When THQ first announced that a new UFC game would be coming to Hi-Def consoles, fans of the brutal sport were sceptical at best. Past iterations haven’t been particularly successful in delivering a true feeling of the gladiatorial combat expected from the Ultimate Fighting brand. Many failures were due to the complex mechanisms found within the sport, to explain this better the sport itself may need some dissecting.
The sport in question is actually called MMA or Mixed Martial Arts, the aim of the sport is for two men to enter an octagonal cage and the winner is decided by Knock Out, Technical Knock Out and Submission or by Judges decision. The reason it’s called “Mixed” Martial Arts, is due to fighters from different Martial Arts backgrounds duelling in the cage. Judo versus Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kick Boxing versus Muay Thai and many more combinations are on display to the fans of MMA.
Fighting in UFC, both the game and the real main events have a mixture of stand up fighting, kicks and punches and Ground work, which is usually submission manoeuvres. Previous games have failed to allow for the many combinations of moves and the gameplay on the ground has always been stunted and slow, Thankfully THQ and Yukes have surpassed all previous games and not by a small margin either.
Starting with the deep career mode on display here, creating your fighter is a joy. From his height and weight class all the way down to whether you want him to have a beard or even scars from previous fights. The main choice to be made here will be your fighting style, there are six styles up for grabs and you can choose two. Choices are made from, Muay Thai, Kick Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, Boxing and Judo.
Having created your fighter it’s time for them to step up and battle their way from the lowest ranking in the UFC and one day fight for the gold. Beginning your career in a run down boxing ring rather than a cage, you choose your trainers and are given your first fight. Once you’ve won or lost your first fight Joe Silva, matchmaker for UFC, will e-mail you to choose your opponents. Once you have chosen your foe, you’ll be given a time frame in which to prepare for the fight. To prepare you can train your strength, speed and cardio stats or spar in the ring to push up your fighters technical abilities.
These training sections are incredibly important if you want to stand up with the big boys. As you progress you’ll be offered chances to train with bigger camps and top tier fighters which allow you to learn new moves for you r chosen fighting styles. The career is pretty lengthy and takes a few hours to finish, the longevity is found in completing a career in each weight class, Lightweight, Welterweight, Middleweight, Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight.
Once you’ve worked through the many career mode options then it’s time to have some fun with the challenge mode. This mode is very similar to previous THQ game, Legends of Wrestlemania, in which you’re tasked to replicate past classic matches. Luckily the developers have learnt from LOW and streamlined the process. In UFC rather than having to match many different objectives to the original fight, you merely need to win in the original way. As you work your way through these, you will unlock movies from said matches which is a great feature for the fans and for those new to the franchise, you can see the real fighters doing what they do best.
Among these two headlining modes, you will find the usual exhibition mode and of course a multiplayer mode. With over 80 fighters to play with there are lots of potential matches waiting to be acted out. All matches are accompanied by announcing and commentating from Bruce Buffer and Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg respectively. Not only are these real personalities from the sport included but Dan White UFC president, the ring girls and referees are all here too. These additions add to the realism of the game, but the true realism comes from the gameplay and graphics of the game.
With the major fighting styles included fans of the sport will find all of the most familiar grapples, clinches and submission moves here. Everything from arm bars to ankle locks are found in your arsenal. For newcomers this may feel slightly overwhelming but once you’ve sunk your teeth in, you’ll be sounding like the commentating team in no time. All punches and kicks feel solid and register with a resounding thump that shakes your skull. Being a brutal sport, these blows will leave their mark on your chosen fighter, cuts and swelling will appear over his body. The mat will be splattered with blood and much like its TV counterpart; UFC 2009 is not for the fainthearted.
Among the blood and bruises the character models are highly detailed and look outstanding. Sweat trickling down your fighter’s chest will glisten in the light, cheeks will ripple when that knockout punch is thrown and gum shields will fly out of mouths in a shower of saliva as you crash to the mat. All of the fighters look as they do in “real life” and the realism is further supported by the sound. Cheers from the crowd, the music taken directly from TV showings and the easy listening commentary help to solidify the experience.
Almost everything found in UFC 2009 is close to perfection, almost.
MMA is a tough sport to follow and many newcomers may find the movelists and control system overwhelming. With kicks and punches assigned to the face buttons, stand up fighting is simple enough to take on. Pulling the triggers will see you aim low to kick the shins or punch the stomach and all of this comes naturally. However the clinches and grappling can be confusing when you need to manipulate directions on the right thumbstick to jostle for positions to attempt either a submission or “ground and pound” your opponent. To highlight the depth of play there is a tutorial, which if played from start to end will last around an hour.
Another minor frustration can be found in random knockouts. As in the sport knockouts can come at any point in the match, the human head has points that if punched will render you unconscious. Many fights can be changed with one punch and this happens here too. There are fights that will be lost by a “lucky” punch from your foe even though you’d beaten him near to submission. This can be infuriating at times, particularly if you’re trying to stay undefeated.
The last issue is a relatively big one. Online gameplay can be laggy and the frame rate can sometimes drop significantly. This is more than unhelpful when moves require precision timing. Although not a constant problem it can mire an otherwise great game. Other than lag problems this is a game that will see a certain percentage of people rocket to the top of the online rankings which may put off the more casual player from taking the game online.
UFC 2009 delivers epic fighting that is true to the sport. With lush visuals and gameplay that jars the body with each punch thrown, UFC is brutal on many levels. With a deep career mode and an abundance of fighters to be used in exhibition, this game certainly has long legs. With the possibility of downloadable content to keep the roster up to date, there are plenty of reasons to keep coming back. THQ and Yukes have certainly delivered a knockout blow with this edition of UFC.
Hi-Score – Stunning visuals and sound, Deep career and Huge roster of fighters.
Lo-Score – Can be overwhelming, sometimes laggy online.
Final Score – 9 out of 10