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UFC Undisputed 2010

Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Yukes
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 (Online)
Genre: Fighting/ Sports/ Simulation


Graphics & Sound:

UFC Undisputed 2009 was a surprise hit. It managed to win over UFC fans with its representation of the sport, but also helped extend the UFC brand beyond a few Pay-Per-View fights. Still, the game had issues and it appears developers were listening. The changes aren't immediately apparent, but the longer you play, the easier it is to see.

The first rule when translating a sports franchise into a game is presentation. As NCAA Football 2010 showed, getting the rules right is only part of the equation. Gameplay was tight, but without the unique touches that make college football so special, it came up flat.

UFC Undisputed 2010 gets it. The presentation is ripped from a UFC production. Bruce Buffer announces your fighter by name (not just by nickname), Joe Rogan discusses previous fights and trends developing in your career - it's as close to a real TV presentation as you can get.

The Create-a-Fighter options are fairly robust. I only stuck my toe in the number of customization options available, but was still able to come away with a character I was happy with. The real UFC fighters come dangerously close to plunging into the uncanny valley. Oddly enough, created fighters look more "real" than those based on UFC fighters. Animations are redesigned and play into the new moves system, offering a glimpse at how well the game's aspects work together.


Gameplay:

UFC Undisputed 2010 is an incredibly organic experience. Every choice you make - whether deciding which sponsors to include on your trunks or choosing a between match workout regimen - impacts gameplay in some way. This adds weight to decisions, but also adds a sense of ownership rarely seen in sports games.

Career Mode is completely revamped from last year. You begin by creating a low-ranking character and work his 12-year career from amateur to the professional ranks. Unlike last year, you have to earn your way into the UFC. Once there, you need to manage your career by keeping up with a training routine and participating in pre- and post-fight interviews. Although interview dialogue is a bit bland, your comments influence your relationships with other fighters (offering certain in-game bonuses) and build your popularity with fans.

Ultimately, you're playing for a shot at a title, but to get there you need to accrue wins and sponsors. Both play into experience points. As you reach certain point goals, you get to choose whether to upgrade your training or sparring, upgrading the max limit on their related stats.

Upgrades extend to other modes as well. Classic Fights is now called Ultimate Fights. Outside Career, this was my favorite mode. I'm still a relative newbie to UFC, so a chance to see significant fights from past events and gain a little background was a great introduction to the sport's background. Besides, who doesn't like a chance to muck up history a bit?

Finally, there's multiplayer. Servers weren't up and running until recently, so I wasn't able to get as much experience as I would have liked. What I was able to try was fun, even though I have a lot of work to do before hoping to put on a good showing. New to multiplayer are Online Fight Camps, which act like guilds. Fight Camps track player accomplishments as a team, allowing them to pal together and participate in activities. I wasn't able to explore what camps had to offer, but Team Game Vortex is up and running for anyone who wants to try them out.


Difficulty:

I love when games push me to get better. Sure, created fighters get better as their stats improve, but as I player I had to learn (and re-learn) aspects of the game. I can't recommend taking full advantage of the tutorial. It's dry and on the long side, but helpful.

Difficulty is set at the beginning of a professional career, though you can gauge what each will toss at you by completing amateur fights. The initial difficulty serves as a baseline, which is further enhanced by going after higher-ranked fighters. What's cool is that even if you lose a fight, there's always a sense of progression. Even during losing streaks, I never felt punished. It was just motivation for the next fight.

The key to a successful career is learning to manage stats. Similar to Undisputed 2009, you have three core stats - strength, speed, and cardio - that are in constant flux. Each week you can choose to work one of these stats, upping your conditioning but lowering your fatigue. Learning to find the right balance between the two provides a steep learning curve, but once you figure it out, it's a rewarding system.

It's important to remember everything is connected. If one thing doesn't work, nothing does. The same is true for your fighter. Ignore one aspect and it will get you at some point. For instance, player stats will degenerate over time if you don't use them. Reaching certain values will lock stats, but you still need to pay attention to everything.


Game Mechanics:

In addition to training, you also need to find time to attend sparring sessions and Fight Camps. You're no longer limited to a packaged set of moves. Instead, you can choose to spar, earning points to assign to various offensive and defensive traits, like striking or submission. Stats play into Fight Camps. You can choose to attend one whenever you want and learn specific moves to fit your personal play style.

Changes to fighting mechanics are subtle, but are significant enough to the overall flow that players will need to rethink their approach. Venues to cheap victories have been rerouted or, in some cases, completely shut off. All three fighting styles have been reworked, or completely revamped.

Submissions are based completely on the Right Analog Stick, removing all button mashing. As a result, submissions are harder to pull off, but more lethal when locked. Stand-up fighting benefits from a new sway system. You can now duck-and-weave around punches, and even land a powerful counter if the timing is right. It's the one system that needs tweaking (it can lead to usually quick knockouts), but is by no means a game breaker.

Clinching is completely reworked. Controls are now unified with the rest of the game, removing the jarring experience of having to think about button presses or memorizing two completely different schemes. Grappling also plays into a new Cage Interaction System, adding another layer of complexity and strategy. It takes a little while to get into the new system, but it's a valuable skill to learn.

UFC Undisputed 2010 is an all-around amazing experience. It is a vastly different game, but still manages to find last year's spark. It avoids nearly every sophomore pitfall imaginable, finding a nice balance between catering to its hardcore following and newcomers.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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