More big sweaty men in small shorts, but is it better than last year?
Being someone who has been involved in martial arts for a few years, I always view games based on them with some scepticism. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) are a fast paced, technical and brutal, yet surprisingly require near chess like tactics. Until I saw UFC 2009, nothing had come close to capturing all 4 of those attributes. True, it was not perfect, but it was a good start. So I was pretty excited about UFC Undisputed 2010. Did it live up to my hopes?
For those who don’t know. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is a sport based on martial arts. Two men enter an octagon shaped cage and precede to beat the snot out of each other. A winner is decided in one of the following ways:
Knockout – where the opponent is knocked unconscious.
Technical Knockout (TKO) – where the referee deems a fighter unable to continue.
Submission – when a fighter is made to submit to a hold.
Judges decision – when there is no clear winner it goes to a point count and judges decision.
Two men enter an octagon shaped cage and precede to beat the snot out of each other.
The competitors all have unique styles and backgrounds. Some are pure kick boxers, other jujitsu experts or wrestlers, some just people who like to fight!
So the first hurdle for any game based on MMA, is just how do you convey these styles. It’s not like a boxing game, where you just have to worry about a few different sets of punching techniques. Here you need to worry about punching, kicking, knees, elbows, grappling, throws, ground work, locks, holds transitions … the list just goes on and on. Next you have to marry all of these different states, ie standing, clinching and ground work, into a flowing combat system. Not easy and something that had never really been achieved until UFC 2009.
Here, in UFC undisputed 2010, the foundation laid by 2009 has been improved upon and in fact in some places totally rebuilt, to produce a game that really captures everything that makes MMA so great.
The basic controls revolve around use of the face buttons to produce left and right punches or kicks. The shoulder buttons are then used as modifiers to produce low attacks and strong attacks. You can also block (again high and low) and dodge and weave. Attacks vary depending on your distance from your opponent and also whether you are moving. For instance, rushing in you may produce a lunging punch, then standing there you will trade hooks, get in close and these change to bone crushing elbows.
From the stand up fighting, you can either go for a straight take down (for instance with a tackle) or into a clinch. This kind of looks like cuddling, but it is far less friendly than that. Using the right analog stick, you try to jostle for the stronger position, all the time kneeing and punching your adversary. Once in you preferred position you can try to either go for a standard take down or, if you have learned one, a throw.
Once on the ground it all gets a bit technical. There are various positions that you can get into (in fact there are some very strange looking ones!!) all of which have advantages and disadvantages. Using the right stick again, you can transition between these, as Long as the opponent does not block them. If you are on the bottom, you can also try to escape and move about. Both fighters are able to get in punches and knees as well as go for a submission hold. Submissions are activated by pressing R3 at the appropriate moment, then rotating the right stick very fast. I must admit, this does not work all that well when compared to 2009. it is far far harder to pull of a submission (I never managed it at all!!). If you can get into the right position you can also “Ground and Pound”. Essentially punch the other guy till he falls unconscious… nice!
All of this is done very fluidly, it never feels stop start and once you get used to it, it really is very intuitive.
There is a complete roster of UFC stars, from Chuck Liddel to Brock Lesner all are accounted for. As well as this, there is of course the Create a Fighter option (CAF). Picking up where UFC 2009 left off, the CAF mode has been vastly improved upon. There are many more options than before and it is much easier to set up a fighter with the kind of moves you want, You are no longer just able to pick a Wrestler with a bit of kickboxing, or a JuJitsu guy with some Taekwondo. Now you can assign every move and tweak every setting. Playing the various modes also unlocks new outfits, sponsors and most importantly moves.
There are is a decent selection of modes, from exhibition all the way to full career.
Career mode is where you will probably spend the most time initially. Starting with a fighter of your creation, you are sent off to train and fight in a small amateur gym. Here you get used to to the training schedule and after a couple of fights are offered the chance to go pro. Your career takes you all the way to the UFC, where if you are lucky you will become the champion of your chosen weight category. But there is more to this than just entering a fight every few minutes. Fights are planned and scheduled. You must train and prepare. Sometimes you even have to get involved with press junkets and some trash talking. The physical preparation takes the form of training, sparring and fight camp exchanges. Training allows you to boost Strength, speed and stamina whilst sparring lets you tweak more detailed parts of your abilities. You have a lot of abilities to keep on top off. Stand up attack and defence, throw attack and defence etc. Each has to be maintained or they will decrease over time. In fact, time can cause you a few problems. Your career spans 12 years. As you get older, it gets harder to maintain your various stats. I found it to be a great addition to the game, and one reason to lie about your age when you start (go on admit it, you will make YOU in the game and try to make it as close in age, height and weight to you as you can!).
As mentioned, there is now a fight camp exchange program. This lets you train with other fight camps to learn new moves and techniques. This is essential if you want to progress in the game, otherwise you will be stuck with a fairly limited arsenal of moves! This is a big boost from 2009 as your fighter really can develop any way you feel you want.
Other modes include Title Mode. This is
a tournament, where you choose a fighter and have to win X number of fights to become the champ. There is also Ultimate Fight Mode, that let you recreate some classic UFC fights from the past. This mode also adds specific challenges to each fight, like using a certain move during the fight. A new addition to this mode over last years Classic mode, is the ability to play as the fighter who lost, and rewrite history.
The last part to talk about is the online mode. Not much has changed here from last year. You get to join a fight with a fighter of your choice, and see if you can beat a player online. The match up takes a pretty long time and was not all that smooth a process. Once you are fighting it was ok, if a little laggy. A nice new feature is the Fight Camps, a bit like clans or guilds in games, where you can create a Fight Camp with some friends.
So is it any good? Yes and no. It is by far the best game based on Martial Arts that I have played. It looks really great, sounds awesome and the fights play pretty well. However, it is not without its frustrations. Whilst your fighters stats are low, it can feel like he moves at the pace of Robocop fighting against Bruce Lee. Submissions are insanely hard to pull off. Pay Per View fights are disproportionately difficult compared to standard fights (if you follow me on Twitter @daverage you will know I got so annoyed with this that I deleted my profile and started again!). The stats side of things can feel a little bit grindy and do detract from the flow of the game. But once you are in the Octagon and the commentators are comparing the fight to your last fight, it just feels right. Give it some time and the controls will suddenly make sense and you will have a great time.
Did it live up to my hopes? Not quite, but it gives me hope that the franchise is getting better every time. Remember the WWE / WWF games? They didn’t start perfect, but got better and better. With luck, UFC Undisputed 2010 will be the seed for an even better game in 2011.
The Bad: Stats and training feel a bit out of place, submissions are hard to pull off.
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