Early Access Game Preview: Undisputed feels like a promising return for boxing games

Originally announced as eSports Boxing Club, Undisputed looks to fill a large hole in the sporting games market. With certain games like Big Rumble Boxing and the Creed Champions spin-off trying their best, it’s been over a decade since a traditional boxing game has graced any platform. Fight Night Champion still scratches that itch for me up until this very day, but in recent weeks, Undisputed has been slowly steering me away in a new, promising direction for boxing fans to look forward to.

While still in early access and only currently available on PC, Undisputed gives players the chance to take part in single exhibition matches and online play, with the ability to choose from a number of licensed boxers through multiple weight classes. While the heavyweight class will tout most of the famous and notable names in the sport, there’s still an impressive amount of over 50 male and female athletes to choose from, with more on the way. I took to bouncing back and forth between Tyson Fury and Muhammad Ali, regularly pitting them against each other to see who packed the bigger punch.

After a brief introduction to the game’s controls and the general flow of each match, Undisputed makes its inspiration incredibly clear thanks to its controls. Much like the latter EA Sports’ Fight Night games, players will utilise the right analogue stick to choose and throw punches. While the face buttons will still be available to players comfortable with a more traditional control scheme, there’s no doubt that returning boxing fans will feel right at home with the intuitive combinations this approach allows. Shoulder buttons also control blocking and weaving for counter punches, with a dedicated shoulder button allocated to throwing lower punches toward the body.

Throw the right stick forward for jabs and straights, while bringing it out to each side and around for the top for hooks and uppercuts. It feels incredibly satisfying to throw punches in bunches, particularly when they land from the right distance. Players will also manage their stamina, health, and even heart rates throughout each round. The harder fighters push, the quicker their heart rate becomes and the faster their stamina will drain, leaving them vulnerable to being stunned and even knocked down.

Damage has also been redefined to bring an added layer of depth and analysis to each fight. While you’ll be able to damage fighters and lower their health bar over the course of a few rounds, fighters will also need to manage individual sections of the body, each with their own smaller health bar. This health bar usually only pops up when that area is attacked, and will drain much quicker when attacked repeatedly. As this bar shows up in the HUD, both fighters and their opponents will become aware of such damage, forcing one of two things; for the injured boxer to defend that area with extra care, or for the attacking boxer to hone in on a singular spot.

As a result, many of these encounters feel like transactions. Repeatedly attack a boxer’s weaker points and you’ll drain your stamina at an alarming rate, leaving you open to more critical and devastating punches. Pushing the pace and raising your heart rate will also force the stamina bar down, making it harder to recollect. It definitely mimics the sweet science, without ever feeling overbearing or complicated.

Visually, Undisputed is looking great. Facial animations and details certainly capture the likeness and essence of boxers past and present, while polished textures and impressive lighting highlight the beads of sweat and glossy coat over a boxer’s torso in the latter stages of a fight. The performance leaves a little more to be desired, with frame rate drops the general culprit, seemingly occurring out at random. It’s not necessarily game-breaking, and can certainly be attributed to the early access nature of the experience thus far.

Final Thoughts

While Undisputed only leaves us with raw gameplay as opposed to a wealth of modes and content, it’s undoubtedly a very promising look at what can only be considered the grand return of the sweet science. Uneven frame rate and lack of modes aside, Undisputed controls great thanks to the return of the intuitive anaolgue stick system, multiple HUD systems, and nuanced looks at the condition of a boxer and their vulnerable areas.

With no official release date at the time of writing, Undisputed will also look to launch on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One sometime in 2023.

Matthew Arcari

Matthew Arcari is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. You can find him on Twitter at @sirchunkee, or at the Dagobah System, chilling with Luke and Yoda.