"So you wanna be a fighter?" Seldom has a catch phrase been as overused as in THQ's UFC Undisputed 2010, but the game also delivers on the promise of giving you a glimpse of what life as a professional cage fighter is all about.
The dilemma of portraying a sport like mixed martial arts is the diversity it offers. A fight can end in a five second flash knock out, it can be a wrestling affair for 15 minutes, there can be muay thai clinch action, dirty boxing against the fench, submissions on the ground, kicks to calves and thighs, and all of this needs to be balanced out to create a meaningful gaming experience.
THQ and Yuke's did a great job last year, and with just twelve months in between releases what have they improved? The pace is higher for one thing, and the submission game is more intricate, there are more fighter styles, and your options for customising your own ultimate fighter have been improved. This is definitely a step up from last year's game, but not a giant leap.
The presentation is an extremely accurate representation of what you would see in a UFC broadcast, even down to Mike Goldberg's repetitive comments (although they are hitting the mark more often in the game than when he comments an actual fight).
The fighters themselves are better represented as well, difficult to portray fighters like Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida behave much more like they would in a real cage this time around. The game is leaning a bit towards striking and fast finishes in the standing, but the player can be equally successful attempting to use take downs and submissions to his advantage. Something that is truly difficult is to try and use footwork and elusiveness to your advantage. Swaying to dodge punches and connecting with counters is a nice idea, and it takes a little getting used to.
There is a wide range of game modes from tournament mode, to title and title defence modes, and an event mode, but the main focus of my attention was the career mode. I created a fighter of my own 205 lbs. sensation Bengt "The Monster" Lemne from Stockholm, Sweden. After a couple of amateur fights I graduated to the World Fighting Alliance (a now defunct organisation), meanwhile I'm training at the gym with Marc Laimon (don't like him), sparring and learning tricks from some of the fight camps. For instance I learn a few moves from Lyoto Machida when training with Team Blackhouse, and I also pick up a few tricks from fighters like Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans and Brandon Vera.
The career mode is going to last you quite a while as you work your way up the ranks of the UFC. There will be media opportunities, interviews, and you will have to manage sponsor (rudimentary stuff), but the action inside the cage is the most important part of course. I built "The Monster" to be a finisher standing, focusing my training on striking, kicking, and the clinch game, while maintaining somewhat well rounded overall skills. I earn a lot of first round stoppages, walking through gate keeper Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine on more than one occasion. I takes a bit of time to earn your way to the pay-per-views and getting that title shot, but the long road makes it all feel that much more of an accomplishment once you reach it.
The game has an impressive roster of a hundred fighters, but in all honesty I'm a bit surprised at some of the inclusions. Fighters like Andrei Arlovski and Fabricio Werdum haven't fought in the UFC for two years, and the equivalent of them being in this game would be to have players who retired two seasons ago in Madden or NHL. I would much rather have a few lesser known prospects with UFC contracts, than fighters who were cut by the UFC in 2008.
The graphics and animations are in line with what I expected. Most fighters look very much like their real life counterparts, with details such as Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira's scar on the back and fighter tattoos like Alan Belcher's disturbing Johnny Cash (or is it Jay Leno from hell?) ink.
With an improvement online mode where you can build fighter camps with friends and help each other THQ and Yuke's are building a sports title with as solid a foundation as established powerhouses such as the FIFA, Madden or NHL franchises from EA Sports. And it is really in this context you have to put UFC 2010 Undisputed, and not compare it to wrestling games or the mediocre (at best) UFC games that preceded UFC 2009 Undisputed. And UFC 2010 Undisputed delivers on content and game modes, there is enough to do to keep you busy until 2011.
If there is one thing that I would like to see improved in the fighting it is the movement of fighters. They still come across as a bit robotic and stiff in the stand up. But when I say that I'm complaining about details, and I say that as a fan of the sport who wishes for the game to be as close to the real thing as possible. One example of this is that the referee separate fighters rather quickly if no progress is being made, in a real fight this would take longer, and it makes for a more exciting but less realistic experience.
The rush of a flash knockout with a Terry Etim elbow to Nate Diaz' shin, or the satisfaction of shutting down a dangerous opponent with the perfect game plan. It's all there in UFC 2010 Undisputed, and if you're a UFC fan you shouldn't miss out on this game.