UFC: Undisputed 09 was one of my most played games of last year, with the demo also being in the same list. As soon as the demo released I downloaded it just for the hell of it (I wasn’t really into UFC at the time) and fell in love instantly. It was an excellent fighting game and the best kind of sports game – you don’t have to be into the real thing to play and enjoy the game in the same way you don’t have to play football to enjoy FIFA games. It was accessible as well as deep, which is exactly what you need to get not only a good game, but a deep game that newcomers can get into.
Good, then, that the latest game in the series is even easier to get into – and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Quite the opposite, in fact; it’s streamlined in all the right places, simplified in the areas that needed to be simplified. It’s almost like they broke into my mind one night and found the UFC 09 Improvements list I keep in there.
One of the biggest problems I had with 09 was that, whilst it was definitely sufficiently accessible to get someone into the game, if you want to play the game with someone who has never played it properly they’ve simply got no chance if you decide to go down to the mat without going through the whole tutorial and playing a few matches against the computer to sort it out. Oddly enough, that is about 30/40 minutes of waiting before playing a first game, which simply isn’t going to happen. This essentially sticks us into a punching and kicking match, which is only half of the game. If that.
Thankfully, UFC 2010 has made this a bit easier. Unified Grappling Theory means that, instead of a finger-twisting combination of right-stick movements you have a few key movements and some key times to use them. Obviously, this is considerably easier to figure out for someone who’s new to the game, which makes those local multiplayer matches a great deal more fun after a few trial runs, since you both know what you’re doing.
The changes to controls rise higher than the mat. A big change that makes a bigger difference are the new sway controls. If you tap the left analogue up, down, left or right whilst blocking your character will sway in that direction (except tapping forward, which makes him duck). This means you can unbalance your opponent as he tries to punch you by simply moving slightly, then hammer a fist into his poor, innocent looking chin. That simple thing can win you the fight, provided you’re skilled enough to take advantage of it appropriately.
Fighting is more tactical than ever thanks to this simple change; you can get in close and still not get hit, provided you’re godlike enough to dodge every single thing that’s thrown at you, and win the fight through wearing the opponent out, or you can get in close, wait for him to attempt a big punch/kick, then just simply punch him. In the face. A lot.
It’s this taking advantage of openings that always led to the best fights in the previous game (and in real UFC fights, for that matter), so it makes sense that the sequel continues this. The game has improved on what was already there and added more features to facilitate this. The sway system and the change to grappling controls previously mentioned are only two of the numerous gameplay changes made, another interesting change being the submission system.
Now you can switch to a different submission should the fighter you’re beating people up with allow it. This has one decent advantage – the opposition must change how they’re trying to escape the submission, which essentially means they have to switch which way they’re rotating the analogue stick. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but if they don’t notice the change somehow their analogue rotating is going to be in vain as it won’t be doing anything.
The downside to this is that it uses a lot of stamina, so you’d better think before you risk trying it out. Other innovations are the dynamic combo system, which is designed to make every move you can make flow together, so you can find and use your own combos whilst you’re actually playing, rather than pressing predefined buttons to do predefined things, and the posturing system, which lets you use the right analogue tick during the ground game to either put yourself in a better position to punch or one that’ll get you punched less (or at least hurt less).
Now, moving on to the game’s features, we have a few interesting developments. First of all, there’s the roster; all UFC fighters are here. That’s 100+ real fighters in obsessively detailed 3D renderings – and if you get the PS3 version of the game you’ll have three UFC legends, too; Royce Gracie, Dan Severn and Jenz Pulver. There are also some hidden fighters that are going on unnamed. Then there’s another 39 UFC fighters created in the in-game Create-a-Fighter. That is a lot of fighters – UFC 09 only had 41 real UFC fighters and 39 created in the Create-a-Fighter mode.
Speaking of the creation aspect of the game, it has undergone a massive overhaul. Not only is the creation of the physical stuff more detailed, with such changes as drag-and-drop tattoos, so you can place a tattoo wherever you like rather than in pre-defined areas and sizes (the same system is used for sponsor logos on shorts and such) and the ability to change the way your fighter walks, celebrates, his introduction and his stance, but you can choose a voice (out of 5 available) and an AI style, just in case the computer ever controls him at some point. There’s a 50% increase in parts for use when making your fighter, too, for added customisation.
By far the best improvement to creating your fighter, however, is the new way you choose moves. Gone is the old ‘choose two styles’ method of getting moves, now you can choose whatever moves you like and custom-build your entire style from the ground up. When just creating a normal fighter you are given a certain amount of points to spend on your moves – each of which have three different levels (more powerful at higher levels, but cost more points). You can choose the moves you like for different situations from many standard moves to moves taken directly from other, real UFC fighters. All of the fighters in the game have different move sets, now, so two boxers will no longer be interchangeable with each other (Brock Lesnar, for example, fights completely differently to the way he did in Undisputed 09).
In career mode, you create your character and start with some stock moves, and you go to camps to earn the moves you want to earn. This is by far and away the best possible way of doing this, and it feels like it should’ve been like this last year, too. Camp invites have changed this year, too. Now you choose when and where to go, and what to do there. You learn a new move by picking a gym to go train at, then picking the move. The move has a specific task to carry out in which you have to get 100 points to unlock the move – for example, punching moves tend to have you hitting pads held by a trainer. This works well, and isn’t so time consuming as to become a chore. Another key improvement is a change to sparring – now there’s an auto-spar option, so you don’t have to spend large amounts of time doing so, which got incredibly dull in the previous game.
You don’t start in the UFC, either. Like with 09, you start with an amateur match that, after winning, lets you go professional. However, if you so choose to, you can play a few more amateur matches to get used to the game before you make the jump to the World Fighting Alliance. After doing well in the WFA, Dana White invites you to the UFC, where you start in undercards, then into the main card and, eventually, main events.
Career feels less like a chore than it did but, if you want to get straight into a fight whilst avoiding menus and training, Title Mode might be more to your taste. Title Mode is the mid-ground between the instant fighting of exhibition and the career mode. All you do is choose a ladder length, choose a fighter, then you’re fighting your way up a ladder for the title. Once you complete Title Mode once, you unlock Title Defence, which is like a survival mode where you tackle fighters in different divisions, each division more difficult than the previous, in a bid to keep your title (even if the fighter you chose doesn’t actually hold the title). Both modes are great middle-grounds for a quick burst into a series of matches.
Then there’s a tournament mode in which you can have, well, a tournament, with either AI, local friends, or a mixture of the two. Good if you’ve got a load of mates round. Ultimate Fights mode is the evolution of Classic Fights mode from UFC 09 and is more of the same kind of thing. Now you can play as the loser of the classic fight and ‘re-write history’, but to win you’ve got to complete three challenges to win different ranks and unlock points with which to buy unlockables from the in-game shop.
The online seems to have had an overhaul, too, but I haven’t had chance to try it yet. A feature that certainly sounds interesting, however, is the new online fight camps, which is essentially a clan. Your own online stats will be recorded as well as your fight camp’s overall stats, which is certainly an interesting idea that could lead to some rather interesting online tournaments…
All this supported by excellent sound, too. Punches sound realistic, crowds boo when you and your local multiplayer friend decide to stand there and see what happens, and they cheer when a fighter breaks through the other’s defence. The commentary is by far the best commentary in any sports game I’ve ever heard. The Game is Watching You is, whilst creepily named, quite a smart feature. It consists of the game studying what your created fighters do, whether controlled by you or not, and actually commentates on what is observed. For example, after I broke into the UFC (with a 30 second knockout, I might add), the commentators were discussing my created fighter’s previous career – ie, the matches I’d already played with him. They mentioned my being undefeated, and that I tend to punch and kick more than grapple.
The Game is Watching You (still a creepy name) also extends to your opponent – if you keep punching and kicking them in the head, they’ll start protecting it more and you’ll notice when none of your attacks are getting through. Elsewhere in sounds, every knockout is accompanied by an immensely satisfying boom sound from the ring that I simply cannot get enough of.
- Gorgeously detailed fighters, down to bruises, cuts and blood dripping onto their chest.
- Career is reworked in all the right places, making it less of a chore and much more entertaining.
- Gameplay is streamlined in a way that makes it more accessible and even more fun to play.
- Commentary is all kinds of excellent.
- Blood that lands on the mat is a small imperfection that stands out a bit in the middle of a practically real-looking game.
- Could do with the soundtrack from the previous game.
There is very little bad to say about UFC Undisputed 2010. I suppose that blood that hits the mat does look a bit to square-y, and there’s a weird lack of the excellent music that was in the previous game, but I honestly cannot think of anything else. This is as close to perfect as any game and it’s improved on the previous instalment, which I gave a 9 in my review elsewhere. It only stands to reason, then, that 2010 should get a higher score.