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Authentic to a fault

EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access

Authentic to a fault

Years ago, the sweet science was a video game staple. Boxing fans had a glut of both arcade and simulation experiences to enjoy, until that halted abruptly circa 2011. Undisputed aims to fix that by being both the only boxing game on the market, and the consensus all-time king of the ring.

Step Into The Ring

The nature of boxing doesn't lend itself well to a simulation game in 2023. MMA fighting has become the gold standard, making boxing look tame in comparison. The average onlooker is likely to see a slow-paced, awkward exchange with a relatively low number of punches thrown over the course of up to ten rounds. It's similar to soccer in that way, many people will look at it with bored eyes. It's the same reason the sport advertises gimmick fights hoping people tune in to watch an ex-YouTuber or UFC loud-mouth get what's coming to them.

Like a match on the pitch, though, boxing is extremely technical and varied, and Undisputed knows this. The first thing you'll notice is that an intent to come out swinging is a fool's strategy. The clips of the legends make it look easy, but boxing is incredibly exhausting, and managing the stamina battle is such an integral part. You want to slow the pace down, and your haymakers need to be well timed, if they're implemented at all. This is where the simulation of Undisputed hits back hardest. Boxing is about hitting and being hit, after all.

Eye Of The Tiger

So you've been outlasted in your first fight, and decide to engage in a good old-fashioned training montage. Sadly, Mickey isn't guiding this one, and you'll come away just a little disappointed. While the in-game tutorial tells you all you need to know about controlling your fighter and their fists, it does little to explain how a fight actually works. Basic tips such as "body shots hurt stamina, head shots hurt health" are a little too glossed over, and others are straight up omitted. You're set up to enter the ring against Tyson Fury as a doe-eyed rookie.

The control of your fighter should be commended though. Using modern technology to enhance movement turns what used to be two fighters squaring up to a fight in the entire ring. With additions such as quick escapes and what they're calling "Loose Movement," you can disengage to give yourself a breather, or bait your opponent into a trap. So much care was put into the footwork that you're likely to identify Ali's signature strut before you key in on how well-crafted his motion capture is as a whole. This care carries over to most, if not all, the other fighters as well.

This tech also allows just about every punch you throw or are thrown to feel different as well. While boxing in video games was largely a hit/block split, with true physics we're getting many more glancing blows, punching around guards, and deflects caused by different punch angles and distances. Unless you're stepping into the ring, this is as close as you'll get to actually boxing.

Fighting To The Top

Undisputed takes its simulation seriously. You need look no further than the number and calibre of partnerships listed on their website to see that. This is stellar for boxing fans, but has a similar level of impenetrability to novice fighters. It's a bit of a shame that at this point there's a minimal explanation of the sport itself, but getting into the ring feels good enough to ignore that. You're likely to take many defeats on your road to glory, but mastering the mechanics is just as satisfying as your first win. Then you can challenge fighters online for an increased challenge.

There's a lot to love about even the early access content present here, and there’s plenty to look forward to in the coming year. Character creation and a career mode are the highlights of the missing features, which will likely turn Undisputed into a must-buy for fans of realistic fighters. Even as it rises through the ranks, it's a fighter I highly recommend.

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There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.

Hooked Gamer's Steam Early Access forecasts are intended to help you differentiate between Early Access games that have the potential to blossom and those more likely to fail. We look at the team's ambitions, their track record, and the state of the latest build to predict if opening your wallet will help fund a potentially great game, or is better used to light other fires.