(Special contribution from MMAmania.com correspondent Alex M. on location in London.)
Yesterday, London saw the hands-on preview for the launch of "UFC Undisputed 2010" and I was lucky enough to get an invite. The event itself kicked off with a presentation from THQ producer Neven Dravinski, a brief appearance from UK fighters Ross Pearson, Andre Winner, Nick Osipczak, Paul Kelly and Terry Etim, followed by some time with the game itself.
I managed to grab a quick word with Andre Winner, regarding his team mate Paul Daley's preparations ahead of his highly anticipated bout with Josh Koscheck "I can definitely say he's training hard with us, he's looking really good and he's going in looking for the knockout."
No surprises there.
What was surprising though, was that when asked, three out of the five fighters picked Fedor Emelianenko to win in a hypothetical bout with UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar!
More importantly however, I've come back with a detailed breakdown and review of what is set to be the most advanced mixed martial arts game ever to hit the shelves.
Check it out.
Create a Fighter
This year's version of create-a-fighter, takes the term "in depth" to a new level. To quote the game's producer, Neven Dravinski of THQ, it gives you the opportunity to "create exactly the mixed martial artist you want to". Last years game, strangely enough, had more options for the kind of eyebrows you wanted than it did fighting styles.
This is no longer the case, they have added the styles of Sambo (Thank you Fedor), Karate (Thank you Lyoto) and Greco Roman Wrestling, but it doesn't end there! This year you will have the ability to not only choose from a wider range of base styles, but you will now be able to customize them in such a way that you will effectively create styles all of your own, assigning different buttons and actions to different moves and attacks of your choice.
Once you have decided on all of this you can still tinker further to your hearts content, even to the extent of selecting an "AI" style for your fighter, meaning that you can decide how your fighter will behave when under the control of the console.
You also now have a say in your fighters stance, how they move, how they hold their hands, southpaw/orthodox as well as giving them the ability to switch between the two. Interestingly enough you can also assign a dominant or more damaging punching arm, regardless of stance.
However, if this all sounds a bit too time consuming for you, don't worry, THQ have not forgotten the lazy man (and button masher). They have also supplied us with a set of "technique templates" that you can apply to your fighter, with options like, Brazilian (Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai) American (Wrestling, boxing) traditional Muay Thai etc. and even these are customizable if you wish.
One last thing to look out for is that your fighter now has a voice! Along with a new, almost photo realistic fighter creation system, you can now decide on their accent, and the kind of things they say in post fight interviews. There are options for just about everything thinkable and it's hard to find anything to criticize.
Well done THQ!!!
This section of the game has also been subject to big changes. Your career starts off in the WFA, you have to prove yourself in the smaller promotion before getting your chance in the big leagues. Once you have won a few fights, Dana White will turn up at your gym (where you are coached by Marc Laimon) and offer you your chance in the UFC, whilst filming his video blog. This is just one example of the many "interactive" cut scenes that have been added to the game to give you a more detailed look at the ins and outs of your fighter's career.
The reason I use the word "interactive" is that you get to decide how your fighter behaves. For instance when you face off with your opponent at the weigh ins you can choose between showing them respect or disrespect. But remember, the game is watching you! Things you say and do will affect the way your career goes and the opportunities that are granted to your fighter.
Another significant change includes the ability to add moves to your arsenal as you progress, depending on who you decide to train with and in what areas, pad work with Greg Jackson for example, you can earn points to acquire new moves, with varying levels of competency, dependent on how many points you're willing to part with. One thing we can definitely take from this game is that THQ don't like to make things easy, evident in that this year, your fighter will age, meaning that as he gets older his skills will decline and become harder to maintain.
Even as a young man if your fighter neglects training in a certain area, his skills there will decline regardless of age. One of last years biggest problems with career mode, was that once your fighter reached a certain level, he was stuck fighting the same 3-4 fighters for the rest of his career.
To remedy this, THQ have introduced a system, where if he is successful in his own class your fighter can move up in weight and challenge a larger, different set of fighters. It seems that the game's makers really have listened and acted on the criticisms of the fans.
This year's game also sees the introduction of tournament mode. In this section of the game you can design your own tournaments of up to 16 fighters, in either "arcade" or "sim" mode.
Arcade mode allows you to have the same fighter appear more than once in the same tournament, where as sim mode gives you a more realistic allocation of fighters, which can be randomly selected or chosen one by one. You also have the option of watching the simulated bouts between two computer controlled fighters take place, allowing you to watch any match up you want!
Want Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos or Jon Jones vs. Anderson Silva? Just make the fight and watch it happen! The tournament mode essentially does what it says on the tin. It works smoothly and is well complimented by commentary tailored to the situation. It's a great edition to the game and I look forward to using it further.
One of the most notable differences between the 2010 game and it's 09 counterpart comes as a result of the endless combinations of styles and moves available. This means that you really need to familiarize yourself with each fighter and their style before being able to use them to full effect (trust me, it's a good thing).
Clinching against the cage is another new addition to the way that the game is played, when your opponents back is against the cage their strikes are weak and do less damage than yours and vice versa. Also you'll find changes in the clinch, pummeling for position is now dealt with in the same way that ground transitions were in the last game.
This change has lead to clinching becoming a much more effective part of the game. The new sway and counter system is another great way in which game play has been brought forward and made far more dynamic and unpredictable. In terms of look and graphics the game has come a very long way, it looks better than ever and I don't have any complaints in that department, ground transitions and sub attempts look especially smooth.
This game feels very different than the last, it feels a lot better. Movement is quicker and more fluid and less easy to predict. Unfortunately THQ were very tight lipped when it came to downloadable content, so other than the previously published names of Marcus Jones, James McSweeney, Roy Nelson and Brendan Schaub as well as the PS3 exclusive legends series, Royce Gracie, Dan Severn and Jens Pulver, we are none the wiser.
In terms of online play, you will now also be able to spar with other online users and camps to earn points that go towards new move acquisition.
All in all this game definitely gets my seal of approval, every improvement I wanted in place appears to have been made and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of my own.