Review: UFC Undisputed 2010 (Sony PlayStation 3)


UFC Undisputed 2010
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Yuke’s
Genre: Fighting/Sports
Release Date: 05/25/2010

First off, I would sincerely like to apologize for the lateness of this review. I had signed up to review this game before it came out, got it the day it came out, and have played it extensively. I should have had a review up back in June no problem, but let’s just say some things came up and I haven’t been able to get around to it.

Why bother putting in a review this late, you ask? Well, this is the sequel to our winner for Sports Game of the Year in 2009 and a game that made my own top three. I had to make sure we had at least a review up for it, even if it ended up on the site sometime in December.

Anyways, Yuke’s shocked the world when they released Undisputed 2009 over a year ago. Not only was it the first competent UFC game to hit the market, it was also extremely addicting and featured one of the best combat systems for a fighting game. It appears that years of developing wrestling game after wrestling game had Yuke’s just dying to try something new. It payed off in spades.

Not content to rest on their laurels, the developer promised that 2010 would be a step up in every category, even claiming that once you played it, you wouldn’t be able to go back to 2009 because it would feel so inferior.

Were these just baseless claims, or has a true knockout blow been delivered to wannabe contenders?

Modes

Last year’s title had four modes, exhibition, career, online, and Classic Fights. This year, that total has been doubled.

Exhibition returns and is pretty much the same. You can choose from one of five weight classes, four difficulties, and about a hundred different real UFC fighters. You can also set the number of rounds, chose an arena, and pick your own referee. Transitioning between weight classes or other such options can be cumbersome if you change your mind between fights, but the mode works perfectly otherwise. It’s easy to jump into a fight and start kicking butt.

Career Mode has had a lot of attention put on it this year, as complaints about last year’s offering being too shallow didn’t fall on deaf ears. You start off my choosing a weight class an creating your fighter. From there, you can participate in some amateur fights to get some experience as well as boost your stats, but they won’t move you up in the rankings, nor build cred or popularity. After that, you join the ranks of the WFA, fighting off opponents created from the game’s engine and looking to move up the ladder. Get enough wins under your belt and eventually Dana White will come calling. Once in the UFC, the competition gets tougher, but the rewards are higher. You can participate in interviews, show off your skill in behind the scenes segments, and attend weigh-ins for championship fights. It takes a while for this stuff to start going full tilt, but the level of interaction with the UFC personalities is much better this year.

There have been some major changes that affect how you play. For one, you now have a conditioning meter in addition to your fatigue meter. Performing acts raises your conditioning and fatigue, while resting lowers both. Both affect your stamina in fights. High fatigue starts you off with little stamina, while low conditioning lowers the rate in which you regain stamina between attacks. Finding the balance between the two is almost a mini-game in and of itself, and you’ll find that It becomes harder to stay in shape as you get older. Also new this year in the skill fatigue system. If you don’t keep up your training for skills and attributes, they will become fatigued, and your score will decrease rapidly. To counter this, you have three tiers that lock your skills in at 30, 50, and 70. This means that getting your skills up requires a bit more micromanaging than before. To be honest, the system is flawed. You get no warning that a skill is fatigued until its already happening. If you fail to notice it in time, you score can plummet. On the other hand, the sparring sessions that increase skills are easy to manipulate, so you can earn top scores regularly by using the same cheap tactics. You can visit training camps once again this year, but the work a bit differently. Instead of building up a striking and grappling fight style, you can visit any of a few dozen camps and pick from any of the moves they contain. You need only score points in a mini-game to learn the move, but you can improve your effectiveness through further training. I really dug this aspect of the game, as building characters is more fun when you’ve got so many options. Want a guy to be a deadly Muay thai fighter but also be able to pull of superman punches at will? You can do it. Want to supplement those brutal slams with high level Jiu-Jitsu instead of the usual wrestling techniques? You can do that as well. It gives the player a lot of freedom. Finally, you can customize logo placement, pick post-fight attire, switch weight classes when prompted, and check your ranking. Overall, I’d say the career mode is a definite improvement, if only for the training camps. There are still holes to be fixed, but they can be forgiven.

Online mode is back, and with a new feature to boot, but still suffers the same problems it did last year as well. They might be even worse. You can create or join online fight camps where fighters can join together under one banner to raise the prestige of their group. It mostly consists of fighting against other camps, but you can play a training mini-game as well as recruit members. It isn’t very deep, but at the very least it can help you create an online identity. That is, of course, if you can get a match started. Connectivity issues plague this game like locusts at every corner. Trying to start a quick ranked match is a nightmare that usually results in frustration. On the rare occasions you do get a match started, there’s a high chance you’ll suffer sever lag that makes timing and skill virtually impossible. There’s been an update since the game came out, but it appears to have been like trying to put a band-aid on an amputation wound. It hasn’t done much. Still, if you get lucky, fighting against other people online is the best way to test and improve your skills. There are medals to earn and levels to gain. It can be a ton of fun. You just have to rub a magic lamp before each fight in order to get it to work.

Classic Fights has been re-imagined and now bears the name of Ultimate Fights. Instead of merely trying to recreate the outcome of a match, you instead have three classes of three challenges per fighter. In order to succeed, you need to complete all three challenges for at least one class. You can replay the fights to go for the others. The mode is a lot of fun and unlocks fight highlights, interviews, and gives you cash you can spend unlocking new attires, taunts, and animations. As a bonus, the PS3 version of the game contains five exclusive fights, furthering this mode’s mileage. As a whole, this mode is significantly improved and is a lot of fun.

At last, we can get to the new modes. Event Mode has you creating a full fight card, including the name, arena, and what fights you want to play. If you want a card with nothing but championship matches, that is perfectly possible. You get the full presentation, from the gladiator opening you see for all UFC events, to a special opening for the main event. There are also event downloads available based on real UFC PPVs, but they only contain a few fights. There’s also tournament mode, where you can create single elimination tournaments with the ultimate prize being a UFC championship. If you so chose, you can select the fighters for each match as well as fight as any fighter on the card. You can even have fighters face themselves if you turn that option on. Like in most WWE games, you probably won’t play this too much unless you’ve got a lot of buddies around. There are also two modes centering around becoming champion and defending that title. Title Mode has you chose a fighter and climb the ranks in a series of fights against tougher opponents. The difficulty rises as you go, and the champion won’t give up without a fight. After you’ve completed this mode once, you unlock Title Defense. This is much heftier, as you are put through the wringer against four different ranks of three opponents. Each rank is harder than the last, and your health carries over from fight to fight with some healing between them. This mode is tough, even on the lowest difficulty settings. The final three opponents are relentless in their counters and reversals, so you have to be sharp. Also, unlike Title Mode, there are additional challenges that unlock cash. These range from simply knocking an opponent out in the first round to beating all opponents in a rank without being put on your back once. The tougher the challenge, the higher the reward. The first two modes might not interest many, but the latter two should keep people interested.

Oh yeah, and there’s a create-a-fighter mode where you can select from the whole suite of moves and set your stats where you want them. It’s pretty comprehensive, but you can’t increase stats in any way, so the fighter is liable to be inferior to one who was brought up through career mode.

Overall, the modes offer plenty of variety and sheer content. When you throw in the fact that the UFC has four different weight classes and there are around a hundred fighters in the game to be mastered, each with their own move lists, this game definitely packs a punch.

Graphics

Visually, UFC 2010 is firing on just about every cylinder.

The highlights of the package are the character models. From top to bottom, each representation looks exactly like its human counterpart. From facial characteristics, muscle tone, and even some of the complex tattoos, it all looks good. On top of that, the animation is fluid from one move to the next. Even more important, moves look like they hurt, something that you don’t always get even with the best fighters. Fighters show weariness, pain, etc. It would be better, perhaps, if there were a bit more range in these emotions, but gives you what you need and does it well.

Of particular note are some of the aesthetic changes. For one, there are fighters with longer hair, meaning the likes of Clay Guida actually made into the game. Also, the way submissions looks is drastically changed. Last year, you’d tap the button frantically only to watch the submission move from one locked position to another. This year, the hold tightens or loosens depending on who’s winning, and when it sinks all the way in, it feels a lot better. There’s also more crowd detail. Though most of the live audience is hidden in darkness, much like a real event, you can see the first few rows alive with cheering fans. The ref even moves around more often. He’ll get down on one knee to check for submissions, get ready to pounce when it looks like a fighter is about to be TKO’d, and look to stand the fight up if the action gets too slow.

On the presentation side of things, the game still suffers from bland looking menus and loading screens. Staring blankly at a UFC logo while you wait to play just isn’t much fun. However, there are more touches that make the game feel like a real UFC event. For instance, at the beginning of a PPV, you’ll get the rules of the Octagon, matches are preempted by Mike Goldberg introducing the fighters, and there’s a special presentation for the main event. It’s a step up from last year to be sure.

There are some issues. Firstly, clipping has reared its ugly head. Last year, this was never a problem, but this time around there are some odd moments where limbs will become entangled and faces will get stuck together. Thankfully, these instances are extremely rare and thus provide a bit of amusement rather than frustration. Also, some characters have overly large eyes that go past the uncanny valley and remind one more of something out of a horror story. One wonders if Anthony Johnson is trying to win a staring contest rather a mixed martial arts match.

Anyways, the graphics in this game are great. We’ve come a long way from the stick figures that represented athletes back on the original PlayStation.

Audio

The only real change you’ll come across this time around is that the music has been switched. No longer do we have licensed tracks from the likes of Papa Roach or Hollywood Undead. Instead, the track consists of instrumental tunes that attempt to give the game a more epic feel. They do their job for the most part, and some of the tunes are a bit catchy. It will certainly appeal to those sick of the same songs appearing in multiple sports games, but it can almost make the music seem hollow at times as well. The exception is the UFC music, which fits in like a glove because of its authenticity. (You can’t have the gladiator bit at the beginning of each PPV without the insanely dramatic vocals you know.)

Inside the ring, there isn’t any music at all. Instead, the crowd responds to your actions with cheers, boos, and even chants for particular fighters. Boos are reserved for long sections without much action, while big time knockouts will send the crowd into the frenzy. Along with the crowd, Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan commentate the action and are instantly superior to any other video game commentators. For one, when they’re going for excited, they actually sound excited. However, the commentary is also intelligent, with the Rogan occasionally explaining the histories between fighters, or Mike commenting on the fact that one fighter has been focusing on kicking the legs. Also, they feel no fear when it comes to interrupting a train of thought to explode in excitement when a big move goes down. If there’s one caveat, its that they tend to repeat themselves in between rounds. There’s not often a match where they don’t say “that was a true mixed martial arts round” or “it’s nice to see a little bit of everything in that round”. Also, the coaches giving advice seem to spout off random things. One coach was telling Thiago Silva that he should avoid the superman punch at all costs and continue using inside leg kicks. Too bad that was what I was doing, and not Silva. Oh well. It can’t all be perfect.

My favorite part of the aural experience is the sound effects. More to the point, the sounds you hear when two people are beating the snot out of each other. I mentioned how each blow looks like it hurts earlier, but more importantly, each moves sounds lethal as well. From the smack of a fist on body to the sick slapping sound of a head kick landing, there’s nothing quite like it. When you get hit, you’ll know it.

The switch to an instrumental soundtrack might be off putting for some, but that doesn’t stop UFC 2010 from being a kickass game to listen to.

Gameplay

At first glance, you might not realize how much has changed this year. The four face buttons each still match up with a limb. Hitting these by themselves throw quick kicks and jabs that don’t do much damage. Pushing the analog stick toward your opponent performs a stronger but slower attack. The L2 button modifies the height of your attack, sending punches to the body and kicks to the leg. Hitting L1 instead performs a technique attack that takes up more stamina and is harder to hit, but does a ton of damage. You can string these attacks into combos pretty freely, though there are no ten hit combos or the like that work every time. The right shoulder buttons are for blocking, using the right analog stick initiates clinches, helps perform takedowns, and transitions on the ground and in the clinch. The goal in each fight is to win by either KO, TKO, submission, judges decision, or doctor’s stoppage. (If a cut is opened up and bleeds profusely, the doctor may stop the match. It rarely happens unless you’re actively trying for it.)

One big change is how you transition in the clinch. Last year, you would rotate the analog stick in half circles and semi-circles on the ground, but flick it in the clinch. This year, you rotate for both instances, making the game more accessible and consistent. I, for one, actually use the clinch in the game, whereas before I used it only with Muay thai fighters and Rampage Jackson.

Another new feature is the ability to dodge and counter punches. You do this by holding the R1 button (which you normally use to block punches, which eases you into the transition) and flicking the left analog stick in the direction you want to duck. Your feet stay planted, but a well timed duck can avoid a punch completely. If you do so, you can counter with a vicious punch that deals considerable damage. Timing these counters takes the striking game to a whole new level and I couldn’t see a UFC game without this feature now.

Submissions have also seen some changes. For one, you’ll no longer be bashing the buttons on your controller in. Instead, you’ll have to rotate the right analog stick. You can also push it in to build up strength for one big push. Also, some fighters have the ability to transition from one submission to another. There aren’t many opportunities for this, but it can pull the momentum into your favor because switching submissions forces the opponent to reverse his rotations, which can throw them off and give you a submission where you couldn’t get one before. Personally, I don’t like that you only have the option of rotating the stick. I’ve found that submissions are much harder to come by this time around and require you to plan for them, rather than pull them off in the heat of the moment like you could last year. The point of submissions is that you take them when they are opened up, and that doesn’t happen as often this year.

One big change for the better is that each fighter has their own unique move list based off of what they do in real life. Fighter’s are no longer constricted by fight styles, so Rashad Evans can perform a headkick and Frank Mir can throw an opponent to the mat rather than pull guard. It furthers the authenticity of the fighters, but it does mean you’ll have to spend a bit more time with your favorites in order to get their moves down.

Once again, each fighter has several stats that play large parts in how they should fight. There are three physical attributes (strength, speed, and cardio) as well as eight different skills divided into offense and defense. Paying attention to what these skills are for both you and your opponent can clue you into what each fighter’s strengths and weaknesses are. For instance, Frankie Edgar has a high striking skill, but doesn’t have the power to be a KO threat. However, his high speed makes him an ideal counter puncher. Dustin Hazelett has a high submission skill but low cardio, so it serves him better to reverse to a better position rather than dictate the pace. You get the idea. These unique stats help create dynamic matchups and force you to create game plans for each fight. Your guy may be good on the ground, but if your opponent is better, you may want to keep the fight standing. You might like to throw people from the clinch, but if they have a high grapple defense, doing so may end with you getting reversed and being stuck in mount defensive position. You have to plan for that kind of thing.

If there’s one problem I have with the gameplay, it is only found during the Career Mode. When you learn moves are perform for a demonstration, you have to perform tasks such as land combos, submit your opponent, etc. If you’re trying to learn a submission where you catch an opponent’s strike, you have to hope they’ll take you to the ground, move to the correct position, and throw a strike. If not, you’ll be hard pressed to learn anything. I wanted to learn a trip from the back clinch position, but seeing as a back clinch happens about once every ten fights, it was a pain. The issue is that the AI doesn’t cater itself to help you learn the move. Trying to work on ground transitions while your training partner insists on kicking you in the head is no end of annoying.

That one small complaint aside, the gameplay in UFC 2010 is easily better than last years. The combat is smoother, faster, and even deeper without sacrificing accessibility. It’s a game where you can have fun by using technical skill to get to an advantageous position, or simply by knocking someone’s stuffing out. There are very few games that can claim that.

Replayability

This is one aspect of the game that shines.

The Career Mode alone can offer dozens of hours of gameplay. While the setup doesn’t change much, starting off in different weight classes changes your opponents. Changing the difficulty setting is another great idea, as the AI acts differently and it can get really challenging. There’s nothing like earning that title on expert. Finally, you can build a different fighter each time. I’ve worked on a pure boxer, a kick boxer/submission artist, and a deadly clinch/ground striker. It changes up your strategies, keeping the game from getting old.

Beyond that, the other modes are more than willing to suck hours of your time in their ways. Ultimate Fights and Title Defense in particular are some of the best and my personal favorites. Getting into the online matches (when they work) can also suck hours out of your life as you struggle to get better and tip your win-loss ratio towards your favor.

More than anything else though, this game excels because it is the kind of game that is so fun to play that you’ll chose it over other games when you’re looking to kill time. It will definitely give you your monies worth.

Balance

On beginner, the game is a joke. You can beat any opponent however you want to without much difficulty. Opponents rarely block and never reverse or counter. I find that playing on this difficulty is only good for learning the absolute basics.

On the highest difficulty, your skill will be put to the test. Enemies will reverse, counter, and respond to what you’re doing. For example, I was attempting to use leg kicks to weaken the vertical base of my opponent. These were landing all right at first, but after that he started to catch my kicks and land devastating counters. For the rest of the match, it was clear he was looking to stop the leg kick. Also, the difficulty forces you to use tactics. If you simply try to transition over and over again, you’ll get reversed. You learn fairly quickly to throw strikes to make you transition attempts unpredictable.

On a fighter to fighter basis, there are large discrepancies, but that is to be expected. Facing off against GSP should be a nightmare for anyone in the welterweight division, while taking on Eddie Sanchez should be like taking candy for a baby if you’re playing as the likes of Lesnar, Mir, or Velasquez. However, through sound strategy, skill, and maybe a dash of luck, and fighter can beat any other, which is most definitely true to life.

If there’s one complaint I have, it has to deal with the online match making. My first online match was against a guy with over two hundred matches to his name. How in the world is that fair? I got my butt handed to me fairly quickly, and it made me pine for a proper match making system. Would it kill these guys to put me up against a similarly ranked opponent for once?

Originality

This score is not going to be high. That’s kind of what happens in annual sports franchises. It’s very hard for them to stand out amongst themselves, even if they stand out amongst other competitors.

Most of what this game does is an expansion on what last year’s game did. On top of that, a lot of the ideas that make the game better can be found in Yuke’s own WWE titles. The rivalry system in Career Mode, the inclusion of tournaments, title modes, etc. It may be new to MMA games, but that is mostly due to the overall lack of them.

That being said, I’d rather have a good game than an original one. A game being both is just gravy anyways.

Addictiveness

UFC 2009 was one of the most addicting fighting games I’ve ever played. I put somewhere around six or seven hours on it one night. It was at my friend’s house, on his system, after a long night of drinking, and in place of sleep. When I finally got my PS3, it was without a doubt the first game I picked up and I put dozens of hours into it, winning the title in each weight class and completing all of the Classic Fights.

I mention this because I wasn’t quite as addicted this time around. As far as I can tell, a huge part of that is that I was still playing 2009 up until the day before this came out. The craziest part is that I’m still kind of addicted to it. I pull it out whenever I’m bored and recently put about fifteen hours into it in less than three days. That was in between reading a book I was very much into, spending two hours a night on Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and other things. I can sink hours into the game and not realize it.

So, what I’m saying is, it is addicting as crack, yet it wasn’t as addicting for me personally as it could have been. Once it gets its hooks into you, you’ll be as powerless to stop it as someone who Roy Nelson has just sat on.

Appeal Factor

MMA is still “the fastest growing sport in the world” and UFC is the NFL of that sport. It has the biggest and the best fighters, minus a few stragglers who’re afraid to go corporate. Plus, after last year’s critical success, a UFC game is a pretty hot commodity.

Now, we have seen that this game hasn’t met its predecessor’s sales (one of the benefits of writing a review so late), so it is possible that the previous game’s success can be attributed to high demand while this is mainly for those willing to upgrade, which lowers its appeal a bit.

However, one can say that any UFC, MMA, or even just a fighting game fan can find something to enjoy here. It does have a wide audience, and should do well overall.

Miscellaneous

The PS3 version of the game is the version to get, as it is full of exclusives.

For one, you get three legendary fighters in the vein of Royce Gracie, Dan Severn, and Jens Pulver. The former alone is a sweet bonus for long time fans. In addition, these help translate to five bonus exclusive fights for Ultimate Fights mode, which added about twenty-five percent more content to that mode. Finally, the PS3 version also has five classic UFC fights in HD for you to enjoy at your leisure. These include the likes of GSP vs Penn 2, and the Mir vs Lesnar fight from UFC 100.

There are also a ton of unlockables in the game, from fight highlights and interviews to bonus costumes, and even hidden characters. (Thankfully, they aren’t actual UFC fighters, so you don’t have to play for a while to unlock Anderson Silva or something stupid like that.)

All told, the game goes the extra mile to give the player his/her monies worth.

The Scores

Modes: Very Good
Graphics: Great
Audio: Great
Gameplay: Incredible
Replayability: Classic
Balance: Great
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Very Good
Miscellaneous: Great
Final Score: Very Good Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

UFC Undisputed 2010 is an improvement in just about every way over its predecessor. The combat has even more depth without sacrificing accessibility, the roster has been more than doubled, the career mode has seen some interesting and viable changes, and there are more modes to play around with that are actually worth playing. If you nab the PS3 version, you’ll get access to some nice exclusives as well. Yuke’s managed to capture lighting in a bottle twice, and its a game that every MMA fan should look at closely.

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