#1 of 2009: UFC 2009 Undisputed

Posted January 6th, 2010 at 5:33 pm

The ranking of games in the best of 2009 list is based primarily on the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title. Some other factors include whether advertised features were fully delivered on, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is a personal take on the games. The analysis is weighted largely towards those which I had the most fun with while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the others.

UFC 2009 Undisputed takes the top spot in my rankings this year. Along with Madden 10 I really felt as though the two of them delivered the most well rounded products of all the sports games this year while both providing a fresh experience at the same time. What put UFC 2009 over the top was how surprisingly good it was for a first offering and the sense of satisfaction that came with developing skills. Like some of the other premiere sports titles it also did a fantastic job at expanding interest in the actual sport it represents.

UFC 2009 definitely had a learning curve, however it was one that would end up resulting in the user noticing clear improvement the more time that was spent with the game. The early release of the demo was huge in not only convincing consumers to give a first year title a shot but also in allowing people to start to get accustomed to how the game played.

The initial concern was how difficult the controls would be and whether they would be intuitive enough. The controls definitely took some time to get used to because actions would change based on the position the fighter was in. Also while on the ground figuring out the transitions was a difficult process. The tutorials were almost essential in grasping an initial sense of the controls and situational based elements.

The good thing was that even without fully understanding the controls people could enjoy the game. If they wanted to just punch and kick there was a possibility they could win that way. But if they faced off against someone more skilled they would probably get crushed. Still even that glimmer of hope, that it was possible to catch an opponent with a lucky shot and win, felt like enough at times and compensated for any frustration in trying to figure out how to improve.

The variation in styles between the fighters was well represented. That meant learning about the individuals and their given strengths and weaknesses leading to the a formulation of strategy based on them. Gameplay wise there was a counter to just about everything which made it feel balanced and rarely if ever frustrated.

Career mode was pretty straight forward in its setup and did get repetitive but that was to be expected. The option to play through it as a current UFC fighter was a glaring omission. Some of the problems with career mode were addressed via patch but it was still basically about building up a character through gaining of attribute points from sparring and working out while balancing that against the amount of rest to take. The motivation I got from the mode came with building up my character in order to use him online.

Graphically the game was one of the best sports offerings this generation. Most of the big name fighters were well replicated but some of the guys less heralded didn’t look much like their real life counterparts. Presentation is nicely done but I know a lot of people wanted fighter entrances. I enjoyed the announcements, loading screens, and replays all which conjured up thoughts of watching real UFC action.

There was a ‘Classic Fights’ mode which was cool in its specific presentation and commentary to each fight. However playing through them was tedious and frustrating in that you were required to replicate the results as they had actually happened. Needing a 3rd round knockout meant spending the first two rounds making sure you didn’t win accidentally. So what I took out of this most was learning about some of the most important fights in UFC history given that I was just becoming a fan at the time.

My biggest gripe with the game would actually be the menu navigation. One example I used back when posting my full impressions of the game was with customization through the advertising placed on the fighter’s gear. You would get “cred” and part of earning that is through wearing advertiser logos. However you literally had to go through eight screen clicks to get to that area and then had to back out of it when done. I stopped bothering because it was such a tedious process and that was my feeling for several simple tasks that required too much menu navigation.

The online play was solid at times but shaky others. A lot was dependent on individual connections as I consistently had smooth and responsive online fights against certain individuals but experienced lag against others. For the most part though when there was lag adjustments could be made meaning it certainly wasn’t ideal but remained playable. Ranked fights did have a big issue with being able to quit and no win or loss being recorded that was fixed via patch.

The PFC online league was great and people seemed to have a lot of fun with it. THQ just needs to find a way to add in a league structure or maybe even tournaments through a TUF format. They had a nice idea with the gaining or losing of “fans” based on performance and excitement level but didn’t really pay off to anything. Overall the online portion of the game was decent, which is better than some other high profile games which have been around for much longer. There is a lot of potential online if the modes and options expand and the performance becomes a little more consistent.

Sales for UFC were huge and pummeled its most natural competitor Fight Night which was stunning at the time. But a fantastic demo, releasing first, the growing popularity of UFC, and the word-of-mouth that it was a quality game resulted in a big hit which didn’t sputter out in following months. Domestically it was the biggest selling sports game of the year behind only Madden 10.

What I enjoyed most about UFC 2009 was how good it felt as I continued to progress in my skills. There were a couple fights that I pulled off wins that literally had me jumping up in excitement. I can’t say many other games have been able to elicit that reaction from me in the past few years. Everything about UFC 2009 exceeded my expectations despite it being somewhat shallow and having shaky online in retrospect.

UFC 2009 Undisputed becomes the third different franchise in three years to top this list. That goes to show that a fresh experience is a big factor in how much I enjoy a particular title and that any game can make a push to the top. Can UFC 2010 Undisputed do enough in a year to keep the momentum going? It definitely has the opportunity and appears to have caught a break in that it will release again before its competitor (this time EA Sports MMA) hits the market.

#1: UFC 2009 Undisputed
#2: Madden NFL 10
#3: MLB 09 The Show
#4: FIFA 10
#5: The BIGS 2
#6: NBA Live 10
#7: Madden Arcade
#8: NCAA Football 10
#9: NBA 2K10
#10: Fight Night Round 4
The Worst of 2009