The video game debut and retirement of Kimbo Slice
Once upon a time there was a little boy in named Dana, and this boy had great dreams. “One day, I’m going to be the bravest bald man alive. And god do I hate that Tito kid!” So he worked, and struggled, and toiled, and knew some people who owned some casinos, and they bought a strange organization called Ultimate Fighting Championship. And through a combination of blood, sweat and tweets, he transformed this small haven of underground boring Royce Gracie fights to a mainstream epicenter of boring Anderson Silva fights. And now they make a stupid amount of money on UFC merchandise, run twenty-hundred UFC shows a year and now have an annual video game.
THQ and Yukes, whom somehow made a vastly superior Mixed Martial Arts game on their first try than their tenth annual wrestling game, return for UFC Undisputed 2: More Undisputed Than Ever. The good news is that most flaws that may have, errr, disputed UFC Undisputed’s gameplay have been addressed. The bad news is that Fedor Emelianenko’s people still make ridiculous demands that keep him from fighting in the UFC. And I guess the game has flaws too.
Career mode, for example, has seemingly been improved and scaled back, in a manner that reminds me of past career mode failures in the Smackdown vs Raw series. Menus have been streamlined and load times scaled back, meaning the downtime between fights is reduced and you are less pre-occupied with reading e-mails and having boring sparring sessions. The bad news is that your stats manipulate themselves in a strange fashion; whatever stats you don’t invest points in will actually regress over time, forcing you to carefully spread points earned in training sessions over 16(!) different attribute bars. This kind of bizarre micromanagement wore me out on career mode, and slowed down what was already a rather lengthy process of turning a shlump kid who gets picked last in school dodgeball into the next generic tattooed fighting sensation.
Just like in last year’s game, though, the upside to Undisputed is that the game so accurately recreates each fighter that you don’t need Career mode. You can just as easily amuse yourself through piecing together one dream match together. For example, you can virtually tell Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva to stop being BFFs and fight each other in a conflict that could shatter televisions across the nation from the sheer weight of boredom should such a fight occur. You don’t even need to look at those 16 bars, either; a regular UFC fan can have the faith that each fighter is true to form and can base your in-game strategies on real life tactics. You can assume, for example, that you don’t want to let Jon Fitch take you down and hump you to tears.
And just like in last year’s game, the gameplay is an accurate recreation of Mixed Martial Arts…is what the marketing taglines might say. This game doesn’t quite reflect the sport so much as depicts what Dana White wishes MMA would be. Any given virtual fight will have both fighters throwing a trillion punches back and forth, the kind of brawls that make the Sports Legacy Institute wince with terror. Even the ground game features both fighters constantly squiggling for positions like two angry wrestling earthworms. Mind you, I shall not complain, for I’d rather be entertained than have virtual Tito Ortiz lay and sleep on my arse. I’ve had one fight go to the judge’s decision in my entire play time, and it was an Ultimate Fights Challenge with said Huntington Beach Bad Boy. However, he did not cite his cracked skull or other injuries as reason for defeat.
Speaking of, Ultimate Fights did become my single-player experience of choice. The player is given the chance to recreate a famous past encounter as the winner or loser, and a list of optional goals like “score three takedowns” or “endure Joe Rogan’s stand-up comedy.” (Fortunately not a real goal.) Each fight is given an introduction by one of the UFC ring girls; beautiful ladies with the charisma of bricks. Afterwards, the actual pre-fight promo video plays, and it’s hard to not get amped up for your digital encounter after hearing the real life dude lay the virtual trash talk. It’s a seemingly small detail that just does wonders to get me excited about an upcoming battle.
Other new features include a more easy-to-comprehend clinch system that mirrors the ground game’s right analog stick squirming system, and no more mashing buttons for submissions. New to the list of fighters in 2010 are Dan Hardy’s mohawk, Shane Carwin’s receding hairline and Kimbo Slice’s beard. Savor this one folks, because Kimbo may not appear in another UFC game again. For whatever reason (perhaps discrimination against obesity) TUF 10 alumni Roy Nelson is only available as pre-order bonus. The Playstation 3 version of the game gets exclusive dibs on fighting legends like Royce Gracie and Dan Severn, as well as such minor events as Lesnar/Mir 2 and St Pierre/Penn 2 in their entirety. (Brock’s post-fight line about Coors Light was tragically edited out.) Why they’re PS3 exclusive, I don’t know. To make up for the lousy online servers?
About the online play then. In theory, fighting other Sherdog message board hounds that think they know anything about MMA is still the main attraction here. You can now join camps, which sound like ranked clans of sort, and I guess it’s a neat idea. A neat idea I’ll never try in practice on account of broke friends and my renting this game, but alas. The netcode is a pain, or at least it’s a pain in on the PS3 version (just like it is with the Smackdown games), where matchmaking always scrambles under pressure and it takes many, many minutes staring at the background video of random fight clips before I found a challenger. Mind you, the game rarely lags when you do start a session, but these were problems I never endured when I played last year’s game on the Xbox 360.
Also, a note on this Octagon pass code business. I’m not entirely adverse to the concept of one-time use codes, but I was the first person to rent this specific copy of this game, and it will forever deck my conscience knowing I robbed a future fight fan of the online experience. And that there is a one-time-use code is poorly advertised; the player whom attempts starts an online game will be transported to the PSN Store and asked to spend additional money, rather than use the code on the back on the manual. Much like Paul Daley’s tactics in his fight with Josh Koscheck, that can’t be legal.
Oh, that introductory cutscene is a laugh. It’s the game’s original trailer, with the fighters talking tough and morphing into each other. I couldn’t help but chuckle as Tito Ortiz’s massive chin morphed into formation.
If you didn’t already own a UFC game before, than Undisputed is the one to buy, if through default. With all due respect to the people working on EA Sports MMA, I have no desire to ever look at a digital Jake Shields, so this is the game to stick with. But the decision to upgrade from last year’s model may be difficult, and depends entirely on how enthusiastic you were about the previous game. Anything less than a strong passion for digitally plucking at Kimbo’s beard may not be motivation enough to make the purchase.
3 ½ stars