Somewhere Between Piss and Chocolate
"If you have a taste for blood sport and/or enjoy the T.V show, can look past the atrocious navigation and infuriating load times, then there is fun to be had here and you can really enjoy it -- but never get lost in."
In a Sentence (Or two):
UFC: Undisputed has moments of greatness, and there’s real fun to be had -- what a game should be -- but it’s spread too thin and peppered with bad design choices that pad out the experience with fluff and frustration -- what a game should not be -- leaving an aftertaste somewhere between piss and chocolate. (Your results may vary.)
Time and time again I found myself having a blast with UFC: Undisputed, only to have the joy painfully bled out as I waited for a screen to load or flicked through any of the countless menus. What we have here is a terrific base mechanic, and that’s it. My sense is the developers also realized this early on and so decided to kill off the entire dev team, hiring in their place rabid fans of the T.V show and setting them lose with only the phrase “Think WWE, but good” And they got it dead-right some of the time, it’s just too bad they didn’t build on what they had, rather then padding out the experience with menu-surfing and load times.
The premise is simple enough: you’re an up-and-comer that mysteriously gains accepted into the U.F.C to beat people senseless and earn money. “Alright, that sounds fun!” But before you can get to separating a man’s nose from the rest of his face, forever tarnishing his Saturday night cursing chances, you must hit the gym. “Okay, that’s fair, you can’t be expected to fight the world’s top athletes without keeping in shape, and this is a fairly realistic game.” I can roll with it. But you don’t actually work out, you just press some buttons and the time -- much like your life -- ticks away as away you watch an immensely repetitive background video and pick your nose. ‘Oh… Well, the fighting is fun, so I guess that makes up for it.” And this is true… somewhat.
I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun ruining another human beings chances to father children or ability to speak a full sentence congruently. But the fights’ take so long to get to and even if you rush through a lot of it, it all leaves this undeniable feeling of ridiculousness. Causal gamers will be able to overlook this, but fans of the sport will find the games hurried attitude to the fights odd and out of place.
Once you’ve wadded through the character creation -- which is disappointingly short on options -- navigated passed the menus and mastered the ridiculously complex controls, made easier thanks to the helpful tutorial the game shoves in your face upon start-up, the fights are visceral, impactful and, at times, nail biting. In this regard, the game lives up to the sports intensity, somewhat making up for the aforementioned unnatural pace. You can fight standing up with combinations of punches, kicks and clinches, or take the fight to the ground and rain down furious punches and elbows, or opt for some grappling and submission play. The variety of ways to pulverize your opponent is gratifying in a way I should probably bring up with my psychiatrist, and the fact that you can instantly K.O any one of them with a well timed and placed kick or punch to the head can lead to some short, but highly amusing bouts. When in it’s element, UFC: Undisputed will have you cringing, fist pumping and swearing, it’s just sad these breaks are so short (ironic) and eventually boil down to routines and habits, diminishing the spectacle and randomness of the sport.
The graphics are fairly average, just don‘t look too close; the models themselves look fine and you’ll obviously be spending most of your time looking at them, so the background and crowds won’t faze you if you’re not looking, but I thought their poor quality at least deserved a mention.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the online play.
So there it is.
To be honest, I didn’t bother with it. I’m told it makes up for the ‘stories’ shortness, but I’m not one for multiplayer and neither are a lot of people. ‘Well you’re missing out on most of the game then and aren’t allowed to comment on it’ I hear you say. The games industries continual relying on online play is something I found troubling; I remember the days when a game had to be fun by itself, unable to depend on your ability to hook up to the internet and wave your virtual willy around. I could harp on about it, but most of you own Xbox’s, and as such, are trained to bend over for Microsoft every time they release a short, unfulfilling FPS -- I’m looking at you Halo -- just because you can ‘pwn noobs’ and prove you’re better at not having a life then someone in Asia.
Ultimately it comes down to this: if you have a taste for blood sport and/or enjoy the T.V show, can look past the atrocious navigation and infuriating load times, then there is fun to be had here and you can really enjoy it -- but never get lost in.