Pugilist enthusiasts couldn't have been happier when THQ said they would be handling the reboot of the franchise. UFC: Undisputed is easily the best UFC game ever released and is a close contender for being the best sports fighting game available.

Cutting to the chase, UFC: Undisputed looks fantastic. All of the fighters look just like they would on TV. This is one of those games that knows what it wants to do and simply does it. The photo realism works out great with the fluid movements and excellent collision detection. The problem with a lot of games based on full contact sports is that they don't look entirely convincing when two different sized characters collide. UFC: Undisputed doesn't have any problems with anything like that. Every punch connects, every kick lands, and every grapple makes full contact so you don't have to concentrate on anything except your strategy.

Most sports games have announcers that record lines to use in their games so it sounds more like the real thing. Either I wasn't paying enough attention or the announcers recorded a few thousand lines of dialogue because I honestly didn't hear any repeat lines (except when I replayed a match I lost.) Each match-up seems like it has unique commentary and each situation and fight has an individual audio conclusion.

A soundtrack plays during training and Menu screens and while the ambient stuff sounds cool, the licensed songs are from at least 5 years ago. The music is hyper-macho with plenty of hard rock and rap-metal to appeal to their core audience. There were a few songs I liked, but I couldn't find anywhere that listed any of the tracks, so I had to resort to the guessing game, but I know I could hear FLAW if anyone even knows who they are anymore.

What is the easiest way to explain the premise of a game called "The Ultimate Fighting Championship?" You pick a finely-tuned fighter and beat the crap out of anyone that steps in the octagon with you. It is a simple premise, but the execution is deceptively deep and complicated. For most players, taking your fights online and using the computer is all they would need, but UFC: Undisputed delivers so much more than that.

Besides a regular Exhibition Mode and Online play, Undisputed offers a fully fledged Career Mode and Relive Mode where you play classic brawls over the short life of the UFC with certain conditions to unlock montage videos. The Career Mode is where everyone should spend their time at first because it serves as a long training session to prepare you for fights online. You start by creating a fighter and customize him all the way down to his sponsors that appear on his trunks and start your new career in the sport known for copious amounts of bloodshed.

You move your fighter along a calendar, picking up fights and business opportunities along the way. Training and sparring are available every week to increase his stats to get him one punch closer to winning a championship and there are even photoshoots to send him on to earn more credibility to earn those higher profile fights. I was really impressed at how deep the Career Mode turned out and I found it quite addictive.

Most of the fighting disciplines are represented here. There is Brazilian Ju Jitsu, Judo, Kickboxing, Wrestling, Muay Thai and a few others. Unlike most fighting games that make you memorize long sequences of button inputs and combos, UFC: Undisputed forces you to learn your fighting disciplines in order to win. Every button does the same thing for each fighter, but what you want to do is find out what your fighter's strengths are and exploit your opponent's weaknesses to capitalize on it. It may sound like the basics of every other fighting game (and it is), but the way Undisputed guides you along - you don't realize that you are appreciating your fighting style more.

But if you just want to beat up your friends online, UFC: Undisputed's roster of over 80 fighters including superstars like Brock Lesnar and Chuck Lidell (and a few secret ones) should keep you busy for a while. Going toe to toe for three five-minute rounds doesn't really get old when you are playing with a live person. The only complaint is the round times are sped up a bit, but not enough. Fighting games don't really last more than a minute or so and depending on how the match turns out. Anything more than four or five minutes seems like an eternity for a fighter.

UFC: Undisputed is not an easy game to pick up. There are modifiers for every punch or kick and the gameplay changes drastically whether you prefer a striking match or a ground match. This is definitely a game where spending a little quality time with the Training Mode actually helps in the long run. Once you get a hang of the controls is when you really need to decide how you are going to play. I don't really want to use the analogy of a chess match, but it really does become a much more thoughtful and complicated game than first impressions let on.

Game Mechanics:
Once again, the controls will be the hardest part of playing UFC: Undisputed. Each face button is either a punch or a kick and all the shoulder buttons modify your attacks or defense in some way. If that wasn't enough, the right stick is used for grapples and getting in a clinch or going for a takedown. Learning how all these work together is the most important lesson to teach yourself before diving in.

A great example is when you have a striking fighter and you "rock" your opponent. (If someone is "rocked," they are stunned and very susceptible to being knocked out.) You rush your opponent by clicking (R3) and lay into them with a few body blows by pressing (R2) + (Square). After you soften them up a bit, put some distance with some low kicks (Press (R2) + (X)). When they charge your defense, throw out a good right hook with (Triangle) and when they are "rocked," catch them with a head kick (L1) + (O) to win that K.O. There are a lot of mechanics behind the fight, but when it all comes together, it is so satisfying. The worry is that the complicated controls may turn off too many people before they even get a real chance to enjoy themselves

The highest praise that I can give Undisputed is that it made me a convert. I wasn't a fan of MMA before I played it, but once I sank a little bit of time into my career, I learned to appreciate the "sport" and had a fun time doing it. UFC: Undisputed serves as a great reboot for the popular franchise and it deserves it. Despite a steep learning curve, UFC: Undisputed is great fan service while still being a kick-ass fighting game for everyone else. Undisputed is one of the most satisfying games I have played in a long time and is now a major contender to take over where Fight Night left off.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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