Wednesday, 2 June 2010

UFC Undisputed 2010 - Review

UFC Undisputed 2010
Format: Xbox 360/PS3
Developer: Yukes
Publisher: THQ

Another sub-par yearly update, or a surprisingly significant improvement?

UFC 2010 is here. A game I have been looking forward to since I played UFC 2009 (see I won't bother repeating the whole review, I felt UFC 2009 was lacking in certain areas, but overall it was a very enjoyable game.

Those areas, thankfully, are what Yukes have worked on for UFC 2010.

As with all yearly updates, the expected fighter roster update is extensive.
Over 100 fighters are available for your pummelling pleasure. These fighters look photo realistic, all being rendered in high resolution. Tattoos, scars, its all there. There definitely aren't many games available that show your on screen 'avatar' this realistic.

2009/2010. What's the difference?

What has changed, or rather improved, is the number and quality of CAF (Create-A-Fighter) customisable options available. Before, you could choose template face types, body types, skin colour, hair type, hair colour and place some basic tattoos on your fighters body.

This time the CAF customisation allows complete choice. Admittedly there are still some template face/hair/body types, but there are bundles of them and on top of that, there are even more customisation options available for the facial features. The tattoos look amazing and the template system has been through an overhaul since 2009.

The number of tattoo designs have been increased and now include a wide range of images, Chinese and Japanese symbols as well as English characters. As with last years iteration any character tattoos are unavailable on Xbox Live/PSN, but now you can still use that fighter online, only the characters/symbols/text doesn't appear. A feature that should have been in last years version, as many friends of mine lost the chance to use their CAF fighters online.

With all these options you can create a close representation of yourself, or whoever you want to create. Alongside these additions, is the inclusion of clothing. Headgear, tops and trunks have multiple versions available and can be coloured and styled to your particular wishes. Furthermore the sponsors have badges that are made available after wins and the more popular your fighter becomes. The more popular your fighter becomes, the more styles of branded clothing can be unlocked (Affliction, Warrior International and Bad Boy to name a few). The sponsors badges can be placed anywhere on the default clothing types and give you bonuses throughout your career, or just to look the part when you're playing online.

As well as all the graphical customisation improvements to the CAF's look, you can now choose your Navigation Style, Stance & Power Hand, Voice, Introductions & Celebrations and your Name/Nickname.

Navigation Style, is basically the way your fighter moves around the Octagon. Choices are from 10 styles including Karate, Boxing and Wrestling. Each look well researched and add greatly to your own individual style.

Stance is your preferred way of fighting. Choices are from Orthodox, Southpaw and Switch Stance, which enables you to alternate between the two. Power Hand is the preferred handedness of your fighter, which also provides more damage. Choose from Righty and Lefty.

Voice is mainly used in cutscenes and other events during the career. You can choose from 5 versions (the British accent is superb!) to give your fighter an even more realistic edge.

Introductions are now fully custom, no more stock intros to the match-ups. Albeit, there are only a few templates to choose from. Celebrations are also fully custom, now you can be respectful or disrespectful when you win!

Name/Nickname are your fighters names so that the announcers can introduce the fights. This option gives the game an even deeper dimension of immersion if your lucky to have one of the stock names. If not, many first names are covered so you should be lucky enough to have a first name and a nickname!

All of this and we haven't even got into the career mode yet! These additions and tweaks, make UFC's CAF a deep and rewarding option. The downside to the customisation is the amount of time it takes to create all aspects of your fighter and its a shame that UFC could not incorporate a similar mode to EA's Gameface, that would be epic.

I wanna be a fighter...

Career mode, seems to have been given a huge overhaul. UFC 2010, has taken a immersive stance and given the career mode a more realistic experience. You start as an Amateur fighter working with Marc Laimon working towards your world domination of the mixed martial arts scene.

Your fighter and Marc have a cutscene before your first Amateur bout, giving you the option to choose a tutorial or to get straight into the fight, all from a first person perspective. This immersion continues with the interactive responses in various cutscenes throughout your career, post fight analysis, fight predictions and interviews to name a few. Be warned, these interactions will not occur until you rise in stature on the mixed martial arts circuit. Remember a nobody is never in front of the camera! These interactions can impact your popularity with the fans and your relationships with other fighters, so be careful how you respond. Dana White has made UFC the success it is today. There is no argument that with out his direction, the mixed martial art competition would not be as popular. His influence and visionary use of new media for promoting the sport is mirrored with your fighters inclusion in Dana's video blog. Other notable interactions are with Rachelle Leah for the training session interviews and match predictions, and Joe Rogan for the post fight interviews.

A good inclusion to the franchise, but still in its infancy. It has promise sure, but it just doesn't feel complete for me. There's no 'lead in' to this new set of interactions. Sure there is a good FAQ section in your trainers tab at the training screen, but most gamers today prefer hand holding (for a short period) rather than reading through pages of text. I can only hope this feature is going to develop drastically for the next game. Interaction between fighters in the training camp would be welcome, so that you can build friendships and learn new moves and combos. That's only what I think can improve it, as for its inclusion in this game, its a good addition and does add to the immersion, but it could be a huge selling point with some well place tweaks.

As an Amateur, I would like a longer career. 1-3 fights are all you can compete in really. Then its into the big time. Personally, I'd rather have an Amateur title to prepare for, or at least 6-7 fights to allow a full tutorial of the new features. It would enable the new players to get used to the stat building, interaction and training side of the career.

The biggest change, is the fighter progression.

This time around your fighter has no list of moves set in stone. Its up to you which moves you learn. That is mixed martial arts. Using Kick Boxing with some Wrestling, BJJ and a sprinkling of Muay Thai could make for a very competitive fighter.

Taking into account all of the available disciplines, there are some heavy decisions to make. Do I concentrate on the ground game, clinching, standing game or submissions? Taking this even further, is the frustration of Stat Deterioration. Your stats, if not continually worked on, will gradually deteriorate. Well, pretty damn fast really. There is no introduction to this feature until you have actually lost stat points. So again we have a feature with amazing potential, but is unbalanced and not fully briefed to the player. This shows the developers pursuit for innovation, which is admirable, but the execution is somewhat lacking. Maybe next year or an update this year will have it fixed?

The fighting is again top notch. The guys and dolls at Yukes/THQ have really got the feel of these fights bang on the nose (forgive the pun). Graphical improvements in the fights are subtle, but are there. Real-time bruising occurs if an area, like the ribs, is continually pounded, split eyes bleed on both fighters, sweat and blood drips on to the Octagon floor and swelling on the face is quite noticeable. Again, any punch or kick can end the fight. It could be the first or the hundred and first hit. That's what has made UFC so popular on TV and pay-per-view and that atmosphere has been transferred to the game perfectly.

The physics of UFC have been improved upon too, which greatly adds to the realism and physical presence in the Octagon.

First is The Sway System, a welcome addition to the fighters defensive repertoire, allows for more flowing dodges and counter strikes to opponents. Missing from 2009, The Sway System really adds another dimension to the fighting. No mere block, punch, block, kick combos here. Ducking and weaving around your opponents attacks is satisfying when followed up with a knock out blow.

The Dynamic Combo System has been created to make the fighters movements, whether around the Octagon or attacking an opponent, look more natural and fluid. This means any combination of moves now looks preconceived, even if you were just button bashing!

Finally the cage is interactive! The fighters lean on it, get bashed into it and use it to fight back. A real improvement on last years game, its not huge, but it is game changing. Previously, in 2009's review, I harped on about physical presence in games. Adding this physical barrier now creates that feeling being trapped, but also can give you an edge when grappling with an opponent.

With all the improvements, there are however, some issues. Its a rare occurrence, but sometimes a punch can miss and get caught on your opponents head or a grapple can get stuck in a weird position. Small bugs/glitches that can easily be rectified in an update (if not already available).

Overall the presentation and feel of the fights is as close as you can get to actually being in the Octagon. Any closer and you will physically be training everyday for your fights.

Is that all there is to it?

There are a new set of modes to keep you occupied other than the standard Career and Exhibition and the returning Ultimate Fights game types:

Event Mode – Where you can play through a complete UFC fight night, or watch the match ups played out by the CPU. It is also possible to download the latest UFC fights and play through them in this mode.

Title Mode – Self explanatory really, your fighting for the title, using your CAF or any of the fighters in the game.

Title Defence – Only unlocked once you have won the Title. Once unlocked you fight in defence of your title.

Some simple modes there, but worthy inclusions to the UFC franchise.  Altogether a varied set of modes to play and enjoy, which is difficult for any game of the genre.

Online, Punch-happy or Punch-drunk?

One of the biggest frustrations with UFC 2009 had to be the online component.  With the quality of the fights against your friends on the same computer, the same was expected with the online.  Unfortunately this was not to be.  Laggy, slow and unplayable were some the nicer words used by many gamers when describing the online game and I had to agree.  Its an issue that should be dealt with very early in a games development if I'm honest.  The first online game I played of UFC 2009 never had any issue and I was playing against an American, but subsequent games were awfully laggy and jittery.  So on to 2010, but alas, this years UFC seems to have inherited the same problem.  Which is hugely disappointing as I have been hoping the laggy online would have been resolved, if it had been, this would have been one of the best online fighters of 2010.

A new addition to UFC is Online Camps.  Throughout your offline career, you can go to camps to learn new moves and spar, this is fundamentally the same with Online Camps.  An interestingly fresh premise, but has it succeeded?  

The Online Camps allow you to create a central port for your team to organize competitive fights, exhibition bouts, training sessions and sparring.  Surprisingly, the Online Camps suffer less lag than the online exhibitions/fights which is imperative when sparring with a friend.  Unfortunately thats the best part of this feature.  The lack of instruction while sparring with a friend is ridiculous.  How is a novice meant to know what button combination is a front back transition hold?  If there were some on screen button prompts as in the career camps, it would be much better and easier to get to grips with.  Now I don't mind a challenge, but if it becomes a chore then its not interactive entertainment is it?!


As with the previous instalment of UFC, I am impressed with the levels of detail and depth that the developers have gone to for realism and immersion.  However, the game is still not reaching its full potential.  The new features are welcome, but some are just not implemented well enough for them to improve my overall score of the game.  Physics are of great quality and the games graphics are stunning, but unfortunately the improvements don't seem to add enough to the already impressive franchise.  The biggest criticism for me has to be the inclusion of a one time use code to allow online play.  This is a sad state of affairs throughout the gaming industry and something I will address separately.  Pre-owned buyers beware, you will have to by the online part of the game from the PSN/XBL for around £6.

Score: 7/10

As good as its previous instalment, but I was expecting a hell of a lot more from the developer this year.  Lets hope they can fine tune the features that have been added for 2011.

Keep an eye out for our review of Brady Games Signature Series Guide for UFC Undisputed 2010.

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