THQ's 2009 UFC game (Called UFC 2009 Undisputed) was an outstanding accomplishment, they had managed to take a sporting concept and put it into an exciting game that was fun to play and intuitive to control. It was a little rough in places and often felt like the first generation of the franchise, so it's with little surprise that one year later we're now playing a sequel, if you can really call an annual update such a thing and while I'm normally a little sceptical about the annual game release I must say that UFC Undisputed 2010 (I'm guessing they couldn't think up a new word every year so they just moved it) is a fine example on how to make such a thing. Improve the graphics, toss in some improvements and tear out what didn't work and replace it with something that works better? Yup, that's what they did here. Can't moan about that, now, can you?
The first thing you'll notice about UFC 2010 is that the whole presentation feels a lot more high rent then it's predecessor, the sound design and layout of the menus allow you to find what your looking for without having to wait for too much of an animation to play. There have been various game modes added such as tournament and title defence modes as well as some very interesting updates to the career mode.
When actually playing the game you'll notice that the characters all feel far more unique, unlike before where you basically had set fighting disciplines and then the games developers would toss in a move the basic set wouldn't normally have on top of that, every character has a move-set unique to them, this brings us to the interesting new additions to the career mode where everything feels far more interesting rather then you just repeating tasks over and over to get the best effect and ignoring all the in-game E-mails you get that say things like "Bro, your fighting was totally awesome man!" or some other drivel written by a temp worker that was caught having a coffee break. Everything feels like it matters, you can pick your game plan for your up coming fight, attend a training camp where you can learn or improve on moves you know to give them more effect, and this is where your character becomes completely customisable as your character can be a complete mix of what you want to do, as opposed to the old method where you wanted to be able to do something and had to sacrifice one thing and maybe take in some unwanted attributes.
This is where I take some issue with a game design choice, while I'll admit there's a touch of realism to the idea that if you focus training in a specific area then your other areas may diminish over time, however much like encumbered in the RPG genre I find the fact that focusing on a specific aspect of the fight game doesn't cause development in other areas to merely stop, but decrease and by quite some considerable amount too. While this does keep to the accurate "Jack of all trades is a master of none" line of thinking, I find that the sheer number of stats to keep a track of to be quite overwhelming and in many cases a hindrance to actually playing the game outside of merely having a standing based fighter not being able to pull of sexy submissions during a fight. The game will ask you to to display your skills in a specific area (That appears to be randomly chosen) do well and your popularity will increase. While this seems all well and good, you can't choose what you're displaying neither are you be told what you're going to be asked to do when you agree to give the display. So once again, if you've specified your fighting style to be a kick-boxer and you are asked to show off your mat wrestling skills for popularity, you're pretty much screwed and have basically wasted your time that you could have spent building up your character in some other way.
With that negative out of the way, the fighting choices are just outstanding. Want to create a well rounded fighter? Can be done. Want to find someone that can get in close and pressure a fighter with hard blows at close range? Easily arranged! Want to play as a wrestler and take your fighter to the ground where you can either try to submit him or pound on him? Perfectly reasonable! Want to be an elusive striker and bob, weave and side step to land that killer blow or drag them down for that out-of-the-blue arm-bar? Go ahead!
Added to this your character can now talk, take part in post fight interviews where you can either appeal to the crowd, show respect or be dis-respectful depending on how you want to be perceived, this can send you flying up to do more lucrative fights earlier if you cause a ruckus but if you remain respectful you may have more training opportunities available to you.
Graphically there are not any massive jumps or in sound quality, commentary is sound throughout and the voice acting is completely fine and in some places even quite good as well as well as the mandatory ropey voice acting. In an odd twist the hired actors doing the player character voices actually put in the most noticeably weak performances, so make of that what you will.
Other nice tweaks of balancing is that they've removed the submission and counter submission so you can't have a controller with rapid-fire to just cheat your way through it as well as the standing clinch grapples that always confused people in the first game. To be totally fair, an existing problem with the game will always be understanding, despite the rather sturdy tutorial system if you go into this game having only experienced the 2009 edition you're going to run into problems that could cause extreme amounts of frustration. However with time and patience these are over-come and you'll at times wonder why you ever found it to be so taxing to begin with.
In a slightly odd turn, there's an unlock system for extra names, stances and so forth that requires you to participate in the various game modes in order to earn the points needed. This seems to be a little unnecessary and the only result from such a thing would be to make people play a game mode they wouldn't want to play otherwise and rewarding people to repeatedly do something that they wouldn't want to play otherwise is not something I can really think too positively on.
Overall this is an excellent package, expanding on existing ideas of the last game and adding a little sizzle to the rather tasty steak. While still not a perfect game, this is clearly a game of care and attention. If next years instalment has the same level of refinement then we're in for something very special, but let's not get ahead of ourselves, UFC Undisputed 2010 is an excellent game and should be played by any MMA fan or fan of the original.