Undisputed Lays Claim to the Knockout King’s Crown

It’s been over a decade since Fight Night Champion hit the scene and in that time, we’ve seen nothing come out as a big-time boxing release. EA has been strangely silent when it comes to putting out boxing games — and beyond putting a couple of big-name fighters in UFC games, fighters have been shut out of the gaming scene since. Fortunately, Undisputed aims to pick up where Fight Night left off and features not only a fluid in-ring boxing experience, but a healthy blend of legends and current-day fighters. Unlike Fight Night, it also features female fighters from across the globe and various weight classes.

The flow of a boxing fight can vary from fast to slow and can be like a dance of punches and dodges. Some games have aimed to replicate the slower pacing for technology reasons like having Punch-Out’s games be largely timing-based puzzles that revolve around punching, while more simulation-centric games like Fight Night aim to match the ebb and flow of a real fight. There are back and forth exchanges that can get tense or you can even have one-sided bouts that throw the player for a loop one round.

During my second fight with the preview build, I had an exciting light heavyweight bout with “Sugar” Ray Robinson just trouncing his opponent in round one — to the point where I wished in hindsight that I had set it for three knockdown TKOs because right as the first round ended at the buzzer, I got a third knockdown. In not doing that, however, it allowed the opponent to recover and he did a better job in round two of evading my shots. All the while, I was slowly draining my stamina trying to replicate that same result from round one, but luckily, I realized I had to slow things down and mix things up.

Focusing on positioning helped a ton, as did bobbing and weaving. One flaw with Undisputed compared to other games is you can’t move and weave at the same time like a newer UFC game’s standup fighting, so I had to retrain my brain a bit and remember to keep my distance and then move in for a few good shots. Starting off with jobs works nicely, but if a jaw is wide open, slamming in a few uppercuts and then rocking them is the way to go. It’s a stamina drain, so it’s important to make the shots count and then rest up a bit.

Like Fight Night, you can either have button-controlled punching or stick-controlled punching. For jabs and crosses, I prefer the button commands since they’re snappier – but uppercuts feel more organic being done with a stick movement to replicate the motion of the move to some degree. It also makes me think about doing them more than I would just hitting a pair of face buttons to hit one and not think about the stamina cost versus the risk of it landing flush. The core boxing experience is a lot of fun even in an early state and that should mean good things for the eventual full release.

The sweet science of boxing is nicely replicated thanks to there being so much variety in punches, angles on punches and the development team ensuring little touches were present for fighters who had a unique punching style or mannerisms. It’s clear that a lot of care was put into making the roster not only look like the real deal, but feel accurate to how they would fight in real life. Flashier fighters will taunt or loosen up more often and you get a better sense of a fighter’s personality with AI fights as well.

It’s nice to have those featured in the game so if you’re struggling you can see how the AI fights and get a better handle on how to evade instead of purely learning in real-time. Undisputed does have an interactive tutorial, but the mechanical nature of it may not be as fun as trying, failing and then watching a couple of AI fights to get an idea of the fighting systems. Undisputed goes for a clean fighting approach too, so those who enjoyed headbutting in Fight Night Champion will have to adjust how they play.

The core game is a blast and mode variety is solid, with more coming up down the road. There are quick fights available alongside prize fights that aim to offer big-name real life rematches in-game with tracked leaderboards and specific winning conditions. Over time, the game will have things like a career mode added into it and it does sport official licensing, so that could take the form of fighting for in-game titles at some point. Todd Grisham does commentary alongside Johnny Nelson and they do a fine job at sounding like a real-time announce team, which is a challenge to overcome.

Undisputed is largely playable on the Steam Deck for most fights — although prize fights don’t work properly and crash the game. Regular exhibition fights usually worked just fine and every Xinput controller I tried worked like a charm across devices. On my gaming laptop, the game ran fine without issues across all available modes. The Steam Deck aims for a medium pre-set for graphics, while I could go up to high on the laptop. Visually, it looks fantastic, with rich detail on character models and smooth animations for punches. Some smaller animations, like evasion, do sometimes look stiff, but that’s something that can be smoothed over in time. Facial damage is featured — although it isn’t quite as extensive as it was in Fight Night Champion, at least as it stands right now.

Even in early access form, Undisputed comes as an easy recommendation for anyone wanting a satisfying boxing experience on PC. It plays like a more simulation-focused Fight Night game but with a modern-day roster and an impressive list of legendary fighters on tap as well. For a new IP, Undisputed does a ton right and if it can gain commercial traction, it should be interesting to see a video game boxing battle emerge if EA ever brings Fight Night back. Undisputed stands up to the best boxing games on the market over the past twenty years and will be an even better title whenever new content is added.