When I first heard that I would be covering an event for an Ultimate Fighting Championship game, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.
I figured if you've played one UFC game, you've played them all. Thankfully, at THQ's event preceding UFC 97 in Montreal, I had a chance to try the game hands-on and was proven very wrong. After a few matches, I came away impressed at the level of depth and polish that the newest UFC game to grace the console world.
Now, I have a passing interest in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, but I'm essentially clueless when it comes to the depth and skills necessary for success in the octagon. Fortunately, Undisputed is carefully programmed to provide instant accessibility and enough depth to satisfy the die-hard fans of the UFC.
As the game begins, you are able to select from a large roster of UFC fighters including Canadian and current Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva, Chuck Liddell, Mauricio Lua, and many more. The game has captured the distinct fighting styles of each fighter, and includes a wide variety of different marital arts styles, both upright and ground based.
The controls are slick and polished. Anyone who has played the Tekken series before will feel right at home. Each face button corresponds to a different limb, so the square button on the PlayStation 3 will be a left punch, while circle will be a right kick. When the buttons are pressed independently, their height will be at a medium level. By holding the L1 or L2 triggers, it will modify your attacks to high or low. The R1 and R2 buttons block low and high respectively.
Movement is controlled with the analog sticks. The right analog stick actually gives you powerful control over your fighter. By flicking the right stick in quarter circle motions, you can grab your opponent for an up-close and personal beating. Once grabbed, both aggressor and opponent can try to one up each other with a procession of quarter circle turns to try and get the upper hand in the grab. If one fighter holds down the low modifiers while attempting a grapple, the fight will go onto the ground, where a whole new level of strategy comes out.
The game makes full use of the Havok engine for a level of physics yet unseen in the fighting genre. You won't see any semblance of clipping in this game. Punches will skip off heads, elbows will stop a face cold, and not even shorts will clip through legs.
In fact, all the animations in the game are completely context sensitive to how far apart the fighters are. Up close, jabs will become elbows, and kicks will become knees to the gut. It brings a whole new level of strategy when you can alter your tactics depending on how far you are from your opponent. For example, going for a high kick up close won't likely result in as clean a connection as an elbow would.
All the damage is in real time. Fighters will bleed and bruise as the fight goes on. Blood will even realistically run down the fighter's bodies and land on the canvas. Land a hard, clean, hit and you'll score a flash knockout, just as seen in the UFC.
THQ is also promising an in-depth create a fighter mode where players can customize appearance, ground or standing tendencies, and select from six different fighting styles such as Jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.
Graphically speaking, Undisputed is very solid. The fighters look great and boast a huge polygon count. In fact, the game compares favourably with a graphical heavyweight like Fight Night Round 3. The arenas look good too, with fully animated audience members individually cheering. The only complaint I could think of is that some of the arena details look fuzzy and pixelated, such as the advertisements on the canvas. At least the game runs smoothly at sixty frames a second.
THQ is also promising a suite of online multiplayer features, but specific details were not available.
All in all, Undisputed is looking like a great combination of accessibility and depth that should please both casual and die-hard fans of the UFC. Who knows, maybe the game can even bring a few new fans into the UFC stable. Undisputed is looking like a polished, fun trip into the octagon of pain.