Memorial Day weekend could not have come at a better time. What better way to spend a glorious three day weekend than behind the controller of the latest UFC game to hit the street in years!? I had three days of finger blistering fun and I’m here to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The look and feel of this game stay very true to the UFC brand and product right down to the nu-metal soundtrack. Personally as a UFC fan I don’t mind this obvious branding play but to some players who are learning what MMA is or aren’t particularly fond of the UFC I could understand how some of the presentation could get repetitive and annoying.
Maneuvering through the layout is a little awkward whether it’s having to cycle through options on the opening screen in a circle as opposed to my preferred drop down menu or the unusually long load times it makes for a chunky feel when you aren’t actually fighting.
One part of the UFC experience I wish had been included was fighter entrances. I know it’s not vital to the fight but it would’ve made the presentation so much cooler. Otherwise the presentation of the fights is solid. You have the fighter preview, then the tale of the tape, Bruce Buffer introducing the fighters, a pre fight stare down (depending on how big the fight is), and even the ring girls get their 15 minutes of fame.
To end this section on a bright note though is that the roster in each division is very impressive. There were some odd inclusions such as Tito Ortiz and the unfortunate inclusion of the late Evan Tanner which I think was in poor taste on the part of the UFC. However, overall you get at least ten, if not more, solid fighters to play with in each division giving you about 50 total fighters that you can create your dream match ups with. This includes the option of fighters who can move between weight classes like BJ Penn or Brandon Vera. All in all the roster is very impressive and deep.
The graphics are phenomenal and capture every detail of the fighters, referees, trainers, Bruce Buffer, ring girls, and even the Octagon itself. This is my favorite part of the game actually. It looks so true to life when you fight you really do feel like you’re in the action.
As with any sports game sometimes the physics engine has blips but overall it’s very solid and you never see anyone’s fist literally going through someone’s face. The look of the people outside the cage and of the arenas is limited but fortunately once you’re in the fight you never even notice it so it’s understandable why the developers spent such little time making it look good.
The sound was a downer for me as it is in most games. The soundtrack here is made up mostly of nu-metal, some original scoring, and the only cool part - clips from post fight interviews with some of the biggest stars in the UFC. Some of the transitional sound clips are cheesy with a lot of metal on metal clanging.
Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan actually sound pretty good in this game and it’s obvious the developers worked hard to not let the commentary get too repetitive. Of course as in any sports game once you play it enough you’ve heard all the lines a thousand times but fortunately in UFC 2009, you’re focused so intently on the fighting that the repetitive commentary doesn’t really bother you.
Here is the key factor in any game. How good is the actual game play. No matter how fancy it looks, no matter how many stars you put in the game, it all comes down to whether or not the fighting is enjoyable.
The answer here people is yes. The fights themselves, once you get to a high level of competition, are incredibly strategic and you have to be a master of many crafts just like in real life. If you’re a great striker get prepared to get taken down. If you’re a Jiu Jitsu master be prepared to get KO’d.
Practice is essential to learn all the combinations, the clinch game, and the take downs from the feet. The ground game takes even more practice to learn the subtle position changes, striking, and most importantly submissions (and how to escape them).
Of course you can fight as Anderson Silva in an exhibition and destroy people with little to no experience. However, in career mode where you’re starting from scratch, it takes a lot of hard work to not just learn the moves but also how to actually apply them strategically in the game.
The fighting itself has its little glitches, like guys are way to prone to getting kicked in the head and very few guys attempt submissions on the ground unless that’s their only means of winning. But overall the fighting is fun, intense, and competitive while not being impossible to learn. In fact I enjoy the fact that it seems slower than in real life because 99% of the people who play this game aren’t professional MMA fighters and we need something a little more our speed.
My favorite part (and on occasion least favorite part) of the game is the “rocked” and KO system. Just like in real life no one gets a health bar in this game. You can be rocked or KO’d at a moment’s notice. You do get a stamina bar which the lower it gets, the more likely you are of being KO’d, but it’s not the be all end all giving you a puncher’s chance until the bell rings.
There are your standard game modes: exhibition, career, and a very cool historic fights option. The historic fights option is very cool as it lets you go into battle during some of the best fights in UFC history and earn prizes for finishing the fight the same way it ended in real life. Exhibition and career mode will have you playing for hours fighting in dream match ups or trying to get your fighter to the hall of fame.
The career mode is very deep in this game. Dana White introduces you to the career mode where you set up your fighter however you want and then you are immediately thrown into a two round fight to prove yourself to White and co. Don’t worry this guy is a tomato can and you should have no problems destroying him.
From there you have the option of a brief tutorial taking you through all the aspects of career mode. They could’ve done a better job of explaining more of the outside the cage aspects like visiting trainers and other activities you can do besides training and fighting. This is good though especially during your first go round.
From there you book your first fight and begin to train. Your email is your main source of communication where you can agree to fights, read the UFC newsletter, and check in with some personal emails that will tell you about new sponsors etc.
The training regiment is simple but still takes some strategy. Just like in real life training can take a toll on you whether you’re training for physical gain or for technical expertise it all takes energy. You need to balance your time between training, sparring, and resting to come into your fight in peak physical condition.
Each time you fight or participate in an activity you can gain “Cred” points which will unlock new clothes, new sponsors, etc. The better you do in your fights the more “Cred” you earn.
As your fighter progresses you climb the ladder up whatever weight class you’ve chosen to dominate. Don’t even think for a second that you’re going to go undefeated though. There’s only one Lyoto Machida and you’re not him. You’ll hit your bumps in the road and it’s important to get back on the winning track quickly as Dana and Joe Silva don’t keep losers around for long.
Ultimately the goal is to climb the ladder, win the belt, and defend the belt until you’re a UFC Hall of Famer. However, it’s as tough as it is in real life. There can only be one champion and there are only a hand full of hall of famers. It’s a tough road that takes a lot of hard work but it’s addictive, fun, and will have you coming back for more.
Out of a ten point grading system here is what I would give UFC 2009:
Presentation - 7.5
Graphics - 9
Sound - 8
Game play - 9.5
Lasting Appeal - 9
This averages out to a total score of 8.6 which is a “Good” game in my book. This is a great starting out point for the guys at THQ and hopefully the game only improves in the years to come. I already can’t wait to see what these guys will add to the next game but until then I’ve got my hands full!