So you wanna be a fighter?
The first of these improvements come from the aforementioned standing clinch game. Previously it was unnecessarily difficult to transition in and out of different positions, but in UFC Undisputed 2010 it’s very similar to the excellent ground game. By performing specific movements on the right stick you’ll be able to transition and battle for better positions in order to land the best strikes and possibly score some crucial takedowns. It’s a much needed improvement, and when you factor in the actual Octagon as a weapon, the clinch game becomes a substantially more viable option for your fight-specific game plan. You’ll now be able to pin your opponent up against the cage and extract some damage there as they struggle to escape. And if you’re on the defensive, the cage can become a useful tool to push-off and re-gain control once things are taken to the ground.
And the ground game now feels considerably more improved as well, with more responsive controls and refined feedback. However, it’s the submissions that have seen the greatest change with some added depth and complexity. Now you can transition from one submission to another, forcing your opponent to quickly change his method of escape on the fly. Once again, it’s only a minor tweak, but combine each refinement together and collectively they add plenty of intricacy to combat, while the augmentations to the control scheme mean it crucially remains understandable and easy to perform. Even the stand-up striking has seen some enhancement with the implementation of a new swaying system. This allows you to get in close to your opponent and duck and weave to avoid heavy blows before countering with some of your own. It’s extremely satisfying to perfectly dodge an attack before striking your unsuspecting opponent with a brutal knock-out blow, greatly enhancing the fairly basic blocking system in place in UFC 2009, and making boxers a more attractive option.
Though, this year you’re not confined to the rigid selection of fighting techniques from before. When it comes to creating your own fighter, instead of picking from the likes of muay thai, ju-jitsu, boxing, wrestling and so on, and sticking to each style’s collection of moves, you can now customise your move set and combine multiple fighting techniques together into one fighter. So, you can be an effective boxer in the stand-up game, whilst your ground game might consist of decent wrestling moves and ju-jitsu submissions. It allows an abundance of freedom so you can really create the fighter you want and focus on specific areas of combat. By the end of the career you can wind up with a host of deadly muay thai kicks and knees, brutal boxing knockouts and agonisingly painful ju-jitsu arm bars and chokes; or you can simply focus on one key area and master it to perfection, becoming a specialist in one fighting discipline.
Of course, to learn this collection of moves and techniques you’ll need to get down to the gym and train up. That’s where the twelve-year long career comes into play, and it’s a big improvement over last year’s iteration. In UFC 2009 the career mode was cluttered down by a plethora of useless e-mails and annoying trunk customisation as you attempted to satisfy various sponsors. There were way too many lengthy loading screens between each screen, so just navigating the redundant menus was an unnecessary contrivance. In UFC 2010 things have gone back to the drawing board, resulting in a lot less clutter and ample amounts of fighting, depth and personality. Once you’ve spent time creating your tattooed beast you’ll start at the bottom of the food chain, competing in amateur fights before moving into a minor league and eventually the UFC. There’s a decent story ark complete with a few minor cutscenes with your trainer and UFC President Dana White; plus, you can pick a voice for your character and choose from a selection of RPG-lite answers in post-fight interviews. These help provide an appreciative amount of personality for your fighter, especially when a few losses can see your beloved bruiser fall out of the UFC.
Throughout the twelve-year career you’ll face many opponents, eventually making your way to the top of the sport, winning belts and even changing weight divisions for an extra challenge. To prepare for each fight you’ll need to train, spar and head to many famous gyms across the world to work on learning new moves and improving upon your existing ones. Training is automatic, adjusting your strength, speed and cardio, while sparring will help you improve upon your stats. This setup works fine and you won’t spend too much time with either, allowing minimal downtime between each fight. The problem is there’s too much complexity here. With 18 different stats to apply points to, there are a lot of attributes to boost, and each and every stat will decrease over time. You have to constantly monitor each stat, and this happens even when you’re a young fighter starting out, so those first few years can be fairly tough as you struggle to improve. Some may enjoy this amount of depth and challenge but it seems wholly unnecessary and detracts from the overall experience of the career mode. However, this is the only minus point levelled at a much-improved single player campaign.
The other game modes fair similarly well with the “ultimate fights” mode making a re-appearance. Here you can rewrite or relive certain famous fights, fulfilling context sensitive objectives to unlock additional content. It’s an enjoyable mode with impressive presentation showcasing the build-up and aftermath of each fight, and there’s some quality content to unlock even if the videos aren’t always that long. Other game modes, such as the event mode, let you create your own pay-per-view events, building your own fight cards and seeing the same UFC-style presentation you’d expect to see on TV. It’s definitely a competent single player package, but away from the career mode most of your time will probably be spent online, fighting against human opposition. It’s here where UFC Undisputed 2010 succumbs to failure where it should be succeeding, due to some suspect net code. UFC 2009 was the same and this year’s iteration hasn’t learned from past mistakes. Some fights will be fine, while others - against the same opponent - will be dragged down by terrible lag. When it works it works fine, but more often than not the lag destroys the experience. Hopefully a patch can rectify the problems, but until then UFC 2010’s multiplayer is a severe disappointment.
Luckily, the presentation is also on par with last year’s game. Each of the game’s one-hundred plus fighters look fantastic, from reigning heavyweight champion and cover-star Brock Lesner, through to fan favourites Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva and even Kimbo Slice, for some bizarre reason. There are a few problems with fighters hands clipping through heads, but this is only a minor complaint in an extremely polished game. Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan return to the commentary booth and do a good job describing the action, though they’re not very specific, often commenting on fighter injuries without mentioning who’s sustained it. Not particularly helpful when you can’t tell yourself. However, they do a good job keeping up with the action; and while the basic menu music isn’t as good as last year’s officially licensed soundtrack, the sound design throughout is still top notch.
And that’s a sentiment that applies to the rest of UFC Undisputed 2010. With myriad tweaks and refinements to a sublime combat system and a much-improved career mode, UFC 2010 is a fantastic single player experience. The poor net code is a disappointment that drags the score down a touch, but as a complete package this is the ultimate recreation of Mixed Martial Arts. EA’s very own MMA game has some tough competition.