According to THQ developer Neven Dravinski, “We wanted to make something that was just as much a sports game as it was a beat-em-up.” So UFC: Undisputed has more in common with boxing classic Fight Night than Street Fighter 4. Which is a good thing; the emphasis is on tactics and realism, which should add to the game’s shelf-life playability-wise. Authentic touches abound; bruises and blood gradually accumulate according to the process of the match-up, and fighters who go for it too early without finishing their opponent will ‘gas’, or become too tired to fight.
Commentary comes from the UFC’s own Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, with satisfyingly excitable pre-fight announcements by Bruce Buffer, so the stage is very much set. Other notables include the fact that the graphics on the fighters are positively next-gen, and the ‘game’ (as opposed to ‘versus’) mode allows you to recreate your chosen UFC warrior’s fights one by one.
As in mixed martial arts itself, there’s both a ‘striking’ (eg punching and kicking) and a ‘ground game’ – wrestling – aspect. For striking pound the buttons as per usual, but the wrestling involves using the joysticks and that’s a little complex to explain here. The latter could take a while to pick up, but threatens to become instinctive after a few sessions. Don’t panic, it doesn’t involve those twist-and-button combos that only your 12 year-old cousin who’s top of the leagues on XBox Live can possibly achieve.
FHM only had a limited amount of fighters to choose from, but we picked Dan ‘Hollywood’ Henderson when we went up against UFC superstar and noted gamer Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson – who played himself. He completely had us. There’ll be more than eighty fighters in the released version slated for a ‘Spring’ release – it’ll be a good few weeks yet. Yes, you can create your own fighter that looks like you (if you gave up drink and trained for ten hours a day). Each fighter will supposedly excel at the martial disciplines they’re known for – but Rampage did comment that his digital alter ego was pulling off moves he never has before. Nonetheless, UFC: Undisputed is shaping up to be hit – right on the button.