UFC Undisputed enters the world of the yearly franchise with 2010 and Yukes (the developer) finds itself with two possibilities. It could either do the bare minimum and rely on the fans to justify the continued existence of the series (as FIFA did for many years) or it
could build on what is already the best sports fighting game available and give those on the fence a reason to pick up this yearís game.
They went with the second option, in case youíre wondering. UFC 2010 is much, much more than just a roster update - itís a full-fledged evolution of the already outstanding series.
The differences do start with the roster though. Last yearís effort included 82 from the UFCís roster of fighters - across all weight classes. This year the game includes 104 fighters across the weight classes - and once again a number of fighters feature in more than one weight class (like BJ Penn and Wanderlei Silva).
The likenesses of all 104 characters are much better this time around as well, making the game look more realistic when youíre fighting with anyone at all, not just the biggest names in the sport.
The worst looking person in the game is sideline commentator Joe Rogan - he looks like he belongs in Spiderman 3, with buggy eyes and something weird going on with his mouth.
Still, his voice acting is superb - as is Mike Goldmanís - and even Dana White spends some time in front of the camera to lend his likeness to the gameís outstanding career mode. Oh, and thereís a little thing called the Buffer 180 this year! (No 360... yet).
Career mode last year allowed the player to create a fighter in their likeness before taking them through a UFC career - fighting known fighters to become the champion of your weight class was cool, if a little shallow.
This year it has evolved - pokemon style - you begin your career as an amateur fighter, about to turn pro. When you do go pro you join WEC - World Extreme Cagefighting - and you have to prove your worth as a fighter before Dana White visits your dojo to give you a shot at the big time.
Throughout the career you get various opportunities to demonstrate your fighterís personality - is your fighter the respectful type like Mauricio Rua or Wanderlei Silva, or is he a loud mouthed idiot like... pretty much every other person in MMA?
Talking trash about your opponent is always more entertaining than any of the other options on hand, though after a while youíll start to hear your fighter repeat himself, robbing the mode of real replayability (or the motivation to stick with one personality type through out an entire career).
Ultimately though, if you create the right fighter you get an outstanding amount of options made available to you. Fight Camps will train you in new techniques - allowing you to give your fighter the movelist you want him to have - and the fights are spaced out nicely to deliver enough points over time to keep you going.
One interesting thing I noticed was the AI in career mode isnít as solid compared to the AI in other modes. The Title Defence mode features some absolutely amazing artificial intelligence - by the end of the mode youíll be hard pressed to find a manoeuvre your opponent isnít readily countering as itís learned all of your strengths.
You wonít notice this kind of adjusting AI until the later stages of your career - early on you can rely on (in most fights) a few key strategies to make sure you continue to build as a fighter - though itís unwise to rely on these moves as you move further into your career.
Like last year, UFC 2010 suffers at the hands of an unbelievably complicated combat system - even though this yearís grappling has been significantly tweaked, a new player will be quickly dominated should you take them to the ground.
Itís a problem really without a solution - itís similar to the sorts of techniques used by OZHadou-level Street Fighter aficionados, but the core gameplay of UFC 2010 requires the knowledge should a fight go to the ground.
Submission areas and move limitations require copious amounts of prior knowledge should a play want to strategise - certain fighters canít do specific moves, so using Rampage Jackson is great if you want to stand and swing, but donít expect to do the same with the likes of Royce Gracie and win.
There really isnít an obvious solution to this problem - the ground (and now clinch) gameís transition system is necessitated simply by the sheer number of possibilities available to a fighter on the ground. If anything, this itís just going to get more difficult - should the game move towards instituting things like standing submissions.
Still, they made a mistake in removing the power struggle option for submission defence. In 2009 a player could mash a button as hard and fast as they could and they might realistically get out of or lock in their submission - though failing with either would result in disadvantage (or a loss, as it were).
In 2010 the only option is to ďshineĒ - the player has to spin the right thumbstick as fast as possible. This requires the player to either have exemplary thumb dexterity or to move their hand on top of the thumbstick quickly. Itís not as devastating as the (later
reneged) mandatory control scheme introduced with Fight Night Round 4, but it does make submitting a little bit less attractive an option.
The changes havenít been negative mostly though - theyíve actually improved the ground game immensely, and all it took was to make transitions logically related to the movement you make with your thumbstick.
To perform a transition on the ground the player needs to move the thumbstick a quarter of a circle (for a minor transition) around - if successful theyíll shift from one position to another. In 2010 the position they shift to is related to the movement made with the thumbstick - if you want to move from side mount to full mount you move the thumbstick to 10 oíclock and around to 3 oíclock (a major transition).
Further, the fighter will automatically defend against transitions this time around, meaning you have to overpower them or time your move right for it to be successful. It helps when youíre attacking as well, as it means the other player canít diffuse full mount (basically the Ďwiní position) by constantly transitioning away, preventing the dominant player from landing a punch.
Of course, once you understand all of these concepts youíre extremely well equipped to take apart your opponent. The fighting has evolved even further in 2010 - you can now transition in clinches, meaning you can use the same system that you use on the ground to gain dominance on your feet.
You can also use the cage to your advantage - if your fighter doesnít have great takedown defence you can let the cage do the work for you by keeping your back to it at all times. Alternatively you can get an opponent in the clinch and push them against the fence to eliminate their ability to move away from your fists of fury.
On the ground the fence is a boon for both the offensive and defensive fighter as well. You can use the fence to restrict your downed opponents movement - or they might use it to get out of a sticky situation. Should the fight approach the outside of the ring, it really does add a new dimension to your gameplay.
Itís the nature of this fighter that itís difficult to pick up and play, which makes me wonder if itís fair to criticise it for being this way. The depth of the fighting system requires a control system to match, meaning simplification might actively destroy the gameplay. Still, the Ďtwo button gameplayí option present in FIFA 2010 makes me wonder if there might actually be a solution - if only to make the game noob friendly.
Realistically speaking, UFC 2010 is the best it can be - an expertly refined, craftily created fighting game which builds on an already outstanding base to deliver an all-around outstanding experience. Like last year, little things hold the game back from being untouchable - though the understanding and respect Yukes has for MMA as a sport is reflected in UFC Undisputed 2010, and EAís MMA is going to have to do something spectacular to take the belt.
GameArena has tested UFC Undisputed 2010 on both consoles for this review