UFC Undisputed 2010 Review
The success of UFC 2009 seemed to be a surprise to everyone involved: gamers, mixed martial arts fans, publisher THQ, developer Yuke's, and maybe even the UFC itself. With four million copies sold, it was a runaway hit. The developers probably could have phoned in a new sequel with a couple of minor extra features and a roster update, but they didn't just stop there. UFC Undisputed 2010 sports a huge list of new features in just about every area of the game, as well as a ton of new fighters and moves. Sports games often take heat for having relatively few changes on a yearly release cycle and still costing full price, but luckily for us, this is much more than just a yearly update.
UFC 2010 builds on its predecessor by including a roster of over 100 current and past UFC fighters, with the PS3 getting a few old-school exclusive fighters and GameStop preorders garnering some of the newer blood from season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter show on Spike. But even without those, this is a very complete roster, and each fighter has a wide range of moves and attributes so that you can find the character that works best for you.
Almost every aspect of the game has been reworked, but the biggest new features are the authentic UFC presentation, the much-improved online community, a completely redone career mode, and new modes to enjoy as your favorite licensed fighters. There are quite a few ways to play just on the surface here: exhibition mode is a single fight between any combination of player or AI-controlled fighter, Tournament expands that out to several brackets while still allowing any combo of player or non-player, and Ultimate Fights mode has you reproducing classic UFC fights against the AI (or changing history as you try to win with the guy who lost). Title mode is similar to the Arcade mode of most fighting games, where you'll pick any licensed fighter and take on a series of matches to climb your way up the rankings. Then, when you win the belt, Title Defense mode lets you hang on as long as you can against a string of even tougher contenders, again all licensed fighters - and there are some extra conditions for these fights you can optionally meet to gain points and unlock new content to use in other modes.
The career mode has had the biggest change, though, with a tighter story about starting in the amateurs and making it into the UFC, winning a championship belt, dominating multiple weight classes and eventually getting into the UFC Hall of Fame at the end of a 12-year career. Your guide will be real-life MMA coach Marc Laimon as your trainer in some rather wooden, but still half-decent cutscenes as well as extra tips as your career goes on. The basic setup is the same as before, where you live out of your calendar and spar, train and rest on a weekly schedule while your next fight always looms out in front of you. But now, there's more to to worry about in the career mode. You've got both Conditioning and Fatigue to worry about, moves to learn one-at-a-time in the fight camps, and even stat decay that can sap your fighter's skills if you're not smart about making it to the no-decay milestones or if you fail to set up your training schedule properly.
That added difficulty inside of career mode may turn off new players to start, as your stat-based worries outside the Octagon can easily melt away in favor of new ones the first time you get rocked by a powerful strike to the head. And hell, the whole game is more difficult than last year's edition, especially for a new player - so unless you're an expert at 2009, expect to get beat up in the ring with your first career fighter at some point. There's also at least one major difficulty spike in career mode that happens at all difficulty settings sometime during your rise through the UFC ranks, so make sure you're taking on easier opponents early and not rocketing up so fast early on - you'll need all the early stat points you can get if you want to stay undefeated later. The learning curve is steep, but UFC 2010 is totally worth the effort, especially when your piddly little fighter trains enough to start getting bone-crunching knockouts against the toughest opponents at the top of the rankings.
Beyond that, the career mode is deeper overall and includes lots of new depth in the fine-tuned commentary and announcing, changes to AI fighter behavior based on your record, and many more customizations by way of hair, color, features, tattoos, and even choosing a first and last name (each separately) from sizable lists as well as one of the many new nicknames. You can also enter your own name with the on-screen keyboard, but if you do, you'll only be referred to by your nickname. You'll even have a voice and can toss some attitude or respect around during weigh-ins and post-fight interviews. These might have gotten annoying long-term, but you can skip through the actual talk and just get the numerical effects from the responses you choose.
Players will generally find UFC 2010 to be more difficult than 2009 in just about all modes, but the tutorial has been improved enough this time that new players get into it significantly faster than they could last year. There's still no substitute for just opening up the Move List from the pause menu and diving into the seemingly endless options that each fighter has, though, so be ready to get technical if you want to make this "your" game for the next few months. New players can pick someone like Shane Carwin or Rampage Jackson and just wail on the face buttons and have fun, but button mashers will have a very tough time against an experienced player since flash KOs have been reduced and flash submissions have been added. And when those new players are ready to step up their game, the depth is there waiting for them, especially with more technical fighters like Demian Maia and Shogun Rua.
There are a lot of new features for the actual fighting in 2010. We get the ability to sway or duck away from strikes and deliver counterpunches, fight southpaw, switch stances, posture up more naturally when on the ground, switch submission moves on the fly with some fighters, clinch and fight against the cage properly, and use many new moves yanked right from current UFC fighters' repertoires. Now, more than just a few superstars' signature moves have been included, so you'll see unique motion-captured moves like Jon Jones' amazing spinning elbow strikes and Lyoto Machida's elusive kicks and punches. This is a huge deal, too, as each fighter feels unique, even for traditional fighting game players who know little about the UFC. While most of these fighters have a similar base of moves while standing, clinching, and on the ground, the strengths of each separate fighter will come out as you learn to make best use of signature moves in certain situations - it's not just the stats, but also the distinct set of moves that each one can unleash.
Online play has been expanded and has even managed to become a part of the career mode. Now, online Fight Camps function like clans do in online FPS games, so you can win glory for yourself against other players and simultaneously earn respect and ranking for the fight camp you've created or joined. You'll even get to take your career mode fighter for online training sessions with other players in your camp - I didn't get a chance to fully test this one, as the online play before the retail release has been fairly barren of people online at any one time, but the theory behind this feature is certainly sound.
The complaints I could leverage against UFC 2010 are minor at best, with a few features on a wishlist making up the rest. I've already talked about the difficulty, and I think that a fifth "super-easy" mode might have been a good choice. The commentating has been improved significantly, but there's still a lot of vagueness about who's doing what to who from Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan, especially in career mode. The commentators can get things wrong about a fighter's record in career mode and they do tend to repeat themselves a lot, especially if you do a lot of clinch strikes or fighting on the ground. And while Title and Title Defense modes are nice ways to play the real-life fighters, there's still no way to do the much deeper career mode with them; I'm not sure how exactly it'd work or with which fighters, but I think it could be a fantastic feature if they could get it going. And finally, I still wish UFC had a replay saving and sharing system with some kind of web video support, like EA has been doing in recent sports games. Maybe next year!
I spent quite a few hours with retail copies of both the Xbox 360 and PS3 editions of the game, and aside from the PS3 exclusives (classic fighters Royce Gracie, Dan Severn, and Jens Pulver along with the Ultimate Fights entries they came with), there's not much difference between the versions. The load times are generally better on both consoles than in their 2009 counterparts, and if you do the hard drive install on the 360 version, it loads at about the same speed as it does on the PS3 (where there's a mandatory HD install). The online play and fight camps sections seemed to have all the same features, so in this case, buy whatever version you think most of your friends will be playing. And if you don't plan to play online, the three additional fighters and Ultimate Fights to play aren't that huge compared to the wealth of features in the rest of the game. PS3 has the edge in that case, but it's still close enough that 360 owners shouldn't feel left out.
UFC Undisputed 2010 does a hell of a lot to keep people interested in the game as well as the sport itself. With downloadable events that will mirror the real upcoming fight nights, new online play, and new features and depth in almost all areas, THQ and Yuke's have made sure to add as much outside the Octagon as they added inside it. They went through the effort to enhance areas of the game that most developers wouldn't have bothered to add in a year; with everything they've added to this year's edition, they've set a very aggressive pace for themselves, and at this rate I can't even imagine what the next game will include as far as new content.
Simply put, UFC 2010 is by far the best mixed martial arts game ever made, as it easily surpasses its predecessor in almost every way - but it can also stand up with just about any other versus-based action game you can compare it to. UFC 2010 is an absolute knockout of a game and despite a few minor disappointments, I can wholeheartedly recommend it to pretty much anyone that's even remotely interested.