From MMAMadness.com: Mixed martial arts fans have been without any sort of MMA fighting game on this current generation of consoles. The nuances of the sport have proved difficult for game developers to recreate, and few have even attempted it.

THQ have thrown their hat into the ring with UFC 2009 Undisputed, and have put forth an impressive debut effort.

Boasting a combat system built from the ground up, Undisputed provides fans with almost everything that they could hope to see in an MMA game.

The term ‘photo-realistic’ is used by many game developers, but Undisputed might be the closest thing to it on any system. The fighter models are absolutely gorgeous, and look and behave like their real-life counterparts.

Fighters bruise and bleed convincingly, and the knockout physics, while somewhat over the top, are still fun to look at.

When on the verge of being knocked out, the screen will turn grey and the noise will dampen (a la Fight Night), which is a nice touch.

The most impressive thing about the look of the game is the clipping, or rather the absence of it. After close to 100 matches, I have yet to see a fist go through an opponent’s head or an arm go through another arm during a takedown.

Achieving this in a game with so much contact between fighters, especially on the ground, is a remarkable feat.

I’m disappointed that THQ did not include the fighter entrances or weigh-in shots. I would have also liked to see the referee run in and pull my fighter off of the other one during a TKO pounding, rather than simply waving his arms. Really though, I’m just splitting hairs.

The announcing in the game is spot on. Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan recorded over 30 hours of conversation, and gamers will want to play as each fighter in the game simply to hear the interesting facts that the announcers state.

As with all sports games, the announcing will start to become repetitive, but with so many different fighter combinations, it is hardly noticeable.

The menu music, on the other hand, is a weak spot in the game. THQ decided to mix in audio clips from actual fights that play at random over the music.

While this is a good idea in theory, it is often hard to understand what is going on in each clip. If you do not know that Houston Alexander knocked out Keith Jardine in under a minute, all you will hear is Goldberg announce the start of the match, followed by a lot of fans screaming.

The controls in Undisputed are easily the best thing about the game. Punches and kicks are performed with the face buttons and modified with the left shoulder buttons, blocks are performed with the right shoulder buttons, and various grappling and submission maneuvers are performed with the right thumb stick.

The game has an extremely steep learning curve, but THQ should be given props for not sacrificing detail for accessibility. Casual gamers might be turned off by the time needed to master the control scheme, and the tutorial is absolutely essential if you want to survive your trip inside the octagon.

Single player options include exhibition mode, classic fights mode, and career mode. The career mode is broken down into a week-by-week schedule, where you must manage your stamina between training, sparring, and attending PR events like autograph sessions.

It is a blast to watch your fighter mature as a martial artist. Unlike other leveling-up games where you have a vague idea that you’re stronger, you will actually see the fruits of your labor pay off here.

Your fighter starts out relatively weak, but put in some time and effort, and he will blossom into a champion right before your eyes. My only complaint in career mode is that other fighters do not progress in the same fashion that yours does.

That means that you will end up fighting the same top-level fighters over and over again.

It hurts the realism factor a bit when you have “Created Fighter vs. Hughes 7,” and it would be nice to see up-and-coming fighters like Efrain Escudero progressing as they will in real life.

Classic fights mode challenges you to recreate some of the most important fights in UFC history. A brief introduction video (like what you see before a pay-per-view fight) explains the significance of the fight, and then you are left to try to duplicate the results.

Doing so unlocks a highlight montage of the fight. This mode is perfect for newer UFC fans, as it acts as a chronicle of the sport’s history.

Online mode is where the serious UFC gamers will glean more gaming for their buck. Undisputed offers an all time leaderboard and a weekly leaderboard, and gamers gain and lose experience based on their performances in the ring.

Lag is seldom an issue, and you rarely have to wait more than a minute before being thrust into a match.

However, online play has one major issue, one that almost makes it frustratingly unplayable. Gamers have the ability to quit at any time, which invalidates the match. While other games feature penalties for such behavior, Undisputed does not.

This means that crafty gamers can quit when they are seconds away from getting knocked out or submitted, and they do not suffer a loss.

I personally have had 15 wins (and I am keeping track) that have not counted due to this loophole, and it is maddening.

THQ has said that they are aware of the issue and are discussing the best course of action, but until then online warriors are left to hope that their opponents are sportsmanlike.

In all, UFC 2009 Undisputed is the mixed martial arts game that fans of the sport have been awaiting for a long time.

The realism and presentation, along with the variety of modes and online play, means that you will dedicate, a long, long time to making your fighter the best in the world.

OVERALL SCORE: 90/100


Cameron Gidari is the Associate Editor at MMAMadness.com. He is sad that he can no longer blame his excessive play of UFC Undisputed on work, but will still take occasional breaks from the game to answer reader questions and comments. He can be reached at cgidari@mmamadness.com.