A seriously demanding mixed martial arts fighting game that offers lots of fan service.
So… You want to be a fighter? Then you better have the skill, strength, technique and determination to last you through years of hard training and relentless competition. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is in many ways the ultimate test. If you are victorious in the ring, you’ll gain fame and earn respect, but also rivalry and even more demanding challenges.
UFC Undisputed 2010 is a realistic mixed martial arts fighting game. It relies strongly on its official Ultimate Fighting Championship license, allowing world-famous fighters to be represented in the game along with other iconic individuals related to the sport.
Fans of the UFC TV show will feel right at home as the game tries to mimic the television experience as closely as possible. You get to fight title matches with the most famous characters in the sport, as well as build your own fighter from scratch and try to become number one.
The game is strictly played by the UFC rules, meaning that each fight consists of three five-minute rounds or until someone is knocked out. Inside the octagonal ring fighting has but a few rules, so basically anything goes. Yes, this is a very competitive and brutal sport, but it potentially also has a high entertainment value as various fighting techniques are showed off and tested against each other.
While playing you’ll see that the fighter’s health status isn’t indicated with health bars or anything like that. Instead it registers hits to various body parts, and doesn’t let you know about it. Bruises and open wounds are your only visual guide as to how well you’re doing compared to the other person in the ring. The game does, however, have a stamina bar, but it is hidden in the default game settings. This bar reveals how many moves you can perform without becoming tired – each punch, kick and grappling move will wear you down sooner or later, and by spacing your actions you can prevent exhausting yourself completely. Keeping track of your injuries and stamina level is a central aspect of the game, because that knock-out punch is never far away if you let your guard down at the wrong time.
The controls are quite complex – you need a basic foreknowledge of it in order to be able to learn anything about it. There is a practice mode within the tutorial in which you can freely practice against an AI controlled dummy opponent or a human controlled one. Here you’ll be able to study damage output and learn the controls with no one stressing you. This is the best way to analyze the less obvious mechanics of the game.
The controls are tricky because they change entirely depending on what you’re currently doing and where you’re currently standing. It may sound more messy than it actually is, but you will have entirely different options depending on your distance to the opponent, how your arms are positioned when you’re clinching and how you are positioned when you’re grappling. Thanks to your character’s skills and set of learned moves, there’s even more depth to this already absorbent control system. In order to learn the game you’d need to spend at least a few hours of playing and experimenting in the practice mode.
Once you get the basics, most controls work good through. Aiming for various body parts with punches and kicks becomes easy, and executing special fighting moves is simple and effective once you learn the button combinations – yes, some moves require two buttons to be pressed at the same time as well as a simultaneous directional pull of the left thumbstick.
It’s only during clinching and grappling when the game feels somewhat inconsistent and not as responsive as you would like. It’s hard to see exactly what’s going on as the two fighters are intimately attached to each other, grappling away. Obviously you must try to avoid getting into a disadvantageous position, while your opponent tries to do the same. Transition moves during clinches and grapples are done with various circular motions of the right thumbstick which make little sense compared to what’s happening on the screen. The thing here is that you can block your opponent’s attempts to make transitions, but the game is not very clear about when those blocks are supposed to happen and what your options are. Escaping from a grapple or a clinch is equally ill-defined. It’s clear though that your character’s skills and fatigue level play a huge role when your grappling and clinching.
These are the available game modes in UFC Undisputed 2010; Exhibition, Title Matches, Title Defense, Ultimate Fights, Events, Tournament, Online and Career. Without a doubt, there’s a lot to do in this game, and we’ll go through each game mode below.
All game modes can be played on five different weight classes, namely, Lightweight, Light Heavyweight, Middleweight, Heavyweight and Welterweight. Each weight class has its own roster of fighters for a total of 103. What’s more, you can save up to 40 of your own fighters created in the Create a Fighter mode. Creating your own fighter will allow you to pick and choose from a wide array of fighting moves, lots of faces, various body sizes, clothes and official sponsors. You’ll also be able to allocate skill points on various areas of proficiency such as Striking, Takedown, Grappling and Clinching. You can even choose what body language your fighter has with various victory poses, fighting stances, taunts and so on.
Furthermore, most game modes allow you to adjust the difficulty level. The difference between the various difficulty levels is mainly about how aggressive your opponent is, but also how much punishment he can take before being knocked out.
Other than the above mentioned game modes, there’s a Tutorial mode which walks you through all aspects of the game. The entire tutorial takes around 50 minutes to go through, and half of that time you’ll be watching as the game plays itself, trying to show you the various steps that you are supposed to mimic. Sadly, it isn’t of much help if you’re new to the game.
The Exhibition mode is your standard game mode for a quick match. You can play either against a CPU controlled opponent or a player controlled one. For some reason, the wins and losses (for player one) are saved as statistical data on your save file.
Title Matches are a series of fights in which you try to earn yourself a title. There are three different ladders to conquer, and the competition gets tougher the further you go.
Title Defense mode is also a series of fights, but here you try to defend your title from other competitors. If you are to keep your title you must defend it for a set of fights, but should you lose any of those fights you’ll lose your title, which means game over for you. No re-tries are allowed.
Ultimate Fights mode is somewhat special. These fights are based on real events that have occurred in UFC history, and your goal is to either recreate them according to set victory conditions, or rewrite history by doing other victory conditions with the opposing fighter. Completing these fights according to the given conditions will unlock movie clips such as highlights from the fight as well as short interviews with the fighters in question.
Events mode will allow you to create your own fighting events by picking contenders and matching them up against each other. The fights will then be played in succession, as if you’re watching a TV show reporting from the event.
Tournament mode will allow you to create your own tournaments locally with either player controlled fighters or AI controlled ones.
Career mode will let you create your own fighter from scratch. You’re then assigned a virtual trainer who’ll guide you through your UFC career – all the way from amateur fights to become the best fighter in the world.
Last but not least is the Online mode. Here you’ll fight Exhibition matches against people over the PlayStation Network in either ranked- or player matches. There’s an online leaderboard that keeps track of the top players, and you’ll also be able to create and join online training camps where players can do sparring and train together.
It’s worth noting that your own custom created fighters are selectable as playable characters in most game modes and you can also play any of the mentioned weight classes in all game modes. The difference between weight classes isn’t huge – the lightweight fighters will move more lightly than the heavyweight fighters, but they can all learn the same moves.
You can also choose which fighting arena you want to fight in as well as one out of three referees. The game does not tell you the difference between the referees though.
To keep you busy with even more stuff to do, there’s a wealthy amount of unlockable extras and awards. There’s a shop in which you can buy new clothes, victory poses, taunts etc. There are special fighting techniques you can learn in Career mode, virtual UFC trading cards, Online medal awards and awards from Title matches. If you start an Online Camp, your camp can earn special achievements called Milestones. Of course, there is also 37 PlayStation trophies that you can collect, some of which will require you to fight and win online matches and train in the online camps.
The PlayStation 3 version has five exclusive UFC highlight match videos available from the main menu. They add a nice background flavor to the game, and can introduce new people to the UFC world as they include some in-depth interviews with some of the fighters.
Sure, 103 playable characters in a fighting game may sound overwhelmingly awesome. But the difference between them is sometimes minimal. What differs is, of course, their skills and what special techniques they can perform. Other than that, they play basically the same. This means that there are no character specific moves or anything like that. Once you know how to play one character, you can learn another in a matter of seconds.
Holding your guard is obviously a central aspect of the game, because the instant you’re caught off guard you risk taking an instant knockout punch to the face – strikes to the head are seriously dangerous, and clean strikes cause a lot of damage.
When fighters get bruised and banged up they’re prone to lose focus. Sometimes, when you take a serious blow, you’ll get stunned for a brief time which makes it hard to defend yourself. You’ll never know when your opponent will find an opening and land a serious blow, so the suspense level is high throughout the entire match. But it also feels cheap and incredibly unrewarding when an opponent gets lucky and knocks your lights out, especially when everything before that was going your way.
Submission holds are on the verge of being broken. They are hard to get out of but relatively easy to set up. The game isn’t very clear about the inner mechanics of submission holds, which means that you must try to figure it out yourself. The game tells you that you need to rotate the right thumbstick in order to escape a submission hold. But even if you have maxed out your strength, have a high level of submission defense, are not fatigued during the submission and rotate the thumbstick like a god, you’ll still lose to a lot of submission holds. It just isn’t right, and you are not let in on what you did wrong.
UFC Undisputed 2010 must be installed on the HDD in order to play it. The install size is just a little over one gigabyte, so it probably isn’t the biggest game you’ll have on your system. Despite being installed, there’s a formidable amount of loading screens to sit through, which makes navigating through menus and game modes a tiring element in the long run. There’s also lots of screens that you can’t skip, making all the game modes in which you’re supposed to fight numerous matches in sequence a discontinuous experience. Adding to this sensation is the fact that there is no quick way to retry a lost match.
The game does have some minor bugs too. We’ve seen numerous knockout strikes that just freezes the opponent rather than sending him to the floor, and we’ve heard background sounds play multiple times overlapping each other when you’re skipping certain screens. Thankfully, none of this is game breaking.
The Career mode is perhaps the highlight of the game, but it’s also peppered with bitterness. The calendar in which you’re scheduling your training sessions looks more complicated than it actually is. Learning new fighting techniques and raising your skill level is tedious if you want to maximize your character. There is an auto-option to raising skill level but using it will severely hinder your potential. Once you earn sponsors, you’d constantly need to micromanage your clothing and switch out sponsor logotypes on trunks, shirts and caps to maximize your “cred” within the UFC world. It’s just too time consuming and quickly becomes a chore.
Also, in the Career mode, the game will analyze your fighting style and let your opponents know about it. This means that they’ll have the potential to exploit your weaknesses and prepare for your strengths. It’s not very obvious when you play the game, but knowing that the mechanic is there will make you think about how you play – you must mix up your fighting style a little to throw your opponents off guard.
Career mode also cleverly adjusts the difficulty level to your skill level – if you keep winning you will climb in ranks and meet tougher opponents, but if you lose you’ll have to fight a lower ranking fighter. Your fighter ages though, so you may have to retire if you grow too old.
The Online mode is easy to get into because it is pretty basic. You can either search for opponents or invite people by creating your own session. The lobby before you join a game allows you to see the connection status to your opponent as well as some basic information about the game. Lag on the PlayStation Network causes the game to stutter, so it’s not very enjoyable if you don’t have a good quality connection to your opponent.
Searching and joining games is not very streamlined. If you try to join a game session, and it is no longer available (it happens all the time), you must reload the entire list of games rather than just attempt to join another game.
UFC Undisputed 2010 is a good-looking game. The character models do resemble the real world fighters pretty accurately, so the level of detail is nice. The animation is also convincing for the most part, and the dynamic camera zooming makes for an immersible experience. The physics engine of the game allows body parts to connect in a realistic way, so the fighting is very up close and tangible. You’ll see the fighters sweat and bleed in a realistic way, but it’s not dynamic, meaning it will look the same almost every time.
The TV show feeling before and after matches is charming and well done, but from a designer perspective, the menu system is a disaster. Depending on what game mode you are in, you’ll see the same menus with completely different looks. It is confusing at first, and just feels inconsistent in the long run. The biggest culprit here is the character skill list which, at least, has four different looks throughout the game.
A minor issue is that there are some ugly frame rate drops occurring randomly during fights. We’re not sure what is causing it, and it happens extremely rarely so it’s nothing to worry about, really.
The soundtrack is good and gets the job done even though some of it is out-of-place. Some of the music sounds like a typical Hollywood action movie score, while other pieces are more gloomy and gets you in a serious fighting mood.
During fights you’ll hear the audience cheer and it sounds very real and alive. Hearing them go crazier and crazier for each consecutive strike you land is very rewarding and satisfying on a primitive level of human consciousness.
Punching and kicking noises are also trying to mimic the TV show experience, so they’re quite muffled which adds to the realistic feel.
When you fight a title match, you’ll hear two commentators introduce the fighters and then constantly comment on what’s going on in the ring – just as if you’re watching a live broadcast. It’s very well done and there must be hours worth of voiced comments in the game. In the Career mode the commentators dynamically remember your past fights and comments on it. It really adds a nice touch.
If you’re into mixed martial arts, UFC and video games, you’re sure to enjoy UFC Undisputed 2010 for a good while. It really is a game for fans, and there’s a lot of content packed in there. It does not have the best fighting system because much of it is unnecessarily unresponsive, but building your own fighter and challenging other players with it is an interesting experience. The brutal world of UFC is a fascinating one because it explores the extreme limits of unarmed combat and human physique. This game does the sport justice, but it does also demand a lot time, patience and willpower from its players.