Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is closing in on you at frightening speed. Sweat is dripping over his heavily-tattooed muscles. He wants to hurt you - perhaps by bending one of your arms the wrong way, or more likely by simply hitting you in the head until you stop moving. Your face is already puffed and swelling from the vicious beating Mr Rampage gave you in the last round. This time he's going to shut you down for good.
But you're ready. As Jackson steps into range, you unleash a vicious kick to the left side of his head. He staggers. You hit him again, this time using your other foot to deliver an unstoppable roundhouse. Your heel connects with Jackson's skull, and consciousness departs. A plastic mouthguard flies across the octagon as the big man falls, toppling like a felled tree. You've just become the light heavyweight champion of the UFC - the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
When it comes to UFC Undisputed, the question to ask yourself is this: "Do I like kicking people in the head?" If your answer is yes (with regards to video games, obviously) then you should probably take a look. Among other things, Undisputed is one of the best head-kicking simulators I've ever played. Often 3D fighting games will struggle to convey the cause-and-effect brutality of what happens when one man hits another, but here every blow feels weighty and solid. Whether it's a rising knee, an arching kick or a fierce elbow to the face, you'll feel the impact of every strike you give or take.
Let's back up a bit. The UFC is a mixed martial arts organisation that attracts fighters from a range of disciplines. A UFC fight will generally consist of either three or five rounds, each lasting five minutes, with the winner determined by a knockout, a submission (forcing your opponent to quit) or by judges' decision. Due to the varied nature of the sport and its participants, any two matches may be remarkably different. Some fighters choose to focus on boxing and standing combat styles, while others attempt to defeat their opponent via Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and martial arts that focus on chokes and holds. In practice, most successful fighters have a mix of styles, since you'll never really know how an opponent may approach you.
Undisputed's success in mimicking this versatility is arguably its greatest strength. Whether you're using one of the 80-odd UFC stars or a character of your own design, you'll ultimately have to learn to how to fight in several different stances and situations. Each fighter is trained in two disciplines - one based around striking (boxing, kickboxing and muay thai), the other focused on grappling (wrestling, Judo and BJJ). Most gamers will find the first set of styles the easier to pick up and use, since their controls closely resemble most boxing games on the market. The face buttons govern attacks with your left and right hands and feet, while the shoulder bumpers and triggers are used for blocking and for modifying your strikes. Most moves will combo together easily, but you'll require smart timing and a range of tactics to slip past your opponent's guard.
So far so straightforward, but things get a bit more complicated once you end up on the floor. Whether you deliberately tackle a rival with a takedown or simply get knocked to the floor, you'll eventually find yourself sprawled on the canvas with your limbs wrapped around the other fighter. There are around 20 different positions you might find yourself in, and they all have their own opportunities and risks. As a general rule, the idea is to get yourself into an offensive position and then either knock your opponent out or bend their arm/leg/neck in a way that makes them submit. A move that takes you from one position to another is known as a transition; by making quarter circle or 120 degree motions with the right stick, you can attempt a minor or major transition to a better setup. By clicking the right stick in, you can try for either a submission move (if you're on the attack) or a reversal (if you're defending and trying to escape).