Undisputed could be exactly what boxing fans have been waiting for

Usyk stalks the ring in Undisputed

Usyk stalks the ring in Undisputed

It's been a long time since a big-budget boxing game entered the ring. The last big hit was Fight Night Champion, and with its in-depth movement and intense storyline, it's been tough to beat in my book.

Since then, I've waited for over a decade as a stream of MMA games came out, having to stick with playing Stand And Bang mode on UFC 3 to scratch that Fight Night itch.

Well, you can imagine my delight upon hearing about Undisputed, the new boxing game available today on Steam for early access. I've even learned a bit about real-life boxing in that time, so my hopes were high that I'd be able to better my abysmal sparring performance in the virtual ring.

Louis fights Rocky Marciano in Undisputed
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The actual fights feel great. Along with counter-punches delivering a satisfying screen flash and clear reaction in your opponent, you have all manner of extra movement options. The tutorial does a solid job of explaining it all to you when you first boot up the game, and once you're in the groove, it feels natural.

Tap the left stick to bob and weave around, or press it down to slip an incoming punch. The movement all costs stamina, though, which you'll want to save in order to throw some punches of your own. You can fire off jabs, straights, and left and right hooks with the face buttons, as well as combine them to deliver uppercuts. Holding L1 sends the hits to the body. You can even step in and out as you punch, as well as squeeze out of danger with pivot hooks. It's clear a lot of thought went into deciphering the sweet science and ensuring as much variety as possible is brought into the virtual arena.

All these options allow for a fair amount of freedom when you choose how to fight. Maybe you want to bring out Deontay Wilder's Bronze Bomber style and throw out constant power punches, hoping your opponent lets one through before your stamina runs out and you lose on points. Perhaps not - you might prefer a jab-focused approach, keeping your distance from your foe with Tyson Fury-like precision and causing death by a thousand (still hefty) cuts. I've fallen in love with the tactic of utterly destroying my opponent's guts, going for body shots to deplete their stamina before finishing them late in the fight when they can barely throw a punch without puffing out.

There's plenty to choose from in Undisputed, and the actual fights have been a real highlight. Sitting down for 12 rounds with my housemate is going to become a regular habit if some of the game's slight issues can be ironed out.

Jonas fights Bridges in Undisputed
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Not quite ready

The thing is, you can definitely tell why Undisputed is in early access. That's not necessarily a knock on the game, just a warning if you're looking for a full experience off the bat.

Career mode is closed-off at the moment, and with that being a huge reason Fight Night Champion stuck in my head, it's extremely important to me that it delivers on my high hopes. Andre Bishop's redemption story felt so great to battle through, and it'll be a tough act for Undisputed to have to follow.

I noticed some areas that needed a bit of work. On my PC, at least, some bugs and crashes impacted my experience a little. Upon going into the menus to reduce the graphics quality and reduce slowdown, the lighting began to completely obscure my view for the rest of the fight, making it completely unplayable. Nothing to be too worried about, of course. This is the sort of thing early access is for, after all.

I also feel as though there's a slight risk of cheese strategies becoming a bit too much of the Undisputed experience. I took part in the Froch v Groves Prize Fight on Pro difficulty (the second-highest), and against the computer, it felt like the only things that work are a bit spammy. My hooks were just not landing no matter how I set them up, and I eventually knocked Saint George down repeatedly by repeatedly firing off straights - less of a unique style of fighting than I'd have liked. Thankfully, I didn't see this as being as relevant against a human opponent though - maybe the CPU just needs to adapt to different styles better.

Wilder raises his arms in Undisputed
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Almost a knockout

Undisputed has a great deal of potential. Like a Super Heavyweight Olympic gold medalist, this game could make it to the top of the world or get knocked off its perch depending on how its route through early access goes. The fighter selection is decent, but I'd love to see more in there. Much like real-life boxing, I fear that licensing and contractual issues will get in the way of this, however.

Online functionality needs to be seamless and user-friendly (I haven't been able to try it in the preview period). Post-launch support needs to be high-quality as well - unique scenarios, challenges, and reasons to keep coming back to the game are key to Undisputed's ongoing success.

We'll see how it all goes. From what I've seen so far, though, I'm optimistic about Undisputed's ability to succeed in what it sets out to do. We'll find out soon enough.

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