Published on April 23rd, 2010 | by prime1
UFC 2010: Undisputed – Hands On
EA’s MMA is teasing the message boards in both the gaming and fight worlds with its stunning trailers and drip-fed fighter announcements, and weaker license holder would buckle under the pressure. After hours with UFC 2010 though, it’s abundantly clear that Neven Dravinski and his team have the same indomitable spirit as the UFC fighters. For one year’s work, this is a staggering improvement.
The engine itself shows immediate enhancements. Fighters are better-looking, faster and slicker than in last year’s game, but it’s what they can do in the cage that fundamentally changes the action. Aware that too much of the stand-up fighting in 2009 took place at range, Yuke’s has incorporated a ‘sway’ system which allows fighters to move their heads and avoid punches by holding the right bumper and flicking the right stick. It works instantly, so you can literally dodge a punch and throw a counter, working far more organically than even Fight Night’s dodge system.
It means that the fights themselves bear considerably more resemblance to the toe-to-toe chess matches that define the real UFC experience, and make for tangibly satisfying knockouts that fighters actually work for through fakes, feints and foot movement.
Joining the radically improved stand-up game is a reworked grappling system that includes cage-work, proper in-fighting in the clinch and twice the number of positions on the ground. Taking an opponent down and squishing their head into the cage to stop them moving (a la Jon Fitch) is also possible.
Moves and transitions within the clinch now mimic those on the ground. You can move from underhooks to Thai clinches with minor transitions on the right stick (or Ultimate Fighting Control, as THQ reluctantly call it), and Rampage-style throws are now tougher to execute, requiring a major ‘half circle’ transition. It makes the clinch a far more feasible offensive tool, but also gives fighters who are reluctant to be taken off their feet more defensive options. If UFC 2009 was a cartoon version of the sport that featured all the moves but little of the depth, then 2010 is the simulation.
This commitment to reality permeates the out-of-Octagon game, too. Career mode, the enjoyable but limited single-player campaign from last year, has been given an almighty overhaul. Your created fighter now has a voice, selected from a number of different ethnicities, and must fight his way from the amateur ranks, through the fictional WFA, and if you do well enough, Dana White will come knocking on your virtual door and you’ll get your shot in the UFC.
Throughout your career, you’ll be guided by jiu-jitsu master Mark Laimon, who acts as your coach through the game, and you’ll be able to make choices that are specific to your own career path. Joining with particular fight camps will teach you specific moves, for example. Say you want to learn the rubber guard (an advanced jiu-jitsu defensive posture from your back), then taking time with 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu and Eddie Bravo could add that to your repertoire. Fighters are no longer assigned striking and grappling categories, but entire move lists from a selection of hundreds, so you can truly tailor your created brawler to your own taste, and all of the 100-plus- real-world fighters match their true selves geek-pleasingly accurately. It was a vital and necessary change.
If and when you do make it into the UFC, you can start attending the pre-fight press conferences and weigh-ins, and choose to disrespect or respect your opponent, call out other fighters and even other camps – the equivalent of pro-wrestling stables. It’s deeper and more fulfilling than the menu-driven career from 2009, and infinitely more enjoyable. For the UFC and MMA hardcore, this is pure, glitzy fan service of the highest order.
In fact, every aspect of the game’s presentation has been improved, really mimicking the razzmatazz of the UFC weekend, from the ring girls to the announcers to the music and the menus. And everything feels slicker, richer and more like a proper high-budget sports franchise. Dana White has always said he wants this to be the UFC’s Madden, and it’s now starting to take that shape.
Undisputed 2010 also integrate its online functionality far more successfully. There’s a ticker that runs along the bottom of the menus, keeping players updated to the happenings in the real UFC, and THQ now retains the ability to update fighters’ stats and champions at their pleasure. Talking of submissions, they’ve undergone a few changes, too. For starters, they’re quicker – in fact the whole game is now a wee bit quicker – and are now analogue. No beginning middle and end, the camera now zooms in as you torque your kimura or armbar, and success is all down to spinning the stick – button bashing has been removed altogether. You can now switch submissions to fool your opponent, who’ll have to change the direction he’s ‘shinning’. And it looks completely awesome.
With a PRIDE-style tournament mode, a fresh selection of classic fights and the inclusion of online ‘fight camps’ – essentially clans or guilds – there’s enough content in UFC 2010 Undisputed to spill out over the Octagon sides and into the crowd.
This is the future of the fighting game, a perfect symbiosis of sports simulation and classic videogame mechanics that combine to create something new, something far more emotionally resonant and viscerally satisfying than Street Fighter or Tekken. Hitting a Flash KO after a perfectly timed sway or a catching an unsuspecting wrestler in a triangle choke… it’s what makes MMA such an incredible sport and in turn makes UFC Undisputed a magnificent fighting game. Even at this near-complete stage, this is everything the original game promised and more.
So, if EA is stepping up and issuing a challenge, THQ is answering with gusto. This is their patch, their Octagon, and they’re not going to lay down for anyone.