When THQ released last year’s UFC: Undisputed it was a revelation for the frothing, MMA loving masses that had yearned for a competent rendition of their favorite sport for years. With this success (and the burgeoning popularity of the sport in general) came the competition, and with industry giants EA preparing to release their own breed of MMA action all eyes were upon THQ to deliver in a big way. With Undisputed 2010, they’ve managed to up the ante in just about every way over last year’s version and deliver a product that will easily go toe to toe with any simulated pugilist on the market.
For starters, it’s clear that a huge push was made to improve on both the all around presentation and technical proficiency of the game. Gone are the horrendously frequent load times and back and forth menu trekking, replaced with a much cleaner and faster interface. The graphics have been tuned up a notch and all 100+ fighters are now individually modeled rather than being mostly created in the games CAF mode like last year. The fighters in general look great, and the damage effects are outstanding. Faces swell, bruise, and cut just like you’d expect and the blood flow adds to both the overall realism of the game and the impact of each blow.
Perhaps the most important part of the visuals for a fighting game is how the game animates. Undisputed delivers on this front as well. The animations for individual attacks are accurate and well modeled. Punches and kicks look different depending on the style of the fighter throwing them, and fighters respond realistically to incoming blows. The game does occasionally feature some somewhat jerky transition animations between various strikes. Mostly the animations flow together quite well, but occasionally there’s a degree of awkward stiffness. This never creates an actual gameplay issue, but it can visually distract from the realism.
While last year’s game played quite well inside the cage, 2010 takes it to the next level with some great improvements. They’ve added the ability to sway out of the way of incoming blows, increasing defensive prowess and opening up a wide variety of counter shots. The grappling has been somewhat simplified, making it easier to grasp without sacrificing the depth the original contained. Submissions are expanded, adding transitional submissions and a visual “seesaw” system that changes the onscreen action dynamically depending on how close you are to sinking in that choke or how close your opponent is to escaping. Unfortunately, the game still relies on the “shine” system of sinking in or escaping from submissions which is just as awkward and difficult as last years without the ability to mash buttons instead. Even a change as simple as rocking the stick back and forth would aid in making the system much more comfortable.
One of last year’s biggest omissions was the ability to use the cage to your advantage (or your opponents disadvantage as it were). Thankfully, that feature has been added as well and it completely changes the dynamic of the clinch system. Pushing your opponent into the cage via the clinch then dealing damage while he struggles against your onslaught feels just as empowering as it should. On the defensive side, the cage allows you to prop yourself up to prevent takedowns. Last but not least, gameplay from the mount position has evolved to allow either down postured or up postured positions. In the down postured position your fighter exerts a good deal of control over the positioning of the fighter on the bottom. It becomes nearly impossible for them to escape from the position, allowing you to throw some lighter blows while maintaining dominance. In the up postured position your fighter sacrifices this level of control for increased striking power. Good fighters will make use of both of these positions depending on the situation and it adds a great amount of depth to the ground game.
Perhaps the biggest complaint about last year’s game was the lack of real depth to the Create a Fighter and UFC Career modes. This is thankfully also the area of Undisputed that has seen the most improvement. No longer will your fighter have to settle for one of ten increasingly lame nicknames, now you’re created pugilist can choose from 50 nicknames and a selection of 100 first and last names all voiced by Bruce Buffer. Also gone is the cumbersome tattoo/logo system from last year’s game, replaced by a much simpler drag-and-drop system. Created fighters can now also select different stances and decide which hand will be their dominant striker. Fighters can now choose from several custom walking/movement styles as well, adding to the customization of your fighters look. Perhaps most importantly, your fighter is no longer pigeonholed into a single fighting style when it comes to grapples and strikes. Now your fighter can pick and choose a completely custom mix of techniques. This level of customization adds a lot of character to the CAF system, and allows for a fighter players can truly call their own.
The depth that has been added to the career mode cannot be overstated. This year’s career mode is certainly the primary draw to the game and should provide hours of entertainment for fight fans. During the span of the 12 year career (up from a max of 7 from last year) your fighter will make his way from the amateur ranks, up through the WFA and eventually to UFC championship gold. Along the way, both your fighter and the other fighters on the roster will age, causing a decline in attributes and eventually retirement. This is a big plus from last year’s game, where roster fighters were locked into their ages, making from some decidedly unrealistic bouts late in your career. Your character is also no longer locked into one weight class, allowing you to mix things up.
Perhaps the most impressive change in the career mode is the overall increase in the somewhat generic presentation from last year’s game. Your fighter will now get cutscenes showing personalities like Joe Rogan and Dana White himself. You’ll also have the ability to affect your relationships with other fighters by making respectful or disrespectful comments towards your opponents and thus creating rivals or friends. This aspect is quite important, as fighting against rivals or training with friends grants different benefits to your fighter. The game even features trash talking between fighters before the main event of PPV’s, adding a great deal to the realism of the game. Overall the career mode of Undisputed 2010 is an undeniable improvement over last year’s version and perhaps the best example of a career mode across any MMA/Boxing/Wrestling game I’ve played.
Even with all these improvements, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the career mode is what THQ is referring to as the “Game is Watching You’. This system underlies all of your actions both in and out of the octagon and customizes your experience to match. Throw too many left hooks, and your opponent will pick up on this pattern. They will then use it to their advantage by defending against the attack more effectively and countering it more often. Likewise, mixing up your shots will throw them off balance, allowing you to capitalize on their confusion. In addition GIWY will also affect commentary, close out most of your fights with a devastating submission, and you can be sure that Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg will bring that the “viewers” attention. Again like many of the changes already discussed this adds an unbelievable amount of realism to the game and really raises the bar on the overall presentation.
If you’re not a career mode kind of guy there’s a solid selection of other modes available as well. In addition to the standards like Quick Match and Tournament modes there’s also a great Event mode which allows you to create your own UFC PPV’s complete with prefight intro’s and pre main event trash talk. For those of you looking for the challenge of progression without the commitment of the career mode they’ve included Title Mode, which functions similarly to the Arcade Mode in a standard fighter like Tekken or Street Fighter. In this mode you fight through rungs of a ladder of fighters until reaching the final rung and winning the championship. Once you’ve completed Title Mode once, you unlock the survival style Title Defense Mode. It also features the return of the Ultimate Fights mode, allowing you to replay some of the greatest fights from the UFC’s somewhat recent history.
Of course the game also features a full selection of online modes as well. The most impressive of these modes involves the Online Fight Camps. These camps allow you to create a guild-like stable of fighters who stats are tracked as a team. You’ll also create a camp logo which will display on the camp banner behind your fighters before each match. Of course, if you’re more of a lone wolf head to head fighter, you’ll find the standard one on one matches, as well as the ability to download events based on real UFC cards.
With so many major improvements over last year’s title, it’s easy to recommend UFC: Undisputed 2010 to everyone from the hardcore fight fan to the casual enthusiast. The sweeping changes to the games career mode, the effort put in to increasing the quality of the presentation, and the incredible in ring action add a lot to an already great experience. With such a great foundation, UFC Undisputed has established itself as the clear frontrunner in the genre. EA’s MMA outing had better come with some serious heat, because UFC: Undisputed 2010 is in championship form and looking tough to beat.
Review copy provided by publisher.