Either you're the type that likes to take on countless challengers (online or off) to show off your MMA fighting skill, or, like me, you're the type that likes to start from the ground up, coming up from nothing all the way through to getting your UFC championship belt. It turns out that I'm a sucker for an underdog story. UFC Undisputed 2010 lets you do just that, and goes way beyond the career scope that UFCU2009 did.
Last week I had the privilege of playing through UFC Undisputed 2010's career mode in a very long session. This wasn't some quick fumbling with the controls at some kiosk either. THQ was kind enough to set me up with my own PS3 and HDTV to play for as long as I wanted. And I did. I played until my hands hurt. I played for several hours. I played and came away impressed.
While this preview covers a lot of ground, if there's only one thing you can take away from this write-up, take with you that THQ really listened to to fans of the previous game. The huge number of improvements and refinements over UFC Undisputed 2009's career mode easily shows that.
Create a Character:
Before you begin playing, you have to create a character. We touched on the improvements earlier, but it's worth saying again: they really cleaned this up! Gone are the laggy and annoying menu animations of 2009. There's no waiting for bars to slide in anymore, either. For 2010, it's all about jumping in and getting it done. They tried to be less fancy and more efficient, and when you're taking your time to tweak your created character exactly the way you'd like them to be, this makes a big difference.
Beyond the menu tweaks are more sizable upgrades like the drag and drop system. Sponsor logos and tattoos used to have pre-set zones where they could be placed on a fighter. This new system lets you plop down whatever you want, wherever you want. Crotch logos? Done. Nipple tats? Easy. You can scale and rotate your images freely, making this portion of creation so much easier. And faster. This fix also made it easier to implement any of the new sponsor logos added to UFCU2010.
When it comes to actual character data input, there are tons of little upgrades in 2010. Naming, for example, has improved. There are 100 first and last names to pick from, and 50 more nicknames. All of these are voiced by announcer Bruce Buffer for that extra touch of realism. My character, Joe "Destruction" Jones, loved hearing his name.
There's now so much more you can customize now. Everything from your introductions and celebrations to your stance and styles is now customizable. The biggest thing is that there's now an "a la carte" move selection system, which means that you're not stuck being one type of pre-set fighting style. Joe "Destruction" Jones was mostly an overweight Muay Thai fighter, but it was nice to know that I could throw other moves into the mix if I wanted.
A Whole New World:
As a new fighter, dropping you right into the UFC isn't very realistic, is it? UFCU2010 lets you build up to it, starting out as an amateur. You'll fight in gym matches under your coach's supervision until you're good enough to land a gig with the World Fighting Alliance, which you can consider semi-pro level. It'll be up to you to "go pro" after an invite, and in my session, I took my time. Once in the WFA, you'll actually have to work to get invited to the UFC. It's not an automatic thing, either. A series of losses will get no sympathy, but some strong wins will get the attention of sponsors, earning you creditability and popularity. Only after obtaining enough of this will Dana White offer you a spot in the UFC. If you suck, it's totally possible that you could fight forever in the WFA. I know this because I had those around me graduating way earlier.
The Regular Rotation:
Just like in UFC Undisputed 2009, you'll go through the calendar year, weeks at a time, deciding what to do during your downtime between matches. Of course, your time is best spent training, but the situation is so much more involved this time around, and its the new additions that really make UFCU2010 so much better of an experience than its predecessor.
I was kept on my toes with the new addition of stat decay. Players will have to maintain all of their acquired stats as they'll decrease without warning if you're not watching them. Now, instead of blindly training and sparing to get my levels up, I had to frequently check back and take care of potential decreases. This could happen to any stat, from general attributes like speed to something very specific, like standing defensive skill. When you consider stat decay and the new ways to increase moves and stats, I found that the time between matches was best spent maintaining a delicate balance between pushing forward with training and maintaining what I had already achieved. This makes for much more engaging between-matches play time.
One notable upgrade to the sparring (skill upgrading) system is that you can now assign it to "auto," which lets you get out of manually participating in a sparring session. Of course, taking the lazy way out never pays. While you could potentially earn many points to put towards your skills in a manual session, the Auto mode only gives you a few. Sometimes I only received one point.
If you're not training or sparring, you'll be spending time in camps in UFC Undisputed 2010. New to this version, you can freely pick from all the top MMA real-world (with real trainers!) camps to train in. What this does is let you add any move you'd like to your existing moveset. Each camp has dozens of moves from each different fighting disciplines to add to your roster. In camp, you'll take on exercises that will gradually build a meter. Visit camp enough and you'll level up your move, adding it to your moveset. I frequented Sityodtong to add some much loved moves to Joe "Destruction" Jones' line-up, including a very nice face kick and some great elbow attacks. Again, as mentioned above, getting too caught up on adding moves to your moveset will cause your stats to suffer. You'll have to smartly manage your time to become a rounded fighter.
All of these aspects makes UFC Undisputed 2010 much more engaging than the previous version. With as much as you're required to balance, it really gives you the sense of proper training…without the physical exertion.
When it comes right down to it, the real meat of the game is the fighting action. The control scheme was already great in UFC Undisputed 2009, but now the polish and refinement makes it as close to elegant as possible in UFCU2010. Standard standing attacks are still executed with the four face buttons, and the L and R buttons (or triggers and bumpers) either modify moves or defend. Again, the slickly assigned right analog stick lets you do everything from clinch and grapple to shoot for takedowns. While grappling, the way you move the right stick determines how you'll transition into other moves or blocks. Just like before, the moves are assigned so well that they almost become transparent, letting you fully focus on your opponent. This is the real beauty of UFC's fighting system.
Really, the fight system improvements seem like icing on the cake on paper, but seeing them in action really changes how the game is played. Evasion is natural with the new Sway System, that has your head and body moving away from attacks. The new combo set up gets you away from pre-set button sequences (think Tekken) and more into chaining moves as you'd please. Likewise, the clinch game has eased up on the tension, letting you perform more natural motions. But, rather than list out all of the changes to the tech, I'd like to convey how well these all translate visually. When you get into the zone, you begin to see how things happen and react, and the subtle, very human animations of all of these moves and actions has UFC Undisputed 2010 looking like one of the most realistic fighting experiences ever created. Watching a UFCU2010 match is very close to watch a television broadcast, but it's more about the fighter movement and less about the presentation. That's not to say the presentation isn't nice, though. It is, complete with the lead-ins and logos from television.
One of the most notable improvements to the game is the aptly named "The Game Is Watching You" technology. They aren't kidding with this, either. The game's engine watches your fighting style and tweaks the AI opponent's actions to "learn" from, say, your repetitive face kick (me!). This tech keeps you from spamming moves, forcing you to learn new techniques. It also plays into the presentation as the game's announcers will pull from your past matches when announcing new ones. They'll definitely call out your repetitive motions, but they'll also remember your finishing moves, victories, and failures, and they'll be more than happy to share this with match spectators.
Here's how good UFC Undisputed 2010's Career mode is: I didn't play any other mode! I spent so much time playing through the life of Joe "Destruction" Jones that I forgot to try out the other game modes. Sorry about that. I played about 20 matches, watching Destruction come up through the ranks. We had some hard times, Joe and I.
They really got it right with UFCU2010's Career mode. The experience really delivers, and it manages to draw you in so much that…well, you lose track of time. It's as if THQ heard every single issue players had with the previous game's career mode and fixed it, and then added more improvements for good measure. Gamers could only hope that all sequels get this kind of TLC.