by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com

Having been given an insight into the latest generation of
the UFC 2009 Undisputed videogame for the X-Box by developers THQ, the results
so far look staggering and set to further mesh the boundaries between live
gameplay and the experience of a pay-per-view broadcast.


THQ’s recent briefing on the game started out with a
briefing on the “under-the-hood” technical elements of the game before moving
on to an insight into the concept and, finally, a showdown between middleweight
prospect Michael Bisping and UFC President Dana White – where the latter
won via brutal KO, giving Bisping an almost out-of-body experience of seeing
himself tumble to the canvas.


Looking at the range of characters you can choose to engage
in battle reveals a strong analysis of their strengths and weaknesses along
with reflections of their key skill sets. Taking B.J. Penn as an example, the
fighter profile page lists his ranking in percentage terms on elements like
striking, wrestling, submissions, conditioning, etc. This isn’t random
information; it is the process of having analyzed all of the fighters with the
collaboration of UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and the UFC back catalogue.


Driving down further into the key traits of each fighter
profile, you can see hallmarks of their individual styles in things like
special moves. Wanderlei Silva has been programmed with vicious knees in the
clinch, Rampage Jackson with slams and so forth, making the experience even
closer to the real deal.


Hands-on experience of the product itself is impressive with
a very intuitive control system that lends well to the dynamic range of
movements allowed in an MMA fight. The action unfolds from a broadcast
perspective rather than a pure first person mode. The camera positions and
angles are always changing to follow the fight along so you never feel lost or
confused in the exchange.


In-fight detail has been further enriched through the use of
photo-realistic cut and bruise detailing that is carried through the rounds. Blood
stains clear from the fighter before each new round starts, as if being wiped
down by your cornerman, but the key injury remains. However, it must be noted
that in order to keep things level and fluid, there are several elements of a
real fight simulation that have been removed: you cannot stop a fight from
being cut, there are no disqualifications, and it is impossible to apply a low
blow, which can only be a good thing!


All fighters compete in their real life counterpart’s weight
divisions, with the exception of a few fighters who have proven to “bounce” between
divisions, such as B.J. Penn, Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson and so on, ruling
out those impossible clashes between Kenny Florian and Josh Koscheck.


Being an early build release for the press, several elements
of the game will be evolved and tweaked before final release around the summer
2009. During our viewing, we noticed things like Greg Jackson cornering Michael
Bisping and some sound to action inconsistencies between things like kicks or
sweeps and commentary.


Speaking to the THQ Project Manager revealed the
complexities of delivering an MMA game. “There will be renditions of key
cornermen, we are working on that, but there will also be ‘generic’ cornermen
applied to several fighters. We just simply don’t have enough resources to
detail everything in the game, but for sure, key people will be present and
matched to their fighters. Bisping’s corner included,” stated Mr. Nevin.


For the generic gaming fan and people new to the sport of
MMA, this product will present a significant educational tool in their
understanding of this complex sport, but the hardcore fan is equally catered to
and can engage in a proposed “career” mode where you progress through the
division taking on fighters, training, and stepping up the ladder before
hitting championship status. Similarly, those looking to stall in fights by
holding guard will be stood up. If things go to a decision, then the 10-point must
system will kick in.


The only possible addition we could wish to see at this
stage would be the introduction of being able to save a fight replay if you
have had a particularly vicious tear-up with an opponent, this is a minor gripe
though, UFC 2009 Undisputed is solid and is a massive step forward in fight gaming.