You really have to do the tutorial to fully understand this game.
Are you one of those people who never reads the instructional booklets included with most games? Are you impatient with tutorials, tapping the Start or Select(Or Back) button to skip through them and get to the meat of the action? Do you then get annoyed when the game seems too difficult to beat without trying? Listen to me, right now.
Do the tutorial for UFC 2009 Undisputed. Read the instructional booklet included with the game. Learn how to play UFC09 before you start playing it, or you will seriously only ever experience 50% of what this game has to offer.
Sure, if you jump into a game and mash the face buttons you and your mates will get something out of it. It's more than possible to just treat UFC09 like some sort of Fight Night game with kicking - and it works well as just that. But it's only a matter of time before one of you accidentally knocks the right thumbstick and counter-grapples your opponent - and suddenly everything's changed.
One of you will have "double under-hooks" - the term used to describe a common grappling technique, and that person is poised to throw the other. And suddenly you're hooked on the wrestling half of UFC09 - the grapples, the throws and the submissions you hadn't even touched on before. If you think knocking a guy out with a massive haymaker is spectacular, wait 'til you power bomb someone. Wait 'til you hammerfist a guy 6 times after his mouthguard (and quite a bit of blood) flies from his mouth.
The mouthguards, by the way, are one of my pet peeves about this game. The rest of the game seems to follow the laws of physics - a guy kicked in the side of the head will fall away from the foot he just ate. A fighter who cops a knee in the face as he goes for a takedown will either sprawl limply to the side in a pool of spit and blood, or he'll rock back on his knees and collapse on the floor (usually in a pool of spit and blood). But no matter what his body does, his mouthguard has a mind of its own. It flies where ever it wants.
Of course, a sentient mouthguard isn't a real issue, more a minor annoyance and a good way for me to highlight the copious amounts of spit and blood in the game. On the other hand the career mode - that's a bit of an issue. To me it seems tacked on - a vessel to carry you from fight to fight, when you could realistically just... select another person to fight. The mode uses "reputation" to boost your challenging rank and your trainer access, but the amounts rewarded for fights/off-site events (signing autographs, appearing for interviews) bear no real correlation to one another. That said - creating your own character and tailoring him to your playstyle is definitely rewarding (though you could just do that with the create-a-fighter mode).
That's literally all that's wrong with the game though - everything else is absolutely amazing. Once you work out the nuances of the control system the game is flawless - great collision detection, fantastic graphics and spine-tingling special effects evoke the kinds of emotion you rarely see in other games.
The various fighting styles - Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Kickboxing, Muay-Thai and Boxing - all produce mind-numbing knockouts we haven't experienced since... Fight Night Round 2. A combination of Muay-Thai and Wrestling will see you pick up your opponent, slam him onto the mat and then drop an elbow into his face, knocking him out. And you'll wince the whole time. Boxer/Judo combos have devastating hooks and massive, massive throws. And Kickboxer/BJJ masters will kick you in the face right before they choke you out.
The create-a-fighter mode is comprehensive and well thought out - you can make a fighter designed perfectly around your strengths and weaknesses, and you can even make your fighter resemble you (if you're a male. And you're built like a person who gets kicked in the head for a living). The points distribution system is well thought out and while it has a lot of options, all of them are well explained.
The classic fights option is the other real winner for the game - you get an introduction to the fight (say Rampage Jackson vs Chuck Lidell) complete with video footage, real life interviews and actual fight footage, and then you have to go out and attempt to win. Probably the biggest problem I had was when I had to KO a guy in the third round - the challenge was actually getting them to last that long.
When it really comes down to it though, the real reason I know UFC09 is an amazing game is - I have and would sit down with my mates and get them to learn how to play properly before smacking them up. A game has to be something special if you'll teach your mates how to play it.
A few tiny little things hold me back from giving this the big nod - the career mode isn't quite what it could be, the mouthguards betray the otherwise flawless animations and the game is extraordinarily difficult to pick up and play well - but I have to give credit where credit is due. This is the best brawler I have played in years, and Fight Night Round 4 is going to have to do something truly special to take this one's championship belt.