Last year, UFC 2009 Undisputed arrived onto consoles and finally gave fans of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) a worthy videogame. Along the way, it even found itself some new followers. So with one success under its wing it was no surprise that the developers announced a sequel to follow in 2010, with the aim to further improve on the winning formula. But will it fall into the trap of most yearly sports titles and offer little more than a roster update, or will it truly set a benchmark for fighting simulations?
On paper it appears to have had changes made to almost all aspects of the previous title, especially to the gameplay. This includes a brand new sway system for evading your opponent’s strikes, a refined clinch (grapple) game utilising the analog stick to reduce the amount of control memorisation and a major redesign on the submissions to recreate the risk/reward strategy that better matches the actual sport.
All of these work very well but outline the intricacy of MMA and how although it has been translated successfully to a control scheme, it’s a bit overwhelming for newcomers. Luckily the game does have an extensive tutorial mode, but it neglects to fully explain the advantaged and disadvantaged positions. This does present a problem when this knowledge is the key to strategy in the Octagon arena and can lead to losses before the subtleties are apparent. Once everything clicks into place however there’s almost no fighting game out there that can match Undisputed’s variety and intense combat.
Once again players can take their own created fighter, constructed using the extensive creation tools, through a career in the UFC. Starting as an amateur combatant before being promoted to a pro, gamers get to experience the world of this popular sport. Not content with simply providing authentic presentation and match set ups, the developers have really excelled with the addition of media interest through interviews, asking your opinions on upcoming fights and the occasional filming of your training sessions. All of these require player participation and although they may not sound like much, it really puts you in the shoes of a true pro. Add these to the extensive training options, ability to learn moves from other camps and even the stat decay that takes place as you age to create a highly engaging career with a mass of longevity.
Outside of the career mode there are a number of other gameplay options including title mode, title defence, tournament mode, event mode and Ultimate Fights. All of these are solely focused on combat with slight variations to differentiate them. While the title mode acts a classic fighting game’s ‘arcade’ mode, title defense fills the role of a survival mode with event mode and tournament mode simply being templates for one-on-one matches and knock-out contests respectively. Ultimate Fights replaces Classic Fights from Undisputed 09, giving players the opportunity to replay famous fights while aiming to meet certain conditions. Fortunately the online side of things aims to provide a little more variety.
Players can not only play the usual array of ranked and unranked matches but they can also create and join ‘camps’. These provide a similar function to clans in other games and allow players to fight other camps and progress in leader boards as well as allowing members to train together and rank up within the camp. This brings together a successful yet rare combination of camaraderie and competition in equal measures. With enough enthusiasm from the community this potential could easily grow into a strong and dedicated following. Unfortunately there did appear to be a small amount of lag in some games when playing online, but it didn’t manage to spoil the action too much. Also a hiccup that appeared to be at its worst when connected online was a dramatic increase in load times.
The character models throughout are solid and detailed with bruises, sweat and blood all making an appearance to show off the brutality of the UFC action. The animation did manage to keep up in most cases with the vast array of moves although there were a number of occasions when the moves felt rigid and not as smooth as they could have been. The rest of the visuals were on par with the realistic feel of the game and the sound rounded this off nicely, from the thud of fists as they smash into faces to the pounding of bodies as they slam onto the floor. The commentary further impressed by not only responding believably to the action but also referring to past fights during the career mode to make you believe it’s truly personalised.
Despite the lengthy loading times (at least when connected online), lack of variation in game modes and sporadically stiff animations, UFC Undisputed 2010 is still an incredibly deep and satisfying game. Sadly it’s not as easy to pick up and play as other fighting titles and while this does a great job of mimicking the sport, it may take some players a while to get to grips with its complexity. However if they do invest in it they’ll find there is a lot of fun and rewarding brawling to be had. Coupled with the superb graphics, an engaging career mode, tons of customisation options and a fulfilling online mode, this certainly improves on its excellent predecessor in almost every aspect.