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11 Reviews

UFC 2009 Undisputed

As more-than-real as it gets...

It's a face-wrecking, bone-smashing, flesh-pounding bloodbath... in the way the real thing rarely is. Rarely does any fight go to the judges; jaws are rocked by haymakers and eyebrows are split open by razor-sharp elbows; submissions come from nowhere and high knees dislodge mouthguards from teeth as bloodstained bodies collapse onto canvas. Every fight is a hyper-real deathmatch. It's spectacular. It's overkill. The UFC isn't like this.

A refresher: in the UFC's mixed martial arts competitions matches take place over three five-minute rounds or five rounds for title fights. Bouts are ended by knockout, tap-out, or referee stoppage; fighters can use any skills they choose barring the obvious - no gouging, biting, finger or toe-snapping, headbutts, downward strikes with the elbows or kicks to a downed opponent's head. So, you're free to punch or choke a man out, or bend his arm behind him until he cries.

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In the early days of Ultimate Fighting its critics branded it 'human cockfighting'. Rules were slack, with no weight-classes and fewer rules than the sport has today. A management change made the UFC and MMA in the USA more mainstream and legitimised the sport, taking it to a mainstream audience with a reality TV show and increasingly successful pay-per-views. That management change also made Undisputed - the first good MMA game in a long time - possible.

The UFC came to THQ, who in turn went to their WWE team at Yukes. Yukes, in turn, made a game which simulates the UFC to an astonishing degree on their very first attempt. Standing, the game replicates the striking game with each limb controlled by a face button, counters on the analogue stick, and trademark or preferred strikes in the left bumper; on the mat the game becomes a grappler - roll the right stick to manoeuvre around your opponent's body or squeeze out of a risky spot if your back's to the mat.

From any position you have dozens of options. Standing: do you tie up for a clinch, aim any number of different high kicks or hard bodyshots, try for a takedown or an insane Superman punch? On the mat: do you chase the submission, the ground and pound knockout, or let your opponent back up to face your superior kickboxing game?

If there's one drawback to such a high level of simulation it's the randomness of real mixed martial arts; not always does the best fighter win. A cheeky little armbar or sudden flash knockout can end a one-sided three-round drubbing in favour of the guy who's been on his back for the best part of quarter of an hour. That's exciting and unpredictable in the Octagon, but isn't always a good result in a game. Most gamers will be disappointed by the occasional seemingly random knockout or submission; MMA fans will be less surprised. It's something they'll forgive as part of the simulation that Yukes have built.

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Whatever your preferred style, Undisputed supports it and has a fighter who'll work with you. Every fighter in the game is modelled with the same accuracy Yukes have invested in the fight system itself, each combatant scanned with Yukes' equipment before their big fights, catching them at the peak of their physical fitness.

And that apparent problem with overkill which sounded so much like a complaint? It really isn't. Certainly, the fighters in Undisputed spill the claret with more immediacy than almost any fighter in the UFC and fights don't go to the judges nearly so often in videogameland but nobody wants to see those fights anyway. Undisputed is hyper real in the same manner as FIFA, Madden, or Fight Night; half a dozen goals in ten minutes, fifty-yard touchdown after fifty-yard touchdown, knockout after knockout. Undisputed doesn't just want to simulate the real thing; it wants to be better than the real thing and often, it seems to manage it.

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