The second installment in the somewhat new UFC Undisputed franchise has finally arrived after much anticipation, but will this year be able to break out of the "every year is the same" idea that plagues other sports series such as Madden NFL?
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Who Is That Guy: First off, UFC Undisputed 2010 features over 100 fighters as a whole between every weight division currently seen in the UFC (Lightweight, Welterweight, Middleweight, Light Heavyweight, Heavyweight). Not only does the game star some of the bigger names in the UFC, it also allows you to play as some of the lesser-known fighters within the popular organization.Stars such as Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira, Chieck Kongo, Andrei Arlovski, Rampage Jackson, Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Mauricio Rua, Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, Rich Franklin, Georges St Pierre, Sean Sherk, BJ Penn and Matt Hughes, just to name a few off the massive list. In addition to the big names, you will also see smaller up and coming fighters such as Jon Jones, Gray Maynard, Kenny Florian, Paulo Thiago, Dan Miller, Alan Belcher, Ryan Bader, Pat Berry and Kimbo Slice, among others. It is obvious that the roster showcased in the game is huge to say the least, and having so many fighters at your disposal is very nice, especially if you got sick of only being able to choose from the same fighters last year.
As Real As It Gets: The main focus, obviously, of UFC 2010 is the actual fights though. A large focus of this installment is how each contest is supposed to be more fluid and quicker then the previous.THQ did a great job in this situation, and many of the flaws that plagued last year's title have been fixed this time around. One of the biggest problems faced last year (being frozen and unable to move/punch/kick/even block sometimes when hit) has been corrected, and it makes a huge difference. This time around if you get hit, you will still be able to move, block and attack. Last year, an assault of any kind froze the fighter in place, allowing for very exploitable maneuvers such as "body spamming". The stand up game is much quicker this year and really gives you a sense of excitement when inside the cage. Knowing that any punch could knock your head off into the seats, or that at anytime your opponent could shoot in for a takedown makes the game very tense to say the least. However, the stand up fighting as a whole isn't all that different, aside from the addition of the "Sway" system. The "Sway" system is much like the leaning system from the Fight Night series and allows you to slip, duck and avoid strikes from your opponent. With the right timing, you can also come back with a counter punch of your own that deals extra damage to your foe. The leaning system added into the stand up this year adds a nice little layer of depth and makes the striking a little more tense, especially if you are going up against somebody with quick reflexes. The ground game has mostly remained unchanged, but there have been some subtle alterations thrown into the mix when the fight hits the mat. First off, you will notice that the ground game is much smoother and looks vastly less "scripted" then last year. When transitioning to advance your position, the animations are much more realistic. Speaking of the transitions, the reversal system has been altered a bit to make it easier to reverse this time around, but this can be looked at as both a good thing and a bad thing. The transitions are easier seen before hand (as in, you will be able to read an upcoming transition easier then last year, where a transition was more subtle), and the window of opportunity to reverse your opponent is a big bigger in UFC 2010. On the good end of the things, being able to reverse and have a decent shot at getting off your back is nice, and seeing the reversals in action is somewhat exhilarating. On the other hand though, players who thrive off using their superior top game may find it a bit unfair that mostly unskilled players will be able to reverse them at a drop of a hat. It is without a doubt much easier to reverse while on the ground this year, perhaps too easy. The reason the reversals are so much easier this year is mostly due to the "passive transitions" added into the game. Gone are the "transition block spammers", who were able to hold transition block down and keep their opponent from advancing position. Instead, how many times your opponent will block your transitions and how many you can block while on the mat will be determined by the Ground Grapple Offense/Defense stats. This allows you to endlessly flick the right analog stick until your opponent goes for a transition, and odds are that even if you do miss your reversal you will still "passively" block your opponent's transition allowing you to have another opportunity to pull off the reversal. Last year, you had to either block or reverse. You miss the reversal, and your opponent advances position. I also feel that the ability to reverse your opponent from any position, putting you on top if the reversal was a success, is a bit unrealistic. If you are on your back and your opponent goes for the mount, suddenly you are able to flip your opponent over and put him on his back. It just doesn't make sense sometimes. As well as that, anyone in the game has the ability to reverse anyone else in the game. Shane Carwin, given the right timing, can reverse and flip over even the best ground masters such as Antonio Nogueira or Frank Mir with ease. Granted, it is a bit harder to reverse your opponent when you are a less adept ground fighter, but nonetheless it can be done and is easier then it should be. In addition to the stand up and the ground game, the clinch game has also been overhauled. Instead of simply pushing the stick towards your opponent to advance your position while in the clinch, you will now need to use the same transition controls you use on the ground. It makes the clinch game a bit more difficult, and like the ground game could be a bit...daunting to some people but I do feel that it makes the clinch game much deeper. Adding to that, you can also push your opponent up against the cage this year. When up against the cage you can put him into the clinch and rip knees to his body or punch him in the head, or you can simply lay on him for a while, or you can even take him down from the cage. The cage game is a bit unbalanced though, as the person with their back up to the cage has virtually no escape from the death grip. If you get your opponent up against the cage, you will be able to hold them there for essentially the entire round or until you stun them in some way. The person on the worse end of the cage work can try to transition out, but it is extremely difficult most of the time and if you have even a somewhat knowledgeable opponent pinning you odds are you are going to lose the round with ease...at best.
From WFA to UFC to HOF: The biggest change in the entire game though is the career mode, which has been completely overhauled in many ways.When you first start your career, you will be able to create your soon to be pugilist. Everything cosmetic from eyebrows, hair, tattoos, eyes to the coloring of all of the above (with every color under the sun might I add) is at your disposal, and you will without a doubt have a blast creating a beautiful mug or a monstrosity not fit for this earth. In addition to the cosmetic aspects of the customization, you can also choose your "navigation style" (how you move around the cage) from choices of Boxing, MMA, Wrestling, and Muay Thai among a couple others. As well as your navigation style, you can also alter your stance (southpaw, able to switch to orthodox or vice versa), how you celebrate after a victory, how you touch gloves before the fight, your height, your weight class and of course your trunks. When you finish creating your fighter, you will be thrown straight into an amateur MMA fight against a no name. If you beat him, you will have the chance to keep fighting in the amateurs for practice or step into the big leagues and go pro. Once you go pro, you will be able to manage your fighter in a way similar to that featured in UFC 2009. You will train your main three stats (Strength, Speed, Cardio), as well as spar to earn point that you can use to upgrade your other individual stats such as Ground Grapple/Striking, Standing Strikes/Kicks, Submission skills, Clinch Striking/Grapple. This time around though, upgrading your stats is not as easy as it was last year, at least not early in your career. UFC 2010 has a decay system that makes some of your stats decrease each week if you are not allocating points to them or using them. If you spar but only keep adding points to Submission Offense and Defense and Standing Strikes Offense, your other stats will slowly start to decrease one point at a time. Since early on in your career you will not get many points (anything more then about 14 points is quite good), keeping your stats at a well rounded level can be very difficult. After only a couple of fights, you will soon see that some of your neglected stats are incredibly low or possibly even bottomed out at 0. It is easy to say that your skills go down a bit too quickly in the career mode, and you cannot possibly keep up on all of your stats. Also, it's not very realistic either. If you don't train kicks for a week, why do you suddenly become less proficient in your kicking ability after only a week? To counter act the constant decay of your points, you will be able to make your skills go "stable" once they reach a certain point. When you get one of your skills up to 30, 50, or 70, they will not dip any lower then that ever. Early in your career you will find yourself fighting for the "WFA" (World Fighting Alliance), an old, but at one time real, MMA organization that was coincidentally bought out by the UFC long ago. If you are successful in the WFA, you will get an offer from Dana White and the UFC to come over and join their ranks. If you choose to accept (you don't have to if you don't want), you will then be fighting the UFC against real name opponents. One thing that must be noted is that both you and your competitors age this time around. This year you won't be starting your career at 18 and retiring at 18. You will age, as will everyone else in the game. In fact, some new fighters will even show up over the course of your career looking to take your spot in the ranks. In addition to the backend of the career, you can also manage your relationships when your fellow MMA fighters in some way. Before a fight you can choose to respect or disrespect your opponent, and the same goes for after the fight when you can choose to take all the glory or give a shout out to the fans that support you. In addition to all of that stuff, you can also learn more moves and techniques from training with and at real life fight camps. Team Blackhouse, Team Nogueira, Greg Jackson, American Top Team, Brazilian Top Team, American Kickboxing Academy, and many others all have a large variety of sweeps, slams, throws, clinch techniques and other things to teach you. Being able to train at the fight camps is a good way of teaching you while on the job, and while it doesn't feel like a tutorial it does teach you some of the moves that will be needed to keep climbing the ranks of the UFC on your way to the title. While the career is incredibly engrossing, there are a couple of problems that just don't make sense. I already touched on the stat decay being a bit too fast, but in addition to that some things don't seem to add up. One prime example being when Krakrabbit.com's very own career fighter faced off with a 5'1 opponent. Now, this may not seem outstandingly odd if the fight would have been at Lightweight, but shockingly our 5'1 foe was competing with us (who is 6'1) in the Light Heavyweight (205lbs) division! If that wasn't stunning enough, for having a 12 inch height difference between the two fighters, for some reason the difference looked no bigger then 4 or 5 inches at most. Its not a huge issue at all, but it is something that kind of makes you think "how the...?" and also makes you wonder how nobody could have noticed that while developing the game? Adding to all of that, the career can be a bit complex at first. With all the training, sparring, focused sparring, stat decay, constantly changing sponsors among other things, on your first run through of the career it is unlikely you will get the fighter you wanted.
Looking Their Best: The visuals in UFC 2010 are simply outstanding to say the least, and this time around you will not see but a handful of odd-looking fighters. You can easily see that this time THQ really took the time to model each fighter, instead of modeling some and just throwing something together on others (like last year).Most of the fighters look nearly exactly like their real life counter parts, and only a couple look like they could have been a bit better (BJ Penn's head is a bit too big, and Chris Leben's giant, misshapen head and lumpy body makes me scared to choose him for a fight). Speaking of the occasional graphical oddity, a couple of the referees look quite a bit darker then their real life counter parts. Not a huge deal, but you can't help but wonder if the refs were sent on a 3 month tropical cruise before the fight? In addition to the spectacular graphics, the audio and commentary in the game is very impressive. The sounds of the crowd and the strikes are great, but the commentary is really the best part about the audio. Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg do a great job of commentating on the action, and this year you will not hear half as many mistakes as you did last year. When you land a kick, they won't say you landed a great punch (like last year), and when you're not throwing, they will be mostly silent (unlike last year where they said you were throwing and landing even if you weren't).
Wake Me When It's Done: While the single player is extremely well done and incredibly enjoyable, the loading times over the course of the game can be a bit long to say the least.While they aren't amazingly long, it can take a good 15-20 seconds for the game at some points, not including the time it takes to traverse the menus, which adds another few seconds onto the clock.
Is It Even An Upgrade: The next big focus aside from the career mode is the online mode, where you can take on other players from around the world.When we first tried to jump online the day the game came out (using the despicable online code required to access the online functions), we were unable to connect to anyone. When we searched for games, we did find some but whenever we tried to connect to them the game said that the match was invalid for some reason. After trying unsuccessfully to join somebody else's match, we started our own and waited for somebody to join us. After some waiting, we were still unable to find anyone to play against, so we called it a day. On day two, we were still having some serious problems joining a match online. Every time we tried to join somebody else's game, it was ruled as "invalid". Once again we started our own match and waited for a victim to join us. After approximately five minutes, a player joined (who was also making his debut online, which may or may not show how tough it is to connect to other players) and we set off. When the fight started, we immediately noticed a significant amount of lag. Both fighters were lagging, and while it wasn't "skipping" or "jumping" around, the fight as a whole looked like it was being played in slow motion. Throughout the fight both fighters were plagued with the lag. While the lag was manageable, it certainly wasn't ideal. The first match we played in UFC 2010 was like a bad match in UFC 2009. Now, I'm not going to pass judgment and say that all matches will be as laggy and slow as the first, but it appears that the majority of players on both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 have been experiencing plenty of trouble joining/connecting to a match, and when in the fight being troubled with lag. I personally feel that the reason the UFC 2010 online has been noted as being laggy right now is because of THQ's association with Gamespy. Any online game Gamespy is involved in is often regarded as being laggy or having poor connections, and I feel this is the situation. Unfortunately, the online score for UFC 2010 will be very low, but keep in mind that the online rating could end up going up if we find that laggy matches are not common.
Rent vs. Buy: UFC Undisputed 2010 is an amazing game, with some outstanding new features, functions, modes, options, moves, and subtle differences and additions, but there are some things that make this game fall just shy of achieving its true potential.Don't get me wrong, this is easily the best MMA title ever made, and could very well rank up there as being in the top [insert number here] of sports games of all time. But, as I mentioned there are some small things that keep this game from true greatness. First off, the fact that reversals are a bit too easy. Well, they aren't easy online considering the lag in some fights, but nonetheless. Speaking of, the online is just too...unpredictable. I am sure that some matches will be very clear and smooth, but the fact remains that you just can't tell how the connection will be before you start the fight. While we are on things you can't see, while online you cannot see what the stats of your opponent's created fighter are. With all this talk of "Super CAFs" (create-a-fighter), not being able to see your opponent's stats basically eliminates the possibility of playing against a CAF unless you are in unranked Player Matches or are just feeling lucky. It really is up to you to decide if UFC 2010 is a big enough difference from UFC 2009 and/or you even like all the additions to the game. Without a doubt should you rent this game if you liked the first installment in the series (just don't expect to play online without forking over $5.00 first!) and from there its up to you. This game has separated people into camps of "It's OK" and "I love it!". Also, keep in mind that this is only THQ's second shot at making a UFC game. I cannot wait to see what they will be unleashing in the next couple of years.
It really is up to you to decide if UFC 2010 is a big enough difference from UFC 2009 and/or you even like all the additions to the game. Without a doubt should you rent this game if you liked the first installment in the series (just don't expect to play online without forking over $5.00 first!) and from there its up to you. This game has separated people into camps of "It's OK" and "I love it!".
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