Already beating down the competition.
Preview by Aaron Drewniak (Email)
July 20th 2008
Developers rarely have the luxury to be perfectionists. Publishers often push for unrealistic deadlines and insane crunch times to meet the profitable holiday season. So it's a shock to see UFC 2009 in motion and to be told, "coming this spring." Because the game looks done, and by "done" I mean gorgeous. The cheering crowd reacting to the flow of the match, the familiar octagon, and the two MMA competitors eyeing each other from across the ring all look ready to rumble.
When the opponents come together in a clash, you can feel it in your own mid-section. The sound effects are solid and brutal, with the same being true of the combatants. "Zero penetration" was the goal of the developers, so fists never clip into an opponent's abdomen. They smack, and if they hit hard enough, they leave a bruise behind. These bruises are actually your life bar, with fifty levels of reddening that make it clear just how much your fighter has suffered without ever sacrificing realism. To take that further, there's no such thing as canned animations. Everything is driven by the game's physics engine, so if you go in for a head grab and your rival raises up just one arm, expect to only get one hand around his neck. This is a fiercely technical experience, so don't expect button mashing to get you through a round.
This is really the first truly authentic recreation of mixed martial arts. It's a very defensive game, where going for that endurance-draining move could get you a quick win, or leave you open for a brutal counter attack. Also the much neglected ground game has been fleshed out with grabs, reversals, and quick jabs to always leave the outcome in doubt. To help further this authenticity, the UFC has consistently given the developers more than they ask for. This goes well beyond the logos, to providing the camera data so their movements can be imitated exactly, and sending in one of the over eighty fighters present in the game for a quick mo-cap session on short notice.
Players will be able to make their own custom characters to take on events both on- and offline, including a career mode, though this wasn't ready for show. Another thing not quite there yet were the levels of fatigue as the match wears on, with the developers fine tuning the very fine line between realism and fun. It looks like a blast already, and it's still far from finished.