It’s a sunny Southern California day in Agoura Hills, but forget about fun in the sun. The real fun is inside THQ’s office, huddled around a flat screen TV to see if UFC Undisputed 2010 can live up to the name it built in 2009.
Being undisputed is all about how you defend your title. UFC Undisputed 2009 earned publisher THQ the Spike Video Game Award Best Individual Sports Game of the Year. Their follow-up, UFC Undisputed 2010, comes out strong for its first title defense.
With a whole year to digitally manipulate joint locks and blood chokes, the team of THQ and Japanese developers Yuke’s evolved their game like the sport of mixed martial arts itself.
Just like Georges St-Pierre’s transitions are seamless, THQ polished their game play for better fluidity inside the Octagon. 2010 flips through a rolodex of strikes, transitions, and submissions smoothly, even with an increased number of positions, including back mount, butterfly guard, and “the Salaverry” cross side.
“UFC 2010 is a lot faster,” says producer Rob Pearsall. “We did a lot of changes under the hood to deal with the combo system and the actual animations of the fighters.”
The combination system is a risk-reward sway movement that allows fighters to stand in the pocket and trade. And yes, there is a southpaw stance. Each fighter has an idle: karate stance, power stance, Muay Thai, etc. Blocks are now side-to-side a la “Rampage”Jackson rather than face cover-ups—all in the name of slug fests or strategic stand-up contests.
“There’s more throwing punches while you’re getting hit,” says Pearsall, noting pre-set combinations are gone in favor of total control for the player. “You’ve always got that ability to move back, to cover up, to guard, and to throw a counter punch.”
Take too much of a beating and a cut stoppage may be in order, where the 100-plus high-resolution photos of the fighters are on full display. UFC warriors such as Mirko Crocop, who was one of 40 fighters made in the create-a-fighter system last year, now enjoys a stronger likeness.
“Universally, people say that it’s the best MMA game out there, period. That’s what we wanted to do,” says designer Wesley Bunn. “We tried to build upon the previous version and make it even better.”
Like the fighters themselves, the game team identified gaps in their arsenal and patched them up. The submission system is completely revamped into a seesaw battle that is free from stages that characterized it previously, as well as brute force-button mash escapes. Can’t finish with strikes? Submit the rocked fighter a la Paulo Thiago-Mike Swick with one of many new submissions, including the d’arce, anaconda, or even the gogo plata.
Major and minor transitions are the same in the clinch as they are on the mat thanks to a unified grappling system. Go from a Muay Thai clinch to a body lock to a single leg takedown. Feel free to pummel against the newly playable cage or kick off it to evade a bad spot on the mat. Variants on each position open up different strikes and submissions. A posture system makes ground-and-pound more dynamic. Each movement is assigned a level, ensuring some moves are more dangerous than others.
“Each level increases on the damage that can be dealt by that particular strike, effectiveness of the transition, and effectiveness of the submission,” says Pearsall.
In addition to adding new styles like sambo, karate, and Greco-Roman wrestling, THQ emphasized small details to complete the UFC experience. Arenas each have individual models. Cameramen, athletic commission officials, and post-fight clothing further create alive UFC event atmosphere. Referees now intervene directly to stop a fight. The best additions are pre- and post-fight montages. UFC Undisputed 2010 cover boy Brock Lesnar tells you how he’ll beat you up before it happens and celebrates with Joe Rogan after.
In career mode, gamer control and AI are showcased. Commentators Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan identify more than 100 first names, 100 last names, and 50 nicknames, while addressing issues throughout the storyline like rematches or knockout losses. Shove the champion at weigh-ins as a brash challenger or be humble with a victory speech as gamers can choose to be loved or hated in the UFC. Created fighters have unique voices with Brazilian accents if needed.
But the most notable addition to career mode is the World Fighting Alliance, an organization you must fight your way through before entering the Octagon.
UFC President Dana White personally takes time out of one of his video blogs to drop in at Marc Laimon’s gym to offer you a spot in the UFC if you have the chops. Will you fight and fizzle out or ascend through multiple divisions and take gold?
“That was high on our list, making sure that the game is always fun and there’s always things to do,” says Bunn of THQ’s emphasis on extensive modes to increase the game’s replay value.
Unlock fight highlights and UFC bonus footage in title mode and title defense mode. Good luck defending the belt though, each fight results in cumulative damage. There are more than 80 goals to keep you occupied, and if that gets boring, switch over to tournament mode or create an event. Ultimate Fights return, but this time gamer scan play through classic knockouts, classic submissions, and the Best of 2009—all with the option to play spoiler and win with the losing fighter.
THQ has stepped up the mother of all replay value with their online addition of fight camps. Start a team with friends, spar in an endless round with teammates, switch camps, or disband. Online allows fighter stats—which were determined with matchmaker Joe Silva and White—to be updated to keep up with each UFC event.
Out of all of the as-real-as-it-gets changes, Bunn insists one stands out above the rest.
“The most important thing, the Buffer 180 is in,” he says. “We’re saving [the 360] for future iterations.”
Pearsall concludes they can’t play UFC 2009 around THQ anymore—a mark of solid game progression. Set for their first title defense with UFC Undisputed 2010, he asserts the experience is entirely up to the gamer. “Rampage wanted head kicks,” he says. “Throw ahead kick in a fight and we’ll give you one.”