UFC Undisputed 2010 Hands On Preview – Freshly Grounded And Pounded
Written Friday, April 30, 2010 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
In video game land, smashing someone in the face is a fun and frothy affair, normally accompanied by a fireball or some sort of shiny light effect, maybe with some kind of bombastic battle cry. Back in the real world however, one punch is enough to put most people out of commission and in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, brutal pummelling is the norm, and so, like its real-life counterpart, UFC Undisputed 2010 is serious stuff.
Like UFC Undisputed 2009 before it, 2010 offers up another dose of unreserved, no-nonsense violence, seeing blood and sweat being liberally spattered across the canvas of the trademark octagon ring – UFC's uniquely shaped arena of combat. Essentially pitting two pulsating mounds of muscle against one another in the eight-sided ring, UFC Undisputed 2010 has a number of improvements over its predecessor, which should add up to make this a more comprehensive iteration. At least that's the plan.
Getting a first hands-on with the forthcoming game, we can immediately see the new gameplay tweaks at work in the enhanced fluidity of the action. Initial impressions are that Undisputed 2010 feels faster and less stilted, and it does, thanks in no small part to the removal of canned animations, which have been replaced with proper reactions to strikes handled by the new physics system.
“What the hell are you blathering on about?” you might ask. Well, thanks for asking. UFC Undisputed 2009 - by producer Neven Dravinski's own admission – had predetermined animations initiated by certain blows and a brief pause triggered by the shift in viewpoint during submissions, which in turn lead to interruptions in the flow of a fight. That's all been completely scrapped for 2010 and left to the overhauled physics and collision mechanics, so if you kick an opponent in the head, it'll bounce off the end of your foot realistically, spraying a lovely jet of claret on impact. Beautiful.
This added fluidity also extends to the controls, which have been made more intuitive and logical, mapping move modifiers to the left triggers, high and low blocks to the right triggers and grapples to the right analogue stick. Moves still adhere to the Tekken-style 'button-per-limb' configuration, which makes stringing combos together a breeze. Still, being the cheap fighter that we are, it seems difficult to avoid simply battering our opponent around the head repeatedly with strong one-two punches until he drops his guard, leaving the opportunity wide open for a devastatingly quick flash knockout. You can throw up a block or lean and sway to avoid incoming swings, and counter with a stinging jab or uppercut, but there's always the danger of having your lights smacked out by an unexpected vicious smack in the chops.
On the game's tougher difficulty settings, bashing buttons like we did is punished like a swift kick to the nuts, although not necessarily by a swift kick in the nuts – that's illegal. Instead, if you attempt to launch an all out punch and kick assault with no strategy to back it up, you can expect to be kissing the canvas before the end of the first round. That kind of thing just doesn't wash with Undisputed 2010, which Dravinski states is all part of the franchise moving closer to emulating the “as real as it gets” tagline used by the UFC.
As well as flash knockouts, fighters can also now pull off flash submissions, so if you're efficient enough to get your opponent to ground and initiate a submission manoeuvre, chances are you can end the fight with a lightning-quick tap out. Submissions are now easier to engage in too, holding the left trigger and pushing the right stick to grab your rival's legs and throw him onto the ground. From here you can change your position by tapping directions on the right analogue stick, or you can go in for the submission by clicking the stick in before rotating it like a madman to pull whatever limb you have in a lock until your opponent can't take it anymore. Failing that you can try and loom over your floored rival, dropping a volley of hammer blows to get the referee to step in and end the bout by TKO.
While the core fighting mechanics have been given a significant revamp, the career and customisation options have been expanded massively, offering a “Create A Fighter” mode that's incredibly detailed and in-depth. Encouraged to play around and create our very own custom pugilist during our hands-on demo, we set to work building a freak using the simple analogue sliders. One pink shock of hair (long tresses are in this year), green beard and blue moustache later, and our 6' 8” tall hairy fat man is almost ready to waddle out into the ring. But first, we need to give him a voice and assign his attributes. This is all part and parcel of the added immersion for career with Dravinski confirming that there's “more investment in your created fighter this year.”
There are more fighting stances such as southpaw to choose from and new fighting styles (Karate, Greco-Roman wrestling and Sambo) all of which can be combined to give your would-be contender a unique style of his own. Once you enter career mode, you're introduced to the fighting world, entering the amateur WFA division to begin with. Training commences to boost your skills and you'll need to keep your training up and assign special stat points before each bout to stay sharp and prevent your attributes from decaying. As you progress through your career, earning a place with the pros in the UFC, your fighter will age as each season rolls by, and his skills will gradually decay faster as the years pass.
Staying on top is your most pressing concern then, especially now that your combatant can be kicked from the UFC back down to the amateur division. If however, you maintain a spot in the UFC, you'll attract sponsors and the more fights you win, the greater your reputation will grow. Small events like weigh-ins enable you to disrespect or respect your rivals, which has ongoing consequences, creating grudges between you and the other UFC fighters.
Although our hands-on time was extensive but ultimately rather limited in terms of things to do – we spent hours sampling every single heavyweight and welterweight fighter on offer in the code – we got a very real sense of how much smoother the action feels to play. Everything feels slicker and more intuitive, and the wealth of depth promised for the other modes - outside the Exhibition and Tournament modes we tried out – will surely make UFC Undisputed 2010 another watermark year for the franchise. How it will measure up against EA's MMA title is yet to be seen, but being the more established of the two will surely help THQ's game immensely. And it's like UFC owner Dana White says during his in-game invitation to join the UFC for your custom fighter: “that's right, bitches! Only the biggest and best fighters in the world fight in the UFC!”
We'll be the judge of that when UFC Undisputed 2010 releases on May 25th.