Gamers clearly get a sense of satisfaction from beating the living stool out of an opponent, be it with a well-timed fireball or a final fatality. Unfortunately, real humans are yet to develop the useful skill of generating a Street Fighter-esque yoga flame from their mouths. However, there are some humans with the ability to instantly put another person to sleep with one calculated punch to the skull, and thanks to the latest MMA offering, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 2010 Undisputed, the rest of us are afforded the chance through their virtual depictions. For fans of realistic, projectile-free combat, UFC 2010 is just the ticket.
Straight out of the box, if you are unfamiliar with the previous UFC game, you will immediately get stuck in the daunting mud of learning the very complex control system (mainly for the ground game where you and your opponent take it to the mat). If you have never heard of an omoplata or kimora (two ground-based submission holds), you may find that after being taken to the ground your fight is almost certain to be over. Thankfully the tutorial mode has been beefed up from last year’s lacklustre offering to help new players get the gist of grounding and pounding, as opposed to mashing the buttons.
The defence has been improved with the inclusion of sways and dodges, which adds a new dimension to the game. Although it’s a great addition it still has a long way to go to compete with the defensive options of EA’s Fight Night series, as the dodges seem very rigid and almost robotic as your fighter jerks in a very unnatural way. This in turn takes away from the otherwise fluid strike system of combinations and counters. The submission system has also been upgraded, now including the ability to change a move mid- submission, which presents further opportunities to avoid sustaining a broken radius bone. Most of the past techniques are still there, and if you have a grasp on the control scheme of UFC 2009 Undisputed then you won’t be too far behind the eight ball with this version. Fighter animations have been improved, with more positions and facial expressions added to the mix. Even the referee now jumps in to stop a fight instead of standing around trying to look important, as in last year’s offering.
With over 100 fighters available (all with photorealistic likenesses), the presentation of this year's edition has gone through a total revamp. All the long, boring load screens have been axed and replaced with a simpler and more exciting menu system borrowing from the televised graphics. The presentation of the fights has shown little improvement, with nominal changes to the crowd and introductions. There is certainly still room to improve here.
Among some of the newer play modes added is a party friendly tournament mode, which will allow you to compete with friends or AI-controlled fighters in a single-elimination tournament format for 8-16 players.
Title and Title Defence Modes have been added, which are separate, simplified career modes with a true-to-life fighter, as you climb the ladder of the UFC ranks. Impressively, the commentators will recall results from the last fight and your fighting habits. Your wounds will not fully heal between bouts this time around; too much time kissing your opponent’s fist in one match could result in an embarrassing first-round knockout in the next.
It is clear that THQ has put a lot of time into improving its popular ‘create a fighter‘ career mode, but perhaps the effort was focused in the wrong areas. One of the major problems with last year's career mode was the overload of calendar dates and training sessions that were necessary in order to become the next title contender. Unfortunately the calendar has returned in much the same fashion, although there has been a clear effort to make it more tolerable. You begin in the very low-budget World Fighting Alliance (WFA) and have to earn your way into the UFC. Fighting a never-ending queue of no-name fighters to get the attention of Dana White can take a toll on your stamina. However, this time around you can develop attributes and participate in training camps to acquire new moves, which helps maintain your interest. Once you've made it a fair way up the ranks you get the choice to respect or disrespect your opponents at weigh-ins before the match and even as the match begins when touching gloves. You can even taunt your opponent mid-match, which will either gain you more fans or more reputation points.
Also new is the ‘event mode‘, which takes a cue from the WWE Smackdown vs. Raw series, specifically its ‘create a pay-per-view‘ mode as you act as the CEO of the UFC. You can create an event from the ground up, and it gives you the option of either watching the fights or actually assuming control of one of the fighters yourself.
Returning is the ‘ultimate fight‘ mode, which has received more in-depth pre- and post-match video, and also a reward system for recreating some of the greatest fights in UFC history.
UFC 2010 has avoided the common trap for sporting sequels of a simple roster update, and presented an impressive follow-up that is a definite improvement on its predecessor.