Fights look great and play beautifully but those mouthguard-launching knockouts would mean more if they came a bit less often, and the bloodshed would be more meaningful if it took a Herculean effort to bust a man open.
Yukes went a little too far, but only a little. Their fight system is near flawless bar the ease with which you can get such spectacular results; when every match is a highlight reel there's never any highlights. So, there's little to improve about Undisputed's replication of the real thing inside the Octagon. Outside, the system isn't nearly so well crafted.
Yukes have a seemingly incurable fetish for menus and options screens, some of the more extravagant options lead you down a trail some eight or nine layers deep with no apparent way to quickly exit out. Their presentation is expensive but ham-fisted; crammed with licensed music and UFC TV-styled graphics but slow to move through menus which are always difficult to navigate.
Still, menus are menus and even the worst - Project Gotham 3, for instance - barely impact upon the game in all normal circumstances - but two-thirds of UFC Undisputed's Career mode is spent with those endless, neck-deep options and menus as your companion.
You'll spend up to an hour just crafting your own fighter, so dense and needlessly elaborate are the options on offer, before entering into the UFC. It's crucial to any decent fighting game, but compared to the elegance of EA's systems in Fight Night or Tiger Woods, Yukes' late-nineties character customisation system is outdated and little more than a barrier between you and the action. If Yukes' system were more detailed the elderly systems would be forgivable but it comes up short in too many ways, even lacking a red, orange, or even a true blonde hair colour. In Fight Night, creating your boxer is a fun task; in Undisputed it's just a task, and one that's not over nearly soon enough.
In their desire to simulate the UFC Yukes have built the Career mode around training, resting, and sparring. Seven weeks before a big fight you'll allocate different types of training on a week-by-week basis, regaining stamina with a long break and burning it up with sparring and training sessions. All but the sparring is handled with a single click, and sparring is a 90-second fight in a square ring which takes longer to load than it does to play.
Let's be clear: nobody is asking for a dozen Fight Night-style bag-punching minigames. The last thing Undisputed needs is a minigame fest which you'll invariably choose to skip through anyway - it just needed to be tidied up and streamlined; made friendlier.
Worst of all, Undisputed's options are so limited you'll soon settle into a routine which you'll replicate before every big fight. If there are lots of options the systems need to be clean and simple; if there are fewer options the systems need to have depth. Undisputed offers neither and somehow hides the limited tactical depth it offers behind a piss poor front-end.
Training for a big fight here in the real world is a monumentally complicated process and there's nothing to stop Yukes going totally Football Manager with it and offering a dizzying array of training options and sparring opponents to be managed every day leading up to the big fight. Too much for you? Just hire a coach to handle all the training and let one button press auto-manage your way into the next fight.
We're not here for hack game design and 'what ifs' but this is UFC Oh-Nine. These kinds of options will find their way into future iterations of the game along with a new slickness to the menus and increased clarity for the character creation. Yukes have clearly spent every minute perfecting the fight system and bolted on the career as an afterthought; a crease to be ironed out. There are historic matches to fight and an unlockable or two but there's really no reason to play Undisputed outside of its Exhibition matches.