When THQ released UFC 2009 Undisputed last May it forever changed the world of mixed martial arts video games. The surge in popularity of the UFC finally had a quality game to go alongside it. This year the folks at Yuke's Media Creations have strived to improve upon and add to the strengths of last year's breakout hit. So far, from what we've seen, the game appears to have fixed many issues, such as rigid animations, spotty hit detection, and over complicated controls, as well as adding several new features, namely tournaments, online camps, and expanded career options, that will give Undisputed 2010 staying power. Being only the second installment in the young UFC gaming franchise, 2010 had a lot to improve, and seems to be on the right track to separate itself from yearly sports iterations that show marginal improvement, like say...Madden.
At first glance, the combat appears very similar to 2009, and while it's true the fundamental gameplay is relatively unchanged, subtle tweaks made to the control scheme have made UFC 2010 a much more intuitive game. For instance, the clinch used to have a distinct control scheme which made it difficult to master. Those controls have now been incorporated into the same layout as other positions so it's much easier to apply skills across different avenues. Clinching is also made easier with the introduction of cage dynamics, which give you the option of pinning your opponent against the cage. The submissions have also been revamped. Mashing the face buttons no longer works to advance your position. In addition, allowing proficient players the ability to switch submissions midway through adds versatility.
This year's iteration seems to have taken some of the focus off attacking from a distance. Those who played 2009 will recall how advantageous it could be to charge in with a superman punch, or spinning back kick from a distance to close the gap. On the other end, it was quite effective to hold back, wait for your opponent to charge, and time a counter to blunt their assault. It wasn't very realistic mixed martial arts, and Yuke's seems to have noticed. Instead, 2010 favours close exchanges by nurfing some of the ranged moves, and giving players more options up close. An improved dodging system lets you dip and weave in the pocket to avoid a strike, then seamlessly enter a counterattack if timed right. On a slightly unrelated gameplay note, it's a godsend that the leg kick has been taken down a peg this year. Previously, you could easily get locked in a vicious cycle of leg kicks, it was incredibly frustrating.
From a presentation standpoint, UFC 2010 makes a number of improvements over its predecessor. The most striking is the animation. One of the biggest complaints levied at the original was the rigid animations, especially during submissions which unfolded robotically in phases. That has all been completely thrown out, everything feels much more fluid in this game. Submissions actually look realistic, and use an effective camera providing players with feedback on who is ahead in the struggle based on the position of the camera. This improved animation also benefits the controls by making it much easier to get out of one animation and switch to another. Subtle touches include enhanced blood, sweat and tear visuals, hand made character models for all fighters, and quicker menu load times. UFC 2010 feels much more dynamic because of these improvements.
A number of new features are also available which THQ hope will keep players engaged such as online tournaments, training camps, and career mode options. Only the offline tournaments were available on our playthrough, which seemed odd because they felt tacked on. Implementing a basic tournament menu didn't impress too much, however, it's a mandatory feature for fighting games, so we're glad it's there. The training camp mode apparently lets players join a team that can compete against others online, as well as training to upgrade character stats offline - it's a nice addition as the training camp environment is very prominent in mixed martial arts. Addition career modes include title defense, which starts players off as the champion in a series of bouts to maintain their belt.
Overall, THQ has put out a fairly impressive demo for UFC Undisputed 2010. While there is still a lot we haven't seen, the game is shaping up to be a substantial leap from last year's hit debut. Thanks to improvements in control, animation, presentation, and lasting appeal, UFC 2010 seems poised to expand on the success of the first Undisputed.