Giving UFC Its Proper Due

THQ recently picked up the Ultimate Fighting Championship license and aims to put it to good use with the new simulation game UFC Undisputed 2009

Over the years, mixed martial arts-based video games haven't been given their proper due, outside of the remarkable Ultimate Fighting Championship game Crave produced for the Dreamcast eight years ago. THQ hopes to change all that, though. It recently acquired the exclusive Ultimate Fighting Championship license and is putting it to good use in the forthcoming simulation game UFC Undisputed 2009. Although it's still got a ways to go before it meets its spring 2009 release date, it shows great potential.

Handling the creation of the UFC game is Yukes, the same development house that handles THQ's World Wrestling Entertainment games. However, it isn't the same engine—UFC Undisputed is built from the ground up. The octagon clearly has several differences from a four-sided wrestling mat. A recent trailer for the game shows the amount of detail that Yukes put into the game thus far. Fighters look like actual representations of themselves, right down to their victory stances. Current UFC champion Quentin "Rampage" Jackson, for example, lets out a howling roar after winning a bout.

The UFC Undisputed roster will contain 85 fighters, although only two have been revealed at this point—Jackson and Forest Griffin, two fighters that are set to collide at an upcoming pay-per-view event. The trailer THQ revealed to us showed the fighters going back and forth, smacking each other around and switching off between submission holds. One minute, Griffin has Jackson locked up in an armbar. The next, Jackson kneels over a crumpled Griffin, pounding away at his face with his left and right fists.

During a demonstration of the game, we saw how deep this action gets, with a number of countermoves, defensive tactics and knockdown opportunities. Yes, you can take out your opponent with one punch during a match, but the timing on it has to be perfect—just like in a real UFC bout. While we weren't able to get hands-on time with this early build, it looks like a smooth experience. The guys at Yukes had a blast showing off the game, even though they had the real-life fighters, Griffin and Jackson, trying to do backseat coaching on how to get the knockdown.

UFC Undisputed 2009 will also give you the option to create your own fighter. You can set up their attributes and put them in whatever class you feel is necessary for their skills, ranging from lightweight to heavyweight. From there, you'll follow certain techniques as you become a contender in the UFC ranks, with a number of fighting disciplines available to choose from. Do you feel more comfortable trying your luck with Brazilian Ju-Jitsu? Or perhaps you want to try your luck with old-school Judo? It seems like part of the fun involves going through the trial-and-error system with each style, seeing which one suits you best. No word yet if the Career Mode for your newly created superstar will follow the same guidelines as Spike's UFC-themed reality show The Ultimate Fighter, but that would be cool.

There really isn't that much to the presentation yet, what with only two boxers and one arena revealed thus far. However, what's here is still noteworthy. The UFC fighters look very realistic, with wobbly facial expressions after taking a punch to the face and real-time injuries developing on their bodies. They get a little too sweaty over time, making them shinier than in previous games, but that's easy to overlook. The animation is spot-on, and we were actually surprised that the game doesn't run into any clipping problems, an issue that affects Yukes' WWE games. UFC commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg also keep up on the action, showing genuine surprise after a quick strike and proclaiming their love for the sport. THQ reps mentioned that the duo spent dozens of hours in the studio recording dialogue, nailing down the timing of each in-game event. Seeing as how the WWE games have problems with this, it'll be good to see THQ get the tempo right for UFC.

Along with a career mode that will let you establish your own UFC legacy (including a stop at the UFC Hall of Fame) and exhibition fights where you can show your local friends a thing or two, UFC Undisputed 2009 will also support online play through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. Although THQ stayed mum on how these fights would work (or if you could form your own virtual posse), it reassured us that online functionality is a must. Tournaments are a possibility as well, but nothing's been confirmed as of yet.

UFC Undisputed 2009 looks to make the lackluster fighting games featuring the brand a thing of the past, focusing instead on a hard-hitting future with lots of action and excitement. Once more fighters enter the virtual ring, we'll get a better idea of the diversity. For now, though, it looks like a solid brawler. And any game that pays strict attention to the UFC ring girls, with all their virtual hotness, can't be bad. Be sure to check for more coverage soon, including an interview with the project manager and a hands-on report. Get ready for a beatdown.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.