The lights are on
THQ’s next installment in its UFC fighting game is set to release in less than two weeks, but since we got our hands on a copy of the game early, we figured we’d spend the day exploring its many features. Check back throughout the day to see how our progress with THQ’s ultimate fighter is coming along.
I’ve already played around with the game’s Tournament Mode some, bruising a few bodies with local Minnesota hero Brock Lesner (the man looks big enough to crush my head with one hand), but I figured the best way to get a feel or everything Undisputed 2010 could offer would be by touring the career mode. Come back later to see how my progress is coming along. And, if you’d like me to check out anything in the game specifically, feel free to post a comment below.
The first step in any career is always the create-a-character. All the facial structure modification seems to be controlled by sliders. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand this gives you some greater variety to create a guy who looks like anyone. However, I prefer to pick from a preset number of eyes and ears. Whenever I mess with sliders my creations look fine from one angle, but once they’re actually wandering around the game world I find that their heads look more like a crushed muffin.
I play around with the randomization feature a bit, but the computer likes to add a lot of different colors to my hair, and my guy ends up looking like a he just flunked out of clown school. You can dress your fighter up with a number of hoodies and hats, of course, but this isn’t Smackdown vs. Raw, so you probably don’t want to make your guy look like a total idiot.
My fighter is called Ratman “Big Papi” Jones, and he talks with a cockney accent even though he’s from Colorado. He also looks suspiciously like Wolverine, so I put him in a samurai gi and cowboy hat. I could mess around with the create-a-player for hours, but its time to start training for some actual combat.
Career throws you right into the action. I start in the locker room before my first amateur fight, and I’m given the option to go through a quick tutorial on the basics of fighting. This is great for newcomers, but I skip it. Ratman is a Light Heavyweight with an emphasis in Muay Thai. I’ve got pretty crappy stats, but I seem to be faster than my opponent. This shouldn’t be too bad.
One of the big changes this year is the fact that there are no predetermined combos. It’s up to you to figure how which punches and kicks you can string together for the best attacks. LT still lowers your attacks, letting you work the body, and LB unleashes your signature moves. Ratman’s takedowns suck; I can’t seem to sweep anyone larger than a high school art teacher off their feet. Mental note: I’ll have to train in that. Fortunately, I focus on working my opponent’s skull like it was a speed bag, and he goes down within the first round.
After your first match you can keep grinding the amateur circuit to get practice, but I’m hungry for a challenge. At this point you also get to choose between four different difficulty modes. Last round was too easy; I kick it up. Turns out the WFA wants me on one of its upcoming cards, and I already have Marc Laimon as my trainer. I’m going pro baby!
Okay, let’s take a break and address some of those questions down there. Bunch of people are asking about the submission system, so let’s start there. Submission switching works largely like it did last year, meaning you still use quarter circles on the right stick to transition around your opponent. While the system seems more fine-tuned this year, it’s still a little finicky. All too often I’ll be trying to posture up and end up transitioning so my crotch is sitting on my opponent’s face instead. This puts delicate parts of my body too close to the parts of his body that he uses to chew food. I still think there is probably a better system for performing submission transitions out there, but this one works once you get used to it. Also, I haven’t had any problems breaking free from a submission hold, or even a clinch (click down on the left stick), but I’ve been fighting the computer all day, so I’ll have to try my escapes on a real opponent.
The career mode is still fairly menu driven, but you can automate a lot of the training and sparring, so it’s not really a hassle. Then again, I liked the calendar system where you get to schedule your fighter's training, set up interviews, and level up your fighter like in an RPG. If you don’t dig this stuff, maybe career mode just isn’t for you. I will say that the presentation is a little better this year. There are weigh-ins before matches and you can disrespect your opponents, but I haven’t played the game enough to see the long-lasting effects of this. Also, if you jump out of career mode you can set up your own fight cards or check out the Ultimate Fights Mode, which based on real historical match ups and include the pre-taped interviews from the Pay-Per-View broadcasts.
The game takes the control away from you as soon as you finish the match, so you can’t pull a Paul Daley. But that would be a sweet addition to next year’s game. (Hint, hint THQ.)
I’ve been powering through career mode for a bit now, fighting my way through an army of low ranked opponents. It feels like it’s going to take awhile to get my character’s stats up to a respectable level. Training takes a little more forethought this year. You can no longer ignore certain stats, because if you don’t train in a specific area you’ll begin to lose proficiency. For example, if you focus on standing strikes for too long your ground game will begin to deteriorate. I learn this the hard way when an early opponent tries to use my head as a hacky sack.
Time to check out some other camps. Ratman specializes in Muay Thai, but that doesn’t mean he can’t pick up some Jiu-Jitsu or Kickboxing moves from some of the other schools. There are dozens of camps to train with, and each one seems to have 40+ moves to teach you, so it will be a while before I’m a master. But this year it's way easier to design a fighter with all the moves you wish you could pull off in real life. Another thing to watch out for is fatigue. If you are injured you won’t earn as many skill allocation points to beef up your stats. It’s a good idea to rest for a week every now and then.
I’ve sharpened my teeth on a number of opponents now. I’ve won some and I’ve lost…actually I’ve mostly just won a bunch. One thing that would-be belt holders should experiment with is the new dodge mechanic. By holding down the block button and flicking the right stick away from your opponent, you perform a quick sway. If you can get the timing down, you’ll come back from a dodged fist just in time to lay down a wicked blow to your opponent’s head. After several wins, thanks to quick hands, the UFC has finally noticed my talent. UFC President Dana White comes to visit my gym. He talks philosophically about fighting for a bit, he swears a bit more, and then he welcomes me to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I’m ready for the big time now.
Email the author Ben Reeves, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.