UFC 2009 Undisputed Preview
These days, the main combat attraction is no longer boxing: it’s Ultimate Fighting. Therefore, it only makes sense that we see an increased interest in video games that attempt to emulate the intensity and brutality of the Octagon, and in turn, it’s logical to assume that studios will put that much more effort into such productions. Enter UFC 2009 Undisputed, which should be the deepest, most realistic UFC title ever. Developed by WWE SmackDown! creators Yuke’s Media Creations and published by THQ, this year’s installment will stand out for a variety of reasons; namely, the use of amazingly fluid and authentic fighter renderings and animations, and an extraordinary level of detail throughout. If you’re a fan of Ultimate Fighting and you’re familiar with the television broadcasts, you’ll immediately feel at home when playing Undisputed, as it appears that Yuke’s spared no expense in recreating the experience of watching – and now, interacting with – the world’s most demanding and dangerous one-on-one sport. Commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg will solidify the realistic feel, so prepare yourself for what could be a top-notch simulator.
IGN recently went hands-on with an early build of the game, and other sources have managed to scrounge up some interesting gameplay details. First up, it’s best if you understand the control scheme you’ll be dealing with: the face buttons will control right and left punches and kicks, the shoulder buttons will handle blocking and attack elevation, and you will grapple with the right analog stick. This may sound relatively complex at first. As you enter a match, you’ll have to mix up your punches and kicks with all the face buttons, block with the R1 button, and change the height and style of your strikes with the L1 button. Then, when you hit the mat (which is almost inevitable in UFC), you’ll have to “grapple” with the right analog in order to gain the upper hand. But if you really think about it, this is no more complicated than most fighting games, and provided we get a fluid approach, we don’t think we’ll be frustrated or overwhelmed. Besides, there will be some built-in advantages that should help to streamline the action.
For example, each fighter has a particular fighting and grappling style, which isn’t surprising at all, but believe it or not, the game will actually handle some of the decision making for you. See, depending on the situation, your punches and kicks will take on new animations; the game will automatically select the appropriate attack based on your position in the match. So when you hit a face button to punch, you certainly won’t see the same result when standing apart from your opponent as you will if you’re locked together. When locked, you might see your fighter throw a few sharp kidney punches, for instance. And if you have the room, pressing that same button will result in a spinning back fist. Therefore, the AI should be fairly impressive and will serve to alleviate some of the strategic pressure the player faces in the ring, which will come as good news to those who may balk at the aforementioned control scheme. And it gets better: not only is the type of strike determined automatically, but so is the power of each strike.
You may find yourself thinking; “gee, should I take a risk and try a power punch or should I maintain safety and just do a quick jab?” Well, depending on your fighter’s stamina, distance from his opponent, and his opponent’s stamina and movement, the game will select the amount of appropriate power. Then there’s the ground battle, which as we said before, is an essential aspect of Ultimate Fighting. Once the two of you are no longer on your feet, you get to choose from two different transition types: a minor transition is one that shifts your fighter to a slightly better position on the ground, while a major transition is one that completely alters the situation. In other words, if you’re pinned, a minor transition might consist of guarding your face or your sides depending on your opponent’s target, and a major transition would have you change positions. Obviously, it’s going to be a little trickier to pull off a major transition; as any UFC fighter will tell you, it’s no walk in the park to get out from under a fighter and end up in full control. And remember, this all revolves around the right analog…
But you aren’t entirely restricted to the analog just because you’re at a temporary disadvantage. You can still throw punches and seek out an opportunity for a submission hold of your own, so it will be a matter of choosing the correct tact when you’re beneath the body of another fighter. We expect the entire experience to be streamlined from front to back: the AI will compensate for some of the inherent difficulty while the control scheme itself shouldn’t be too difficult to master. What should be difficult is implementing your full understanding of the controls and allowing your skills to shine through in any given contest. Timing, reflexes, and yes, even brains, will ultimately play a role in UFC 2009 Undisputed, which doesn’t have an estimated release just yet. All we know is that it should launch some time this year, and when it does, it could turn out to be one of the best fighting titles of 2009. With so much attention to detail and a concerted effort to inject as much authenticity as possible, this is one game that shouldn’t disappoint the fans.
1/3/2009 Ben Dutka