Preview: UFC 2009 Undisputed

UFC 2009 Undisputed isn't just the most polished looking mixed martial arts game we've seen in while -- it's already looking like the most visually stunning fighter to grace gaming consoles in the last three years.

UFC 2009 Undisputed is a next-gen mixed martial arts fighting game in development by THQ, Yuke's, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The game features fighters and personalities from the UFC organization, with over 80 playable fighters that kick and punch the living crap out of each other. UFC 2009 is scheduled for a spring 2009 release.

UFC 2009 Undisputed has some high expectations to live up to. As the first UFC-licensed fighting game for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, UFC 2009 has to meet the expectations of millions of mixed martial arts fans. More than that, UFC 2009 must also satisfy the incredibly high standards of the development team. In the demo we saw at a recent event, UFC 2009 seems every bit like the fighting game that's "as real as it gets". This joint effort between THQ, Yuke's, and the UFC not only aims to create the best MMA fighter in history, but also seeks an ultra-realistic reinvention of the fighting genre.

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This one's a real looker

So far, UFC 2009 looks downright spectacular for a game that doesn't release until next year. Like a real pay-per-view event, the graphics and special effects shine with high-quality detail. Anyone watching this on an HD display would swear they were watching high-definition cable TV. According to the development team, all in-game special effects will receive the same A-class treatment as a real UFC PPV broadcast. Even more impressive than special effects are the photo-realistic character models. In the game's demo, UFC champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and fan-favorite Forrest Griffin look uncannily similar to their real-life counterparts. Everything from their facial stubble to the ever-present sweat on their faces hints at a deep level of finely-tuned textures. The level of detail that has been etched into the fighter's motions, and expressions is immediately apparent to even the most critical eye. From a distance, it's actually difficult to tell the in-game models aren't real people. With over 30,000 polygons being used for the game's roster of 80-plus fighters, THQ and Yuke's seem to be pushing the graphics as far as they can go.

It's not just the fighters, either. THQ and Yuke's are making full use of the UFC staff for Undisputed. The same attention to detail can be seen in character models for coaches, trainers, referees, and other UFC personalities like ring girl Arianny Celeste and cutman Jacob "Stitch" Duran. Even with such a huge cast, UFC 2009 will also support a full-fledged character creation system. With the graphics we've seen so far, we can only hope that any gamer will be able to make a replica of him or herself that's as detailed as the UFC fighters.

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Getting into the ring again

An interesting style choice in UFC 2009 is the lack of superfluous material in the heads-up display. There are no health bars or in-game battle text -- just the two fighters, the ring, and the clock. THQ wants to maintain an air of authenticity in UFC 2009 so that playing the game feels exactly like watching a real match. A fighter's level of damage or fatigue is apparent from the way the character models change during a match. Bruises, cuts, and other injuries not only hint at in-game damage, but also provide a focus point for attacks. In the demo, the left side of Forrest Griffin's ribs turned purple after a barrage of punches, while a flurry of knee strikes transformed Rampage Jackson's face into a meat pizza. Once the first round was over, both fighters had changed drastically in stance due to fatigue. The gradual damage looks really impressive, and adds yet another element of realism to the game.

UFC 2009 also pushes the idea of "contextual strikes," a feature where your fighter's position in relation to an opponent will affect your attacks. For example, a long-distance left hook will animate and land differently from a close-range attack with the same button. The way the fighter's models interact on a technical and physical level is truly impressive: not once did we see an arm clipping through a torso, or a jumbled walking animation resulting from the fighters getting too close to each other. The development team has taken into consideration that an uppercut should be able to interact and deflect a straight jab, and limbs should collide realistically instead of clattering together like sticks of wood. This means that when Forrest Griffin kicks someone in the leg, you will actually see his foot sink into the muscle of the other fighter's body.

UFC 2009's fighting system is especially impressive when seeing the grappling moves -- half of the fighting system is geared towards takedowns, submissions, and ground strikes. There's equally as much detail in ground grappling as there is in standing combat, which is important for the in-game fighting styles that will be used, like Brazilian jujitsu and wrestling.

It's gonna be a contender

UFC 2009 Undisputed has gathered talent from several high-profile development studios around the world, and the evidence is already showing. If the game already looks and plays like this in 2008, then UFC 2009 is going to rock your f-ing socks off when it hits shelves next spring.

Selling points:

  • UFC 2009 uses photorealistic graphics to accurately create the feeling of a live PPV fight, with super-detailed character models.

  • The roster boasts 80 fighters and several varied forms of martial arts, such as kickboxing, Muay Thai, and judo.

  • The powerful in-game engine backs the fighting system with combat animations that show incredibly detailed, muscle-against-muscle physics.

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