Dear Ultimate Fighting Championship Fan,
My name is Cyril Lachel and I don't know much about this thing called UFC. Actually, let me take that back, I don't know anything about UFC. I know that a couple of guys enter an eight-sided ring and they proceed to beat the living tar out of each other. But outside of that, I'm as clueless as they come. I couldn't name you a single UFC athlete and I don't even know what it is these people are fighting for. I'm absolutely clueless. So I don't take it personally if you decide that I'm not the guy who should be reviewing this line of video games. I haven't played a decade's worth of UFC games and have no knowledge of the nuance of this sport.
But don't leave just yet, UFC fans. I may not know anything about this franchise, but I'm willing to learn. I want to give this game a fair shake. And who knows, maybe this will be the kind of story where I end up falling in love with something I expected to hate. It could be that by the end of this review I'll reveal that I've turned into an avid UFC watcher who is going back and buying all of the games. All that could happen ... but it probably won't.
UFC Undisputed 2010 is the kind of game where you won't be surprised by anything that happens. I turned on the game and discovered that the game has a handful of basic modes (exhibition, online, career, ladder, etc.) and a bunch of fighters I've never heard of. In a lot of ways it feels exactly like all of the boxing and wrestling games that I've accidentally played in the past. Only this time around everybody is using mixed martial arts and the ring looks a lot like the Dharma Initiative logo.
Anybody that knows me can tell you that I'm a huge fighting game fan, sharpening my teeth at the arcade with the likes of Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat and everything that SNK could throw at me. But as I got older I never transitioned from traditional fighting games to the more realistic form of fisticuffs. When it came to UFC Undisputed 2010, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I was happy to discover that THQ's newest fighting game was exceptionally easy to learn and play. I discovered right from the beginning that the controls felt a lot like Namco's long-running Tekken franchise. Using the four face buttons, you have complete control over both of your arms and legs. Unlike Tekken, UFC allows you to modify both the height of your attack and the technique using the L1 and L2 buttons. There is also a more advanced grapple technique and not one, but two defensive buttons. There may be a lot more buttons to think about, but it didn't take more than a couple of matches before I felt comfortable with the controls.
Once I had the controls down, I was excited to be able to kick butt in the game's exhibition mode. The game offers more than one hundred UFC fighters (not including the custom fighters, which we'll get to in a moment), which meant that I spent much of my time picking random characters and hoping for the best. With so many different personalities to choose from, you'll have no problem finding a character for you in UFC Undisputed 2010.
Although it's a funny thing to compliment, I was especially impressed with how well THQ was able to capture the intensity of each match. These UFC fighters aren't messing around, they're built to administer devastating punches and kicks, and Undisputed 2010 certainly gets that element right. There's a lot of emphasis placed on each shot, so you can't simply rush in and mash buttons. That first big attack you land has the potential to influence the rest of the match, in a way you don't normally see in most traditional fighting games. As I played through the various modes I was always cognizant that one or two big attacks can mean the difference between winning and losing.This fundamental also carried over into the Career Mode, which allowed me to create my own fighter and take him on a wild journey from nobody to the top of the sport. As you might imagine, you start at the absolute bottom floor. My guy could barely punch and kick, I doubt he could even read or write. But thanks to my rigorous training and a few small fights on the amateur level, I was able to build him up and get him ready for the big time. Before I could jump right into the UFC, I first had to earn my dues in the World Fighting Alliance. It's here that I turned my wimpy pugilist into the tough fighter he is today. On top of the fighter camps, you'll also have to contend with the press and your colleagues as you advance through the campaign. You will also need to be mindful of your age, which may begin to play a real issue as you near the end of your career. For those keeping score at home, THQ has upped the length of the career mode this year from 7 in-game years to 12.
There's a lot more to the career mode than I was expecting. For one thing, I wasn't expecting to be as much spoken dialogue between you and your trainers. You also have to think about sponsors and your popularity, especially as you fight for the chance to be on a Pay-Per View event. The road to becoming a UFC champion is an authentic one, full of well-scripted exchanges and a lot of training. The game manages to succeed at this in large part because of the great presentation, which constantly has you changing locations and meeting new people.
Speaking of presentation, I was thoroughly entertained by the color commentary running during each fight. While commentary is nothing new to a sports game, the history and facts the commentators rattled off was always entertaining and helped me gain a better understanding of the sport. I was worried that it would be hard for a novice like me to jump into a franchise with so much established history, but I didn't have that problem at all. The game is incredibly welcoming, offering hints and information all along the way.
As I played through the career mode I started to notice that it wasn't just my virtual character who was becoming a better fighter. I was starting to learn techniques that allowed me to grapple and keep people on the mat until they tapped out. I was able to learn my opponent's moves and see their weaknesses. I was starting to become a powerful fighter, somebody cocky enough to take on the entire world.
Thanks to a robust online mode, UFC Undisputed 2010 allows you to prove your mettle against the best of the best from around the world. Although the game offers matchmaking that supposedly pairs you with players of similar skill, I found that I didn't stand a chance against players who have been at this for several years. Thankfully there are enough offline modes to help me improve my skills for the time when I do stand a chance fighting through the impressive list of online matches.
Even though this isn't my type of fighting game, I was impressed by how easy the game was to pick up and play. That's not to say that there's no challenge, because there's certainly a lot you're going to need to learn if you intend to master all of the modes. But with more than a hundred fighters and the ability to make your own, you're going to have a great time getting there. Throw in easy gameplay and a good presentation and you have a solid fighting game that even I can get behind.
At the end of the day I'm not sure why I was so intimidated by UFC Undisputed 2010. While I may not remember many of the characters names or fighting styles, I definitely know that I can hold my own in the octagon ring ... at least in the video game world. This THQ game may not have made me a die-hard UFC fanatic, but I had a great time with it and suspect that fans of the series won't be disappointed by this year's model.