Don't fear me, fear the consequences!
At this point, I believe anything that some straight guys, like boxer Bernard Hopkins, label as "gay porn" might actually be the straightest thing ever. Probably straighter than they are. (How would they know what "gay porn" looks like, anyway?) I certainly understand the association with the Ultimate Fighting Championship: two strong, sweaty, shirtless men, the domination and the submission, the occasional rolling around on the floor. There's a reason why "f****ed up" has multiple definitions, and I could go on and on about male gender studies. But the main point is this: If someone is f***ing you up by beating your head into the ground with his fist covered in your blood, the last thing you'll be thinking about is gay porn.
[image1]With the financial and critical success of UFC 2009 Undisputed, which sold over 3.5 million copies (maybe it is gay porn, har har har), it's a no-brainer that THQ and Yuke's have whipped up UFC Undisputed 2010 to officially mark the UFC Undisputed series as an annual franchise. (Note the switcheroo between the year and "Undisputed"... makes it roll off the tongue better.) They could easily have taken a break, lounging on their pile of newfound money. But like a #1 contender going after a title belt, they do not know the meaning of rest. The number of additions, changes, and enhancements is staggering, to the point that they have outdone and, in a few cases, overdone themselves.
The largest selling point for this year's installment is the expanded roster, twice as large as the original's at 100+ fighters across each weight class from welterweight to heavyweight. It would be difficult to find a UFC fighter that isn't represented here with ultra-realistic modeling and stats that correspond with their current performance in the Octagon. The PS3 version has three exclusive UFC legends - Royce Gracie, Dan Severn, and Jenz Pulver - all at their prime to keep things fair, and those who pre-order the game from GameStop will receive a code to download 4 contestants from Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter: Brendan Schaub, Marcus Jones, James McSweeny, and Roy Nelson.
Unfortunately, fighters from different weight classes can’t compete against each other even in Exhibition mode. This restriction follows the game’s commitment to realism, but Career mode offers the chance for your fighter to battle it out with another fighter from another weight class in a special “Champion vs. Champion” match. It would have opened the player’s options if this match type was carried over to Exhibition mode, especially when the stat differences are already fairly balanced across the weight classes.
Equally as impressive as the updated roster is how deep the developers have gone into filling in the missing holes in last year's fighting system. The cage no longer remains static, with fighters able to push each other into the cage while standing or in the clinch and, given special jiujitsu training, can use the cage in sneaky transitional moves while grappling on the mat. There are no ground positions that are up against the cage, but the inclusion of cage physics makes that point moot.
The clinch game now includes more positions and is much more difficult to escape from and easier to maintain. A simple punch in the offensive muay thai clinch won’t break it anymore, hopefully opening more knee shots on your unlucky opponent. Submission experts who specialize in the rubber guard will want to learn how to pull their opponent from the clinch right into the open guard down bottom position, while ground grapplers going for the full mount can throw their opponent from the clinch right into side control.
[image2]Fighters can also move their upper bodies more freely. A well-placed sway can avoid a high standing attack and open an opportunity for a swift counterattack. However, having to flick the right analog stick to sway slightly chops the fluidity of the controls and would have been bettered by giving the sway more analog control like in Fight Night. While in an offensive ground position, grapplers can posture high for more torque and offensive power, or low to block a transition, particularly against transition spammers who have no idea what to do on the ground except for trying to escape.
Meanwhile, moves flow together seamlessly by combining both physics-based and fixed animations, the former for realism and the latter for impact. Sound effects are harder hitting, though there are still no effects for pain. Submission attempts now show both fighters struggling against each other instead of a canned animation, making new submissions like the Omoplata and Gogoplata more true to life. In a bit of trickery, some submissions can even be switched to another submission midway through, forcing the opponent to recognize what is happening and rotate the analog stick in the other direction. Also, guarding against grappling transitions has been simplified by mapping nearly every defensive move to back on the analog stick.
Overhauled as well is the revised create-a-fighter system, which takes its cue from the extensive CAW system from THQ’s Smackdown vs. RAW series. It borrows not only the better designed interface, but also the additional parts for tattoos (which you can apply anywhere now), clothing, voice, and performance cut-scenes, like introductions, touching gloves, and winning sequences. You can even choose a stance - and even switch between orthodox and southpaw during the bout - as well as first and last names, which the commentators will say out loud in the introductions (still no “Nick” or “Nicholas”, though).
Better yet, fighters are not boxed into strict fighting styles anymore, and can choose whatever moves from whatever styles they wish from an a la carte list of over 200 techniques. However, the interface for editing the technique list (both in Career and CAF modes) is incredibly messy without many sort functions, notably for moves that have the same input command as you can only pick one of them to fill that command slot. But the added flexibility outweighs the negatives: Each fighter in the official roster now has a movelist that matches their “mixed” style in real life and it allows you to create a well-rounded fighter with multiple specializations.
[image3]All of these revisions culminate with the Career mode, where most hardcore players will spend most of their time fine-tuning their fighter for online matches and local competition. Like last year’s Career mode, you start off creating a fighter with whimpy stats and must fight, spar, and train on a week-by-week basis until your fighter can dominate even Fedor Emelianenko. In your fighter’s expanded twelve-year career, you will begin as a rookie in a local gym after which you choose your difficulty setting, turn pro and join the (now-defunct) World Fighting Alliance, and then get scouted into the UFC by Dana White once you’ve established yourself as a top fighter. Soon enough, you’ll gain enough popularity, cred, and skill to deserve a title shot, take the belt from the champ, (hopefully) defend your title, and finally earn a place in the coveted UFC Hall of Fame.
Of course, the life of a UFC fighter is much more complicated than that, a fact which this year’s tweaks attempt to capture… to the unfortunate detriment of Career mode. If your fighter goes too long without training a particular attribute, it will now start to decay aggressively. It’s supposed to be realistic, but at the same time if you build an attribute up to 30, 50, or 70, it won’t decay below that – which is understandable but not realistic at all. Once you begin to take your stats above 70, about halfway through the career, all you’re doing is preventing decay, maintaining the new "conditioning" stat, and resting to recover fatigue; that is, you’ll be lucky if you have one week out of twelve to actually build your fighter's stats. Worse, since you can’t apply a point to a skill stat that’s capped at 100, you have no choice but to let it decay.
And while you spin plates preventing decay as if you’re playing “The Sims MMA”, you’ll face plenty of irritants. Not only can you not retire your character whenever you want (take my advice and just copy a high-stat career fighter as a create-a-fighter), but rocking or knocking out a sparring partner doesn’t accrue any bonus points anymore. Learning new moves from gym camps can be either too easy, like hitting focus pads, or too difficult, like performing a large number of ground and pound maneuvers in only a minute or executing a technique from a defensive grappling position which only the sparring partner’s AI can put you into.
The mode introduces a slew of events – press workouts, post-fight dialogue options, and weigh-ins – to reflect the social element of being a UFC fighter, but they are either too repetitive or too costly. Rachelle Leah constantly nags you for pre-fight interviews, predictions, and press workouts to boost your popularity, but you gain enough popularity just by winning fights and these events sap one week of precious training time (again, mostly to prevent decay).
All of these events give you the opportunity to respect or disrespect opponents, a feature that isn't executed well enough. Like the general commentary, the post-fight dialogue options repeat themselves often and the reward for gaining friends/rivals isn’t high enough. Friends earn you a sliver of advancement points on moves learned at their gym, though many fighters (like Antoni Hardonk) aren’t represented in the gym list, while
Brock Lesnar rivals earn you a sliver of popularity points (which again, you hardly need) for defeating them.
[image4]Venture outside of Career and you’ll find plenty of new modes, including a Tournament mode, an updated Ultimate Fights mode, and a Title mode which simply pits you against a ladder of eight to twelve opponents. Defeating this will unlock Title Defense mode which adds more of a survival component and more challenging opponents. The downside is that Title Defense mode awards you significantly more points in the unlock store than Title mode, so why bother with Title mode at all?
It’s also here that you’ll notice the long half-a-minute waiting times between fights. It’s great that the pre-fight and post-fight presentation is realistic, but there needs to be an option to skip all of it, without it even loading, and get straight to the fight. A replay channel cataloguing your best submissions, knockouts, and online bouts would be a fine addition as well.
Online modes fare much better, with a bevy of lobby options, sortable leaderboards, and the ability to create your own online camp with friends. Though this is mostly for hardcore competitors, the online camps form the equivalent of guilds, where you can spar with other members and learn moves from them in Career mode. The only deterrent here is that online access costs an additional $5 if you’re getting the game second-hand (and that any trade-ins of the title will likely be $5 less). THQ has the right to charge the used market for online maintenance, but you might be more than miffed that you’ll have to shell out more money for a feature that was previously expected.
The foundation for the UFC Undisputed series has been remodeled so thoroughly that faulting UFC Undisputed 2010 for its optional Career mode and its questionable online business practices would almost be missing the point. For casual players who are going to purchase the game new and aren’t going to bother with Career mode, UFC Undisputed 2010 is an easy ‘A-‘. But to hardcore players, who imagine putting “gay porn” spammers into a Triangle choke, Career mode is not optional. And though it remains the virtually gilded path toward experiencing the UFC dream they’ve always wanted, it is a dream now slightly tainted.