UFC Undisputed 2010 iPhone Impressions

Posted November 26th, 2010 at 12:15 pm

By: Brian Sipple
Whenever a publisher holds off on releasing information for an upcoming title gamers have a legitimate reason to start casting doubts in its direction. When delays pile up, demos get canceled, and early reviews are embargoed, it’s surely going to raise a couple of eyebrows. What do you though when a game appears seemingly out of thin air? When all of a sudden you hear somewhere about a game being released that few people knew was even being made?

Such is the case with UFC Undisputed 2010, the epitome of an under the radar launch after it creeped onto the App Store last week at an albeit not-so-quiet price of $6.99. THQ announced plans for an iPhone title back in mid-October but virtually no additional information followed the announcement in the run-up to the game’s release. Some might argue that in the relatively new environment of handheld gaming it’s not always worthwhile for a developer to heavily market their game. After spending some time with Undisputed however that seems like less of an argument and more of a pipe dream.

Undisputed’s controls attempt to simplify the fighting experience by utilizing only a d-pad on the left portion of the screen and two buttons on the right. Sadly this strips away a number of options for the player and causes the game to revert into a half-baked and repetitive bore-fest after the first couple of fights.

The so-called “directional-pad” is utilized by moving a fighter to the right or left with the corresponding arrow. Additionally, pressing the “down” arrow will initiate a takedown attempt while the “up” arrow is devoid of any action whatsoever. Yes, that’s right. Undisputed is virtually a side-scroller with the ability to only move your fighter along a straight-line plane. This creates a huge departure from the realism of MMA fighting and takes away an element of mobility heavily employed by certain fighters like Anderson Silva.

The attacking controls are every bit as stripped down as their movement counterparts. Standing up, there are two buttons that function for either punches or kicks. The punch button has just two options. A tap will throw a quick jab, and a drag either up or down will throw a stronger strike to the head or body respectively. The principle is the same for kicks – tap for a quick strike, drag for a stronger strike. The player has no say whatsoever as to the type of attack or what side their fighter strikes with. It’s all played out at random and drowns out any sense of immersion or satisfaction when you manage to pull off a big hit.

I also found the ground control setup to be even less encouraging. You’re limited to either tapping an “action” button for punches or knees or moving your left finger around an on-screen circle to go through transition phases. There’s next to no thought process involved and even less challenge. Just manage to keep your finger moving on the circle and your opponent will rarely apply an effort to counter. This makes submission setups a breeze, and you won’t have any trouble finishing those off as well.

This leads into another large flaw in UFC Undisputed. While the gameplay provides a very small window of options for different play styles, that window is slammed shut in the end anyway thanks an even more glaring buzz kill: the AI. There’s only one difficulty setting and unfortunately it’s easier than a Teen Vogue crossword puzzle. As mentioned, ground fighting is a cinch to pull off, but why waste your time? I was honestly able to win a fight just by mashing on the punch button the entire match. None of the dancing, none of the blocking or kicking nonsense – just a steady dose of fists and that belt was mine in no time.

The graphics were undoubtedly meant to show off the fighter models, as they’re among some of the more impressive human renderings I’ve seen on an iPhone game. The detailed body textures and lifelike facial animations make for some attractive screenshots, but it seems to have been done at the expense of some other key components. The first few rows of fans are bland cardboard cutouts while the rest seem to be an artist’s rendering of lamb chowder. Also the animations seem unresponsive and cartoonish. Press a button to move or attack and you’ll get a delayed, then jerky motion that’s almost reminiscent of an 80’s arcade fighter – because nothing says sim UFC brawler like “Punchout!!”

Presentation is sharp in terms of the smooth menu system and social network connectivity, but this never translates over to the in-game action. The comatose crowd embodies near perfect silence throughout the fight, right alongside Mike Goldberg, who has about four lines of commentary to call the events. It’s one of the many telling signs that this game was rushed out well before it was ready.

If we’re talking about poor development time though one doesn’t need to look further than the game modes, or lack thereof. For $7 all Undisputed has to offer is an Exhibition and a “Championship Mode,” which is basically a fleshed out exhibition where you fight against three random fighters from your weight class in random succession.

So…the other 5 or 6 dollars were for Facebook integration? Multiplayer would also be nice for the game’s premium cost, but the fact that there’s not even a career mode is inexcusable, and even disregarding quality, it makes Undisputed one of the most overpriced games on the App Store.

UFC Undisputed 2010 was designed around the premise of simplification in the control interface. Unfortunately that mantra seems to have been misinterpreted as to neglect any polish, attention to detail, or entertainment value. Perhaps the only explanation for the atrocious pricing is the fact that THQ knew it would fall apart under word of mouth, and they wanted to make a quick buck from hardcore fans who would buy it for the name.

Either way UFC Undisputed 2010 is an underdeveloped product that feels like it was put together yesterday upon the hopes that its audience was born no later. With a reasonably higher quality and less expensive competitor in EA Sports MMA, it’s not even close as to which comes out on top.