We recently got the first opportunity to slip on our gloves with UFC Undisputed 2010 and used the chance to take a quick look at the career options inside. Eager to delve into the intricacies of building a name for ourselves as an up-and-comer on the beatdown tour, we stepped back into the ring to find out how career mode has changed since last year's game.
Fans of Undisputed 2009 will be pleased to hear that while some tweaks and adjustments have been made to the training mechanics and character customisation, returning fighters should have no trouble getting back into the swing of things since neither option has received a complete overhaul. The range of physical attributes available to create your fighter when starting from scratch has increased and once again provides the opportunity to give your virtual pugilist a distinctive look and feel through a mixture of body types, skin tones, facial features, and branded clothing. Character height still scales relatively to your intended weight division (and you can go up or down in weight division this year once you've conquered the crown), while tattoo placement is now simpler to set by dragging designs around on your flesh until you're happy with their position. The amount of branded clothing available to wear before and after matches has grown, as well as the ability to purchase caps, T-shirts, and hoodies by spending credits earned through career mode.
Once you've designed your appearance--either to mirror your own chiselled good looks or as a mockery of nature--it's time to load up on skills to win fights. Before you go doling out attribute points like candy, you'll want to take a step back and decide what kind of fighter you want to create. If you're more interested in stand-up-and-swing gameplay, you'll probably want to stack points into punch and kick offense and defence to help land that haymaker for the highlight reel. Ground-and-pound and submission specialists, on the other hand, may opt to go thinner on these upright points to focus their spending on a mixture of clinch and mat attributes. The limited number of spending points available initially means that returning series fans will quickly identify their own strengths and spend for their preferred play style. First-time brawlers, however, may spend thinly in lots of areas to try to cover all the bases with more balanced point allocation, but may find their game lacking in a standout ability.
You don't get any better without practice, and training is an integral aspect of UFC 2010. Fight preparation is split into two categories: management-style gym workouts where you pick strength, speed, or stamina workouts in one of three intensities (light, medium, and heavy), or more hands-on cage workouts with a sparring partner or a bag. As was the case last year, doing more exhaustive training will help raise your stats faster but will require more recovery time as you juggle your depleting stamina bar. Frequent moderate training sessions won't wipe you out as quickly, so you don't need to rest to recover as often, but this has the obvious side effect of slower stat growth.
Skill points are earned in free spar by using any combination of your fighting styles against an AI-controlled character by successfully landing hits and keeping holds. Points earned in free spar can be spent on any of your abilities, while in the focused spar mode you'll earn points only by performing nominated skills on a punching bag, and you'll spend only in the areas you earn for training. Since there are a set number of weeks between bouts and you don't earn points fighting in matches, your only way to build up your character's stats and skill repertoire is by training.
You will need to make a decision about whether or not you want to pursue new fighting skills and styles or focus on raising your raw character stats to help with the stuff you already know. Fight camps give you the chance to learn skills outside of your primary martial art that you would not have otherwise learnt, such as karate kicks for a boxer or Greco-Roman wrestling moves for a Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter. Multiple ranks of abilities are available by visiting gyms, but you won't ever need to retrain a lower level skill by switching trainers. Likewise, since there are only so many mappable buttons on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation controllers, you won't be able to create an unbeatable super fighter by training at every style and learning in every gym.
Like the stamina juggle dance associated with training, matches cause your skill points to decay over time. To top them back up you'll need to train between fights. You won't endlessly be chasing your tail though, with skill safe havens at 30, 50, and 70 points setting new minimums where your points can't erode below the new benchmark. For this reason you'll want to ensure you top out your most important stats to the 30 marker first, lest you always be refilling them after the fight.
UFC Undisputed 2010 will also include plenty of nonfighting periphery stuff to manage outside of the ring, and while we didn't see it in action, our guide explained the importance of attracting clothing sponsors and raising your fan count. Dissing on other fighters in pre- and postmatch conversation (which will play out like multiple-choice role-playing game dialogue text) will win you followers, pushing you up the popularity charts and in turn attracting more lucrative sponsors. But doing so will also damage your reputation with other fighters in the UFC. Letting your fists do all the talking and winning matches also helps to attract new sponsors and in turn opens up new clothing lines to represent and wear.
You'll begin the game as an unknown fighter training in a local gym, but once you're ready to make the step up, you can either indefinitely battle as an amateur against other no-names to train your skills on live opponents, or join the World Fighting League (WFA)--little brother of the UFC.
As an amateur you'll hone your abilities and earn skill points but won't be rewarded with money or fame. Making the step up to the big leagues and turning pro gives you the chance to make your fortune, and you're sent on your way with a speech from your coach and promises of support from your training buddies at your gym.
Another new aspect in UFC 2010 is the ability to set one-time game plans. These are essentially bets that allow you to put your faith in one aspect of your game, singling out one part of your attack and giving you a temporary stat boost for that fight in the nominated area. These are short or long fight length, standing, clinch, ground and pound, or submission. As an example, selecting standing strikes as your plan reduces your submission abilities by a flat 10 points for the next fight, which will give your hitting game a boost but make you vulnerable to ground attacks. It's a risk-versus-reward system that will become useful only once you master the controls and basic gameplay, but it adds a new dynamic for seasoned UFC brawlers in the career mode.
THQ has also confirmed that PlayStation fans have an extra something to look forward to in the box when the game ships. The PS3 version of the game will include more than an hour and a half of live-action classic UFC matches on the disc and exclusive playable fighters: Royce Gracie, Jens Pulver, and Dan Severn.
UFC Undisputed is due out next month on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Keep an eye out for the GameSpot review fighting out of the red corner soon.