Undisputed may not be done training, but it’s already a hard hitter – Hands-on impressions

The early returns much-hyped boxing game thus far are not shabby.

Image via Steel City Interactive

It’s been a long time since a realistic boxing game has been unleashed on PC and consoles. The last time EA released a game in Fight Night, probably the most prolific boxing simulator franchise, was the acclaimed Fight Night Champion in March 2011. But since then, a massive gap has been left in the world of sports games. That changed in 2020 when British-based indie studio Steel City Interactive announced that a new boxing game was in the works. Over two years since the announcement, Undisputed (previously known as eSports Boxing Club) hit the market via early access.

After time with the new game, it’s clear that there’s work to still be done on the title. But, there’s also a lot of potential given the early returns.

First steps into the ring

Image via Steel City Interactive

Let’s start off with the gameplay, which has shined thus far in the early access of Undisputed. Remember, this is no arcade game, so don’t expect to try any arcade tactics in order to win fights on a consistent basis. Undisputed’s gameplay includes six different control schemes, each representing a certain style of fighting. Plus, Undisputed features a heart rate monitor and stamina bar to indicate how gassed a boxer is in the ring.

All of this, along with relatively clean animations that accurately represent real-life blows — at least on the surface — create a rather promising product. The stamina and heart rate system bring strategy into play, something critical in any fight. One can’t just go full steam into a fight and try to inundate the opposition with relentless blows. Any simulation boxing game must reward players for having patience, skill, and quick trigger reactions. Undisputed does just that.

Now, you might be wondering about who can be used in fights. The early access release of Undisputed doesn’t include the entire roster that’s expected. A number of notable fighters, from the Klitschkos to Jake LaMotta of “Raging Bull” fame are not currently a part of the early access period, but they have been announced for the title. However, the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Tyson Fury, Joe Frazier, Deontay Wilder, and Muhammad Ali are among the available boxers in early access.

While Undisputed is still technically under development, I was impressed with the state of the gameplay and the graphics. Steel City Interactive still has some work to do, but as far as the gameplay is concerned, it’s a solid start.

Feels like a clinch

Image via Steel City Interactive

Given that Undisputed is in early access, bugs are to be somewhat expected. For one, the heart rate and stamina info wouldn’t show up in some of the venues. That made it a bit more difficult to attack, just on the premise that I didn’t know how much juice I had left in the tank. But, it’s something that should be fixed relatively quickly.

However, arguably the biggest issue with Undisputed is its performance, particularly on the Steam Deck. I should mention that the title is not verified on the Steam Deck  — thus, take this information for what it is. But on the platform, frame rate drops were a major issue. This became much more apparent in the title’s larger venues, where more objects and people flood the screen. That overload of observables, coupled with constant movements of the camera — a necessary evil given the sport and the flow of fights — made playing the game rather choppy and difficult to navigate.

We should note that there have been reports on social media of individuals having issues with the title on desktops as well, so this issue isn’t just isolated to the Deck. FPS problems can bring down the experience of any game, but that is truer than ever with a boxing game. A game like Undisputed requires fast reaction and response times — any technical or graphical glitches can impact that.

After the final bell

Image via Steel City Interactive

Steel City Interactive’s Undisputed is in an interesting position at the moment. Gameplay-wise, the title looks and feels quite good for what amounts to an unfinished product. Just on that alone, the future of the franchise is moving in the right direction.

On the other hand, it’s very hard to evaluate the totality of this product. For one, not all the fighters originally announced by Steel City Interactive have been added to the title. That can sting for some, especially boxing fans who want to use a particular fighter. However, that’s not the core issue.

Right now, all that players can do is either set up quick fights against the AI or jump into online matches. Steel City Interactive has hyped up a career mode for years, but it isn’t available at this moment in time. A great career mode can turn a good sports title into a great one — just ask anyone who played EA Fight Night Champion. Until additional game modes are added, it does feel more like a skeleton. But given that this is early access, that is also expected.

I have to say that overall, I’ve enjoyed Undisputed. Between the nuanced and skill-based fighting system, and a fair share of boxers to use, Steel City is in a solid position. But, there’s still more work to be done to rebuild the boxing game genre.