The console incarnation of UFC Undisputed 2010 delivered the best gaming MMA experience yet, so its portable incarnation is being held up to a pretty high standard. Unfortunately, the pocket-sized version of the game doesn’t come close to equaling the experience found in its console brethren in any area. Some parts of the game are more accurately recreated than others, but the experience as a whole isn’t nearly as satisfying as it is in the full console versions.
The biggest problem with the core gameplay is the control setup. The console versions made use of every button on the 360 and PS3 pads, and the PSP only has one analog stick, and it can’t be clicked in, so right off the bat, you know concessions are simply going to have to be made to get the game on the PSP - either in the form of reducing the amount of things you can do or in double up some buttons to make up for the lack of buttons compared to the console pads. Yuke’s chose the latter, and as a result, the control scheme is very clunky.
You can do nearly everything you could in the full game - just nowhere near as easily. The d-pad now controls your movement instead of taunts, which have been removed (no great loss there), while the face buttons control your strikes, L allows you to attack the lower half of the body, while R enables more powerful attacks usually to the head, but sometimes to the body depending on the fighter. Pressing Circle and Triangle now acts as the submission initiation, while spinning the analog nub cinches it in and enables you to win. The analog nub is also what you use, along with L, to dive for a takedown, and the nub is used in your ground game to transition from one position to another.
This setup allows Yuke’s to bring the full gameplay experience to the PSP in theory, but in execution, it’s far too awkward to go from moving with the D-pad and trying to properly position yourself and then quickly shifting to flicking the analog nub and the L button for a simple takedown. Let’s say you get the takedown and can go for a submission from that position immediately - now you have to click Circle and Triangle, which works very well, then you have to spin the analog nub quickly. This is already a chore to do on the system due to its small size and as players of any Street Fighter series game on the system will attest to, spinning the stick accurately isn’t the easiest thing in the world either. The controls are serviceable in theory, but a nightmare in execution.
Career mode is pretty much unchanged from the console versions, which is both good and bad. It’s good because nothing is lost, but the loading times are so excessive that playing through it isn’t very practical. You can expect loading times of about a minute to load every playable part of the mode, from the manual training to sparring to the actual fights. The developers give you quite a few warnings about the game’s long load times before you even get to the start menu, and you can opt to either install the game on a memory stick or streamline the presentation to lower them.
Visually, the presentation is shockingly similar to the console versions. Some minor changes were made that don’t affect gameplay - like removing the ref during the fight, eliminating character animations on the select screen, and slightly simplifying the menus. The character models are really hit and miss - their attire looks fantastic, with legible text and easy to see designs on the fighters’ gear, but all of the tattoo work looks awful. The designs come out very muddy, and even tattoos that are just text, like Cain Velasquez’s chest tattoo, are a mess and can’t be read. Character animation has taken a slight hit as well, and it’s one of the reasons the PSP version isn’t as satisfying as the console versions. When huge shots connect, they simply don’t have the visual oomph that they did before.
Heads don’t recoil as violently, and instead of having realistic animations tell the story told by a massive right hook, screen shaking is used as a substitute - it certainly works to a degree, but not as well. Bleeding is intact, but has been downgraded. You no longer see cuts on the face being preceded by bruises, and bruises to the ribs after a lot of working the body with punches, knees, kicks, and elbows that were so satisfying to see before are gone. They’re one of those little touches that you appreciate, but you don’t realize how much they added to the experience until you see the game presented without them.
The play-by-play and color commentary from Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan that has made the console iterations so enjoyable to listen to is flat-out gone. Cinematic voiceovers remain in the career mode, but the commentary that added so much to the overall experience is gone. The stellar sound effects that drove home the devastation of a well-placed blow have also been severely downgraded and now lack impact. However, the crowd does a decent job of making a lot of noise during a particularly vicious strike, which at least does something aurally to convey the damage done by a blow.
While this portable incarnation is very disappointing overall, I did find myself enjoying the Ultimate Fights mode more than I thought I would. The lineup of fights has been reduced, but what’s here is still satisfying, and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing the Cro Cop-Gonzaga video package showing Cro Cop high-kicking the daylights out of dudes on the PSP. The videos themselves don’t suffer much at all in the transition to the small screen either - they’re still razor sharp, although I think they could have saved some space and easily streamlined the Octagon girls’ intros to each fight to just text. That really stuck out to me as something that wasn’t needed given how many things they cut out.
Online fighting is intact, but has also been cut down severely. You can’t take part in fight camps anymore, and are limited to ad-hoc play. So unless you know people with a PSP and with this game, odds are, you won’t be able to partake in this mode. I’m in that boat, unfortunately, so I’m not sure if there’s much lag.
At $40, it’s impossible to recommend the PSP version of UFC Undisputed 2010. With some retailers charging that much for the console version brand-new, it’s ridiculous to pay the same price for a vastly inferior version of it. In its present form, it’s just a poor rendition of a fantastic game. If you buy it for a low enough price, you’ll get your money’s worth out of it just by recreating classic fights on the go. Playing Lesnar-Mir fights sure beats reading Time in a doctor‘s office, but it would appear Yuke’s simply tried to do more than the PSP could comfortably handle and the game really suffers for it. I commend them for clearly trying very hard to bring the home experience to the platform, but a variety of hardware limitations cripple the experience.