UFC Undisputed 2010 (PSP)
After many years as a struggling upstart in the world of fisticuffs, the UFC (or, Ultimate Fighting Championship) now wields considerable muscle in the world of televised sport, and is currently almost standing toe-to-toe with the might of the WWE. Mirroring its peak in popularity, UFC videogames have also reached a turning point, with this year’s console release of UFC Undisputed 2010 offering a deep and complex fighting system, smart visuals and robust online modes. Hoping to continue this run of success, THQ and developer Yukes have ported Undisputed 2010 on to the PSP – but is the diminutive handheld capable of coping with the testosterone overload, or does this version get knocked out in the first round?
Despite its blossoming popularity, the concept of the Ultimate Fighting Championship is rather a hard-sell for those not already enamoured with the thought of sweaty, highly-trained fighters going toe-to-toe in a cage-surrounded ring. Lacking much of the flamboyancy of the WWE and (in terms of videogames) the fantasy elements of heavy hitters such as the Street Fighter and Tekken series, UFC’s combat can initially feel stripped back, or even rather basic. Luckily, this is actually in UFC Undisputed 2010’s favour, its sense of reality is what marks it as a unique proposition in fairly crowded market.
The purity of placing two combatants in a ring in as the heart of the game – it is an exploration of the capabilities of the human body as weapon, and while you may not have fireballs, dragon punches or fatalities in your arsenal, the breadth of moves on show is still impressive. This is not apparent from the outset, however – newcomers launching into their first fight will no doubt find themselves mashing buttons, resulting in a fighter flailing wildly around the ring the Taz the Tasmanian Devil. At this level, the game can feel pretty shallow and – dare we say it – throwaway. This however, belies the games origins – this isn’t a fighter crafted to pull crowds and a quick buck in the arcades; in many ways it could actually be considered more of a simulation than anything else.
Undisputed 2010 on the PSP manages to be as impressively feature-rich as its console counterpart, taking every opportunity to explore the world of UFC and what it means to be a fighter hoping to scrap their way to the number one spot. In terms of sheer numbers, the game features over 100 UFC fighters, an impressive roster bolstered by a comprehensive character creation system. So, if you can’t find a fighter to suit your needs/tastes, you can make your own, tweaking everything from your fighting style, stance, victory celebration, appearance, hairstyles and even tattoos.
The fight system itself is also hugely nuanced, covering the six fighting styles featured in Undisputed 2009 (Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo and Wrestling) with the addition of Karate, Greco-Roman Wrestling and Sambo. The fact that even listing the fighting-styles is enough to set your head spinning is an indication of the kind of depth that is on offer here. Rather than simply being there to bolster the sales-pitch on the back of the games’ box, each fighting style has strengths and weaknesses and provides a great canvas onto which to project your own fighting style. The game makes good use of the PSPs inputs, utilising every button available at one point or another, and learning how to manipulate your character and pull off combinations of moves – at the highest levels – requires real dexterity.
There are also a wide range of modes into which to take your fighter of choice; ranging from Exhibition fights, tournaments, a career mode and even the opportunity to relive classic matches from the UFC’s past. Although the career mode offers the most meaty and complete experience, the pick up and play nature of handheld gaming results in the exhibition and tournament modes being a particularly good fit.
At this point, fans of UFC Undisputed 2010 are undoubtedly ticking off the game’s content in their heads and concluding that this PSP version sounds like the real deal; in many respects, they would be right in doing so. Obviously the game cannot match the original’s visuals like for like (there is no photorealistic sweat on the fighters’ bodies here, and the textures have been reduced in quality), but nevertheless it still manages to retain the overall aesthetic. Similarly, while the animation might lack the bounce and fluidity of the original, it is still very strong and makes for believable and weighty combat.
Unfortunately there is one rather sizeable cloud casting a shadow over much of this PSP iteration with UFC Undisputed 2010 PSP making the cardinal sin of handheld gaming – by this we are referring to the long and frequent load times. Even with a hefty install (which is optional) the game needs time to load between nearly every menu, every in-game transition and every result screen. While this may well not be enough to deter committed fans eager to hone their fighting skills on the go, it will undoubtedly prove to be a big turn off to many, and does much to hinder the feeling of progression and excitement throughout the whole experience; sure, knocking an opponent out with a particularly dazzling combination of punches is satisfying….but having to wait for 10 seconds for your victory animation to load somewhat deflates the experience.
The fights themselves also don’t feel quite as atmospheric as we would have liked – the in-fight commentator has been removed, and the audio in general feels subdued rather than electrifying. Again, this can be brought back to the constraints of the PSP and the game’s focus on realism, but as a videogame, we can’t help but think that a little bit of artistic licence could have raised the whole experience a notch or two. Also missing is an online mode with the game only supporting ad hoc play over Wifi.
UFC Undisputed 2010 on the PSP is a game that impresses and frustrates in equal measure. The sheer amount of features and the depth of the fighting mechanics mark it as a successful port of the original (a title that is already well established as offering a quality fighting experience); unfortunately it often struggles on a technical level and while it is admirable that Yukes have done everything that can to make the PSP version as authentic as possible, this has come at the expense of the fluidity of the whole experience. Ultimately there is every likelihood that UFC fans will be able to put up with these frustrations and in turn find the portable UFC title they had hoped for. The more casual audience however, might not be quite so patient.
Have you downloaded the latest issue from GamerZines yet? Check it out here!