Previews

UFC Undisputed 2010 gameplay preview

Hands-On: Does the yearly update pack a punch?

Last year's UFC Undisputed was a big success in the fighting/sport genre (argue amongst yourselves which of the two it falls under); not only did it deliver an realistic interpretation of Octagon blood brawls, but it did it while delivering satisfying and visceral combat - a powerful one-two punch.

A year later, then, it's to be expected that THQ has focused on improving the already great foundations of its fighting/sport game (again, debate that) and it's done so in areas that will clearly please the fans.

When we pick up the pad in New York City ahead of last weekend's UFC 111 fight, it's clear that Undisputed is looking better (with improved lighting and crowd characters). It features bolstered online modes and - while ultimately being very reminiscent of last year's game - a few welcome tweaks to the combat system too.

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Playing Undisputed 2010 feels like a fight by itself, with every two-player bout resulting in a frantic succession of button presses, thumb stick twirls and swear words. The biggest change to combat is the new Fight Night-style Sway system, which while initially tricky to get to grips with adds a new layer of depth to punch ups.

Players can now 'lean' during standing gameplay, allowing you to dodge punches or aggressively get in your opponent's face. It's a new kind of 'risk-reward' strategy that further adds to the depth and accuracy of bouts. Another addition that does the same is the arrival of fence interaction; you can now pound you opponent against the bottom or jump off it to escape a beating, which makes the experience more tangible at least.

On the floor, grappling feels like a wrestling act in itself, with defence moves switched to the left stick. Quarter and full stick rotations are used to overpower your opponent and escape deadly submission moves in a blur of Mario Party-esque palm-grinding. Advanced players can switch directions of leg/arm pulls mid-wrestle, which acts as a nice bluff.

PUNCH OUT
The series' recognised satisfying combat remains then and thanks to a few subtle additions to animation, camera and combat UFC Undisputed 2010 is also feels a lot more elegant. Unlike the rather static camera of the original, your view of the action now pans and shifts to show the intensity of submission moves on the floor and meaty punches on your feet.

There's also an impressive amount of authenticity in every facet of the game; from real-life refs, sponsor logos (which you can drag and drop on your custom shorts) and commentators to the jiggling breasts of the Octagon girls.

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2010 is clearly sporting a considerable amount more depth that its predecessor, with the biggest accolades going to online modes, and bolstered Career and Create a Fighter systems. The latter in particular peels away to reveal more layers than a Phazon-fed onion; creative types can now chose spoken names and nicknames for their fighters, stances, drag and drop tattoos and even their make-believe fighter's strongest twatting hand.

The level of tweaking on offer inspires feelings of Saint's Row, with even your righter's punch glove and victory celebrations up for customisation. We're bound to see fat, purple dreadlocked monsters online, too.

The most interesting function of 2010's man-maker, though, is the ability to acquire moves for your fighter from all disciplines; MMA, Southpaw, karate and more. On paper this means that no two fighters will be alike. In 2010 move stats also decay, so players will have to pay certain move sets particular attention to stay strong.

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