UFC Undisputed is back for another round, this time with an expanded roster, new animations, and finally, the ability to roll southpaw. Can 2010's entry improve on the foundation UFC Undisputed 2009 built, or should MMA fans tap out on Dana White's sweaty baby?
- Heavily detailed fighters and authentic presentation
- Gruesomely evolving injuries
- Combat is better streamlined and deeper
- Steep learning curve if you're more gamer than UFC junkie
- Despite bigger career mode, there's still room to improve
- Online Fight Camp makes an anemic debut
The virtual UFC has come a long way since 2002's UFC: Throwdown. The video game adaptation got a promising reboot with last year's surprise hit UFC Undisputed 2009. The follow-up, UFC Undisputed 2010, makes some improvements and throws in some new features such as combat tweaks, online “clan support,” and a bigger career mode (I’d be remiss to ignore an unlockable Shaquille O'Neal as well), but it repeats some of its predecessor’s sins and carries some real caveats for anyone other than the die-hard MMA fan. Your mileage will vary based on your love for the sport.
Karate Chops and Grapplesauce
Its core fighting mechanics are solid, but Undisputed 2010 misses the big picture by trading playability for realism instead of aiming for a better compromise between both. MMA is a deep, complicated sport, and it's important to represent it as such. But the barrier of entry is set a bit too high, and players who don't follow the sport religiously are going to find themselves left behind, even though the clinch and ground systems have been partially combined. Despite a long and droll tutorial, the game won't teach you what a single leg clinch cage is, so visually recognizing the positions as well as making the connection to what move you need to make to get out of them is a complete mystery to the average gamer. An optional pop-up tutorial would be far more ideal, notifying you what position you're in and how to work it to your advantage.
But for those who have put in time with last year’s virtual UFC and follow the sport religiously, you'll be pleasantly surprised by a few realistic and strategic improvements Yuke's has made. New to Undisputed 2010 is the ability to use the cage strategically by pinning your opponent against the wall to limit his movement and railing on him while he squirms. Instead of just blocking strikes, you're now also able to use your upper body to sway away from them and uniquely counterattack. Though the game isn't totally free of canned reactions, Undisputed 2010 boasts a much smoother flow.
The developers have done an amazing job of breathing life into the fighters. So much detail has gone into each individual combatant, from leg hair coarseness to a perfect recreation of the scar heavyweight Antonio Rogerio Nogueira received after being run over by a truck. Mercilessly wail on a struggling opponent's glass jaw and your pecs will glisten with the spilled blood of your enemy. There's real satisfaction to landing body kick after body kick and watching a blue and purple splotch spreading across a rival's torso. Reading injuries like this as weak points, then delivering blows to the affected area as your challenger visibly grimaces and doubles over, lends a primal motivation to your game.
Undisputed 2010's audio chips in on the satisfaction front as well. Not every hit lands with a beefy thud, but when you deliver a knockout spinning backhand, the game knows to put some real “umph” on it. Though the play-by-play can get repetitive, the audio commentators are on and energetic --even relating the fight to your performance in previous bouts. Joe "Fear Factor" Rogan clearly loves this game and his passion comes through in spades, even when conducting a one-sided virtual interview.
The Twelve-Year Itch
Career Mode is back with a few additions, including the interviews with Rogan. Between scheduled fights, you'll need to train by monitoring general stats like strength and speed, as well as sparring to boost individual skills like your standing strike offense. With only a few weeks between each bout, playing the numbers game and balancing fatigue with rest is essential to strategically maintain composure and become a better fighter. After a while, you'll fall into a pattern, and the time you put in at the gym becomes a bit like going through the motions.
Instead of seven years, your fighter's career will now last a dozen. To accommodate the extended length, you are now able to move into different weight classes once you've dominated your starting category. This is especially welcome after bout after bout of defending your belt against the same fighters. Instead of being forced to stick with two techniques (i.e., boxing and wrestling), you can invite trainers from other camps to teach you moves from other disciplines -- including brand-new techniques like Sambo and Karate. What you want to learn, and when you want to learn it, is up to you.
Some lady will email you several times between each fight, asking you to predict the outcomes of other fights or show her how many menial combat tasks you can perform in a given amount of time. Ignoring her becomes routine soon enough. After an important match, Joe Rogan will interview your fighter, giving you the opportunity to gain fans and credibility, or affect your relationship with other fighters. The option to disrespect the other fighter is a great idea. Unfortunately, the insults aren't very insulting at all, perhaps owing to cultural differences between American athletics and the Japanese developers at Yuke's. Rather than something akin to "I slightly dislike the cut of your jib," THQ needs to replace the disrespectful responses with taunts like "You are weak and I will murder your family as they sleep" and "Dustin Hazelett has mice in his beard." Whether you respect or disrespect an opponent has an effect on your relationship with that fighter, which relegates an element with a lot of potential to a mere statistic with seemingly no effect on the game. Past the stat-crunching and diversity, there’s a real drought of drama to the proceedings.
Ground and Pound
Other modes are more forgettable. To name a few, Event Mode allows for a single, multiplayer, or fully simmed event featuring several match-ups of your choice. Title Mode fits between the commitment of Career Mode and a one-off Exhibition match. You'll rise up a ladder of fighters, arcade-style, until you claim the belt. You can then defend it in Title Defense Mode. These two modes have what THQ refers to as a "paper doll" display, which shows where and how much you and your opponent were hit after each fight. I found this to be a useful strategy mirror, but eventually these modes run together and become just one more way of organizing the same fights.
Online play gets the added benefit of Online Fight Camps this go-around. Somewhat like a guild or clan, Fight Camps let players link up and track stats as an online team. You'll hit trophy-like milestones together (make the top ten overall fight camp ranking, etc.) and meet up to train and spar with each other. The Team Captain has the ability to promote and demote fighters within the camp, which affects whether or not recruits factor into the camp's ratings and which members can train other fighters. Beyond setting up a daily camp message and creating a banner, there isn't much to do in the way of customizing or immersing yourself in the camp experience. . I'd like to see Yuke's take this mode to the next level in the future: it's a great idea that would benefit from a deeper execution.
UFC Undisputed 2010 is the only game out there now, and it's not a bad one by any stretch. There’s new depth to the proceedings, such as the ability to use the cage as part of your strategy, and a pumped-up career mode. The realism and attention to detail in the fighters is also top-notch. If you’re a fan of MMA, there’s a lot more for you to find and enjoy here. If you’re a dabbler who’s mildly interested in the sport, you’ll be a little more detached from the proceedings and UFC Undisputed 2010’s issues will become even more readily apparent quite quickly. If you’re not well-versed in the sport, the learning curve is still steep, and while the career mode is improved and Online Fight Camps are off to a promising start, both aren’t as beefy as the other sections of the game. Yuke's would be well-suited to pump up those deficiencies soon, since they won’t be the only MMA game in town come UFC Undisputed 2011.