The Wrap-Up: UFC 2009 Undisputed

Posted June 7th, 2009 at 1:43 pm


In the months leading up to the release of UFC 2009 Undisputed I viewed the game with a level of skepticism. Given THQ’s history with the WWE games and being the first attempt at UFC I didn’t know what fully to expect nor did I want to get my hopes too high.

Then came the demo which blew apart every preconceived notion I had regarding the game. No it wasn’t too stiff or mechanical. No it wasn’t too difficult. Yes the differing styles would keep things fresh and vary experiences. And yes it was incredibly fun. Immediately it became my most anticipated title at the time. Release has come and gone and that initial enjoyment has not worn off.

Much of this has been touched on through impressions, comments, and posting in the forum but here are my overall thoughts on the game and the future of the UFC franchise.

The gameplay is fantastic. What makes it great is the variation in styles both in terms of the characters as well as how the user strategizes. I’ve yet to come across any frustration because there is a counter to everything. When I’ve lost fights I know it’s because I made a mistake or left an opening for my opponent. When I win it’s always a satisfying feeling because it feels like I’ve earned it. Whether it is an early flash knockout or a late round submission doesn’t change that.

The tutorials do a good job of teaching some of the basics of the game. It is almost required that people go through it if they want to have a good base of what the controls do in what situations. Ultimately though a lot has to be picked up on the fly. Practice mode helps somewhat in that regard. The game seems really complicated (especially if you just look at all the controls for each position the fighter could be in) but does become natural in time.

Career mode is pretty straight-forward though I’ve been having fun with it. It will become repetitive to many people I’m sure but most career modes end up that way. There are lots of things they could do in future iterations to spice it up. And why not allow people to play through a career with a current UFC fighter?

Essentially the mode is all about training and preparation and building up your created fighter. How you split time between rest, sparring (for attribute points), and working out (increase strength, cardio, or speed). The payoff is really to improve your created character for possible use online.

One issue that was found immediately was that fighters don’t age. Obviously part of a career mode would be handling the changes that come with aging which represents an actual career instead of staying the same age throughout. A major annoyance for me is how much menu navigation is required for a simple appearance change. You get “cred” and part of earning that is through wearing advertiser logos. However you literally have to go through eight screen clicks to get to that area and then have to back out of it when done. I just don’t even bother anymore. And is it even possible to get the CPU to submit?

Graphics challenge Fight Night Round 3 (and Round 4) for the best this generation. Most of the big name fighters are replicated well but some of the guys with less prominence don’t look much like their real life counterparts. Presentation is nicely done though I know a lot of people would love fighter entrances. I like the announcements, loading screens, and replays.

The commentary is excellent. It flows extremely well and sounds natural, just as if they were calling a real fight with well placed ups and downs in emotion. Of course there is going to be some repetition but for the most part it feels fresh. The only times that bother me is after the end of a round when it seems that every fight is apparently “the fight of the night”.

There is the classic fights mode which is pretty cool in how it has specific presentation and commentary to each fight. It becomes tedious though and frustrating that you need to replicate the results as they happened. Needing a 3rd round knockout means spending the first two rounds making sure you don’t win accidentally.

It was a relief to find that online play runs well. This was my biggest concern going in since so much of the enjoyment hinged on head-to-head play. For the most part fights run smooth though occasionally some of them will have hiccups.

In an interesting touch fighters gain “fans” based on their performance and fight style. It’s a unique way to give credit to fighters who are successful and entertaining. It’s also nice that created fighters can be used online which adds another option to mix things up.

The biggest problem is that even before release people had figured out that there was no penalty for quitting. This has essentially wrecked ranked only play. Users are quitting out of fights that are not going their way to preserve their online record. So no one on the leaderboard can be considered legitimate since there is no way to know what those results actually mean. Supposedly this is being fixed in an upcoming patch however it doesn’t change that the first month plus of game time were adversely affected because of it.

Ultimately THQ will need to offer more with online play. Simple exhibition is not enough these days. A league system would work really well as evidenced by how popular the PFC is. Depth of the game is in question due to lack of modes and repetitive career mode. Solid online play though has the ability to offer fun for months to come.

The Wrap-Up

Given the apparent success of the title it will certainly become a yearly or bi-yearly offering from THQ. Hopefully they can clear up some of the minor issues and expand on the options and modes going forward. Regardless the game has exceeded expectations. Not only will it grow as a franchise but in turn it will help to grow the sport. As of now UFC 2009 Undisputed sits as the best sports game released so far this year and could still be a contender for that crown come the end of 2009.