Last year’s inaugural UFC Undisputed was a revolutionary MMA game that furthered the genre more than I ever could have imagined. The 2010 follow-up improves upon the rock-solid foundation found there, and fine-tunes it by adding a lot of little things that make a big difference both in and out of the Octagon.
The gameplay is technically very similar to last year’s game, so anyone who has played the first will have an idea of what to do instantly, but a lot of little changes have been made that give the game an instant learning curve even for series vets. Swaying has been added, which allows you to duck and weave out of the path of attacks while also setting up new ones for you makes learning this carefully-timed technique worthwhile and really adds a whole new layer to the stand-up game. Yuke’s also made the game more balanced than last year’s installment, which saw anyone with a high kick wind up as a world-beater due to how overpowered that move was. It’s been toned down a bit so that one kick isn’t going to instantly KO someone unless it hits absolutely perfectly. Fighters have been given more of a personal touch this time around, so things like distinctive stances (like Machida) and particular ways a fighter does a regular move (GSP’s high kick) are included and makes each fighter seem like a more accurate rendition of their real-life counterpart. More grappling positions have been added, and allow you to do things like throws and German suplexes behind a foe, or even recreate the Lesnar-Couture fight ending where Randy’s head went up and down like a basketball due to Brock’s punches.
Submissions have changed a bit since ‘09 - you can no longer mash the face buttons (or cheat by using a turbo controller) to win with one, resulting in the right stick controlling all submissions. The constant spinning on the stick probably isn’t good for controllers or those who blister easily, but this does prevent folks from having an unfair advantage online. You can also now have flash submissions that come out of nowhere, and submission transitions, where one move can be started at the tail end of another to secure a victory. All of these changes result in a more realistic submission setup than before. The cage itself plays a major role in fights now as well. Last year, the cage was essentially just visual and wasn’t very interactive. This year, it’s an environmental hazard that is more important here than in any other MMA game, and allows you to trap foes against it for heavy strikes, throws, or even use your feet against it to escape positions. It might not seem like much, but when you first get into a clinch and force your foe back, then punch them against the fence before brutally slamming them to the mat, you’ll get your first taste of how big a difference this seemingly small change can make in the game.
Career mode has been changed up, and now sees you go from the amateurs, to the minor league Zuffa-owned WFA, to the UFC instead of just starting you out on Ultimate Fight Night cards. It also features more voice work and is a more expansive career mode than last year’s, which was basically a bunch of sparring, fights, and menu-based training. The camp system alone really changes things up. Last year, you were pretty much locked into your moveset, although you could improve your skills to make better use of them. Now, you can pick from dozens of camps, including Tito Ortiz’s “Team Punishment”, and learn specific techniques from each camp, with many techniques being shared because they’re MMA standards. You learn moves by performing whatever striking or grappling action is on-screen - a simple, but an efficient way to learn the move and also improve your own timing at the same time.
This new setup is far better than last year’s because it allows you to truly custom-make your fighter’s moveset and give him whatever attacks you want. So if you’d like a fighter to be a complete striker with a massive punch and kick arsenal and few ground attacks, or you’d like a more well-rounded one, you can. You can also ignite rivalries with the interactive post-fight interviews where you can either give props to or knock someone. It really adds to the authenticity, as does the announce team bringing up your fighter’s history. If you’ve got a fighter with an unbeaten streak who hasn’t had a fight go to a decision, that will be brought up. It’s not a huge deal, but it is a little touch that I like a lot.
New to the series (outside of the career mode) are championships. Completing a ladder of fights in the Title mode is rewarding in and of itself since the competition gradually gets tougher, but it unlocks the even more rewarding title defense mode that mimics a survival mode and sees you face off with 12 rivals in four groups of three. In both of these modes, damage carries over from fight to fight, so if you suffer a great deal of damage in your first fight, you’ll have to either fight defensively for the next couple of fights or just go all out and hope you can destroy your foe before they can do any damage to you in order to fully recover.
However, in title defense mode, you can’t save before each fight - this element makes it the game’s greatest offline challenge, and far more addictive than I expected it to be. It’s easy to get hooked on progressing just one more letter grade in a play session…and then that single play session turns into a few hours. Throughout this mode, you’ll also earn points you can use for the in-game shop, which allows you to buy items ranging from virtual UFC trading cards or stock up on things for created fighters. Everything from shirts, to fighter mannerisms, and call names that should please both pro wrestling and MMA fans like “the Hitman”, “the Dragon”, “the Sandman”, “the Natural”, and “the Last Emperor” can be applied to your creation
Also new is the Event mode, which acts like a create-a-PPV mode in THQ’s WWE games, only with a far better presentation. Here, you can make cards of one to eight fights, pick the venue and referee for each fight (a welcome addition to offline fights as well), determine if they’re title fights or not, and get an authentic UFC PPV presentation. The show will start off with the gladiator intro, then go to a video package of the fighters in the main event before moving cageside to Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg as they discuss the night’s card and rundown the rules of the UFC. An interactive pre-show poll is also shown, which leads to the usual pre-fight graphics coming up. There are even awards given out for knockout, submission, and fight of the night.
Unfortunately, one flaw in this presentation is the lack of full fighter intros - they were in the earliest UFC games, but haven’t been in the latest ones, and it hurts things a bit. It sticks out badly here because they really nailed every other aspect of the pre and post-fight presentation, right down to the between-round discussions a fighter has with their corner and the gear the fighters have on as the winner is announced, but for whatever reason, the all-important cage entrances aren‘t included. I wouldn’t expect the PPV-only fighter music to be included due to rights issues, but I don’t have a problem with that being replaced by the game’s soundtrack given how epic it is here, it would actually be an improvement over many of the songs used for the real-life fighter intros. Hopefully it’s something they add to the next installment, because full intros really can make a big fight seem larger than life and it hurts the games slightly to not have that represented.
The online setup is a substantial improvement from last year, and provides some innovative options on top of the expected ones. The camp system from the career mode is integrated into the online game and allows you to create and name camps, design the banner that is displayed before fights, and reach team-based milestones online. You’ve also got a wide variety of solo online goals as well, which add a lot of replay value to the game and in the case of the team-based ones, also give everyone in the camp an incentive to raise their game so they don‘t wind up as the weak link in the chain. You can also download official UFC cards made in the Event mode. Online play is mostly lag-free, which is great for a game that is so timing-sensitive. However, whenever lag rears its ugly head, it really bogs things down. Luckily, that doesn’t happen much. The one-time use code used to access the online features is free for new copies, and costs a mere $5 for those who either buy it used or rent it. Despite the many improvements made in the online features, there’s still some room for improvement. Taking a cue from their WWE games, a screenshot taking/online sharing tool would be great for capturing classic moments, and the ability to upload and download created fighters would be nice as well.
‘09’s roster was loaded, and 2010’s is even better. While Randy Couture still isn’t able to be included, there are still over 100 fighters to choose from, including new additions like Kimbo Slice, Stefan Struve, Shane Carwin, Clay Guida, and Jon “Bones” Jones which help make up for his exclusion. Last year’s roster also looked fantastic with a few exceptions, like Tito Ortiz, but 2010’s roster is better-looking than before, especially when it comes to faces. Guys with weathered faces, like Cro Cop and Minotauro Nogueira have some of the most impressive character models because of how accurate they are. Unfortunately, like last year, there are no alternate attires. Hopefully that’s something they add into future games, because it would be neat to have different visual eras of at least the main event-level guys represented in the game. Attack animations are excellent as well, and the personalized attacks really make each character look and feel like the real deal. The sick-looking, massive cuts that populated the face of many a fight in Undisupted ’09 are much rarer, possibly due to the inclusion of doctor stoppage for cuts and possible excessive blood loss. A cut as deep as some of the ones that would reveal facial tissue in ‘09, will now stop the fight. This is a mixed blessing, as those were pretty cool to see, but the inclusion of doctor stoppage adds a lot of realism and unpredictability to fights, while also forcing the cut fighter to fight defensively - taking the player out of his element and forcing him to raise his game if he isn‘t used to playing like that. It also doesn’t affect blood splatter at all - it’ll still go all over the opponent and the canvas if you’ve got a decent cut. Menus have a cleaner look in 2010 than in 2009, and the addition of sub-menus to select which arena and ref you’d like to have for your fight adds a layer of user customization that wasn’t found in 2009.
Undisputed ‘09 had the best commentary and some of the best, most impactful sound effects I’ve heard in a game. The only thing holding the audio back was a soundtrack full of questionable rock songs. Well, now those have been done away with and replaced with gladiatorial songs that fit the UFC perfectly and make everything in the game seem more epic than before. The organic-sounding commentary that shined so brightly last year is back and manages to improve upon the original game’s thanks to the more personalized commentary for created fighters and continued use of the conversational dialogue for the in-game fighters. Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg sound just as they do during UFC broadcasts, and it’s pretty hard to ask for more than that. Similarly, the excellent sound effects from ‘09 are back and convey just as much damage as before - greatly enhancing the experience.
Owners of both next-gen systems are undoubtedly wondering which version to get, and I‘d say that the PS3 version slightly edges out the 360’s thanks to the addition of exclusive playable legends (Royce Gracie, Dan Severn, and Jens Pulver), and some full historic fights in HD quality on the disc (GSP-Penn, and Lesnar-Mir II among them). The striking controls are essentially equal on both versions, but the rubber tips on the PS3’s sticks make submissions slightly easier to do. No matter what system you own, UFC Undisputed 2010 is a must-have for MMA fans even if you haven‘t played the 2009 installment. It’s got a pretty fair learning curve to it, so newcomers won’t feel like they’re in over their heads instantly. The many improvements made by Yuke’s make this the smoothest-playing MMA game yet, and its robust amount of features and modes will keep players entertained for months.