From the outside, boxing looks like a simple sport. Two muscly people stick their mitts in comically oversized gloves, hop into a ring together, and proceed to spend 12 rounds beating God itself out of their opponent. In theory, Undisputed – the “most authentic boxing game to date” – should be as simple.
It’s not, of course – because neither is boxing. Like the real sport, every action you take in Undisputed needs to be exact: you’ll have to determine how to punch, where to swing from, and just as importantly, when to throw up your guard or dodge. That last point is particularly difficult – the time between seeing a punch and feeling it is over in less than a milisecond, which means you need to weave your fighter around with almost supernatural prescience.
As it was a technical beta, every single player was trying to get to terms with the game – so each match started off as a drunken brawl, but as you and your opponent got used to each other’s style, it become far more intricate. Over the course of 12 short rounds you’ll pick up on which direction your opponent tends to dodge into, where they tend to swing punches from (their arms, duh), and the gaps in their guard you can reliably slip a jab through.
Additionally, a stamina system means all of this is well-paced. If you keep your fighter busy for too long and their stamina runs out, they’re left open to taking significantly more damage – and even some lasting injuries that inch you toward a knock-out, if you’re not careful. Managing your stamina makes Undisputed a surprisingly tactical affair, and button-mashing quickly turns your fighter into a bloody mess.
When you’re in the flow, Undisputed feels ridiculously good. It’s very empowering to dodge a slew of punches before dipping in and landing your own flurry of jabs, while catching your opponent off-guard with a nasty uppercut is brutally satisfying – especially when the game rewards particularly powerful punches with a splash of slow-mo. At first, I played Undisputed like a punch-drunk brawler, but as my undefeated record took shape I felt more like a tipsy Tyson, a flailing but effective titan in the ring.
Well, I say undefeated record. This was Undisputed‘s technical beta – and in line with the name, I technically didn’t finish a single match. Just as things would heat up (or more often, when it looked like I had a win in the bag), my opponent would leave the match. Was it their pride? Fear? Server issues? Who can say, but as they only seemed to happen when I was winning, I chalked them all up as wins – it’s what my opponents would have wanted.
Jokes aside, Undisputed shows some real promise, and server issues are to be expected during a technical test. Developer Steel City’s choice to go in-depth on a single fighting style means that Undisputed feels easier to jump into than more stylised, kit-based fighting games like Super Smash Bros or Street Fighter, though the skill ceiling is still undeniably high for players who want go all-in.
Whether you’re looking to spend a few casual hours in the ring or go pro and take on NME‘s debatably undefeated record, it’s worth keeping an eye out for Undisputed‘s launch.