There's something very primal about the Ultimate Fighting Championship fights that really gets the blood pumping. Whether it's the fact that some of the beatings these people endure are so raw and brutal or if you just like seeing some of the displays of fighting prowess these events have become immensely popular for a reason. The video games, while of generally decent quality, have left quite a bit to be desired in actually capturing the violent glory of these fights. Until the release of UFC Undisputed that is. What we have here is the first video game to actually live up to the UFC brand.
The main focus of this title was very clearly perfecting a combat system that could accurately represent the fights that take place in the octagon. With punches and kicks flying, grapples and ground fighting there's a lot to represent here. Undisputed is the first game that seriously felt like it had gotten this right and it's clear that a lot of time went into it.
You control your fighter with a mix of button presses and moves of the analog sticks but its how it does so that really makes things work. Each face button controls a different limb, two punches and two kicks. Grappling into a cinch with your opponent, attempting to take them down, blocking attacks or counter-grabbing them are all easily done with a button press and analog move. This allows you a great flexibility when determining how to proceed with your attack on your opponent. The only real weakness to this fighting system is that of the "flick" movements; when you flick the analog stick in a direction to get a quick step in said direction. More often and not these do not seem to register which prevents most of these moves from being used reliably.
Further changing this is that each fighter has different attacks that can be initiated depending on their combat styles and proficiency with them. Some can deliver brutal high kicks while others have a number of devastating grapples and submission moves. Combined with the basic attacks these special moves make it so that each fighter can bring the hurt in a variety of painful ways. It also means that there is a fighting style for each player type - defensive players will find a Judo counter based grappler much more suited to their fighting style while more aggressive players might want to play a Muay Thai fighter, kicking enemies' heads in.
However until you master every aspect of this game this daunting attention to detail can be more than a bit frustrating. There are so many things to learn and types of attacks to master before you even get into learning how to counter and stop those same attacks. All told this is one of the least accessible fighting games on the market today. Button mashing will get you absolutely nowhere so every attack has to be very carefully executed if you're going to get very far.
Unfortunately this means that when fighting the computer things are largely left up to luck. You might think that playing a hand-to-hand powerhouse might let you beat someone who isn't as powerful as you but that's not the case. More often than not it's entirely possible for the computer to drop you in one or two shots after spending ten minutes being pounded into the ground. While this might be realistic to the sport it's not fun to literally lose a fight in ten seconds.
This is especially a problem in the career mode where you have to bring up a scrub of a fighter into a world champion. Since you start off fairly underdeveloped and have to allocate points to your fighter, customizing them to your style, it's entirely possible for you to make a character whom should excel in particular fights only to repeatedly lose those fights. It's very possible to find yourself losing almost every fight after the third or fourth one simply because you didn't make an effective enough character even though you had no real idea what would be a "perfect" character at the time. The emphasis on punishing the player for learning to play the title gets really frustrating at this point.
However to avoid these problems all you need to do is play with friends or go online. While some of the human players you encounter online might seem almost computer-like in their reactions there is still a lot of fun to be had simply because it's skill that's determining who wins and loses here. This mitigates a lot of the frustration and pushes you to learn how to play the game better.
While the sound bytes you hear as you fight will get repetitive very quickly the music is very good. It gets the adrenaline pumping, leaving you really wanting to pummel someone's head inside out. Paired up with the fantastic graphics that makes this game an absolute treat for the senses. Watching peoples faces get torn up as they're pummeled into the ground while satisfying thuds and cracks resound will never get old. It's actually easy to get distracted from the fighting by the presentation here.
In the end UFC is definitely a worthy investment for those that have the patience, and time, to learn how to play the game as it's intended to be played. If you're a more casual fighting fan who isn't prepared to spend numerous hours just learning how to fight then this isn't the game for you. For those of you who buckle down and devote the time necessary to really enjoy this game you will find one of the deepest, and most true to life, fighting experiences on a console.