UFC Undisputed 2010 on PSP is going to be an interesting case study. Here, you have a portable port of a big budget PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 game. The fighters, modes, and options you’d expect from those versions have been carried over to the PSP, and from a broad perspective the transition went smoothly.
Still, this version is four months old and missing the polish that made the console games shine. Plus, in reality, if you were the world’s biggest UFC fan, chances are that you’ve already played this game in one of its other incarnations.
All of that’s great, but how does it play? You figure mixed martial arts is a complicated sport and UFC games have always packed a complicated control scheme to mimic that. The PSP version, of course, has to drop an analog stick and two shoulder buttons out of the console control scheme, and that could easily turn into a disaster. Luckily, it works. You strike and kick with the face buttons and modify those moves with the shoulder buttons while the analog nub clinches, grapples, and transitions you from one mount to another.
Of course, moving with the D-Pad and then having to drop your thumb to the analog nub for moves is a bit of a pain, but it doesn’t throw off the pacing of fights. The bouts seem balanced and I’ve actually been using the ground game and takedown system a lot more than I did in the console versions. This boiled down control scheme actually makes it easier to do more in the Octagon. I feel like I have a handle on the action — for the most part. I still find myself flicking the stick like a madman to try and get out of holds or regain control of the situation, but the game seems like it gives me a chance to figure everything out. It feels good.
Once I got the hang of the controls, I started taking in the visuals of UFC Undisputed 2010 on the PSP. I was pleasantly surprised by the how good the game looks. UFC Undisputed 2010’s defining characteristic on the other platforms is how realistic it looks, and that visual love is carried over here as best it can be. Obviously, the PSP game isn’t as slick or detailed as the console counterparts, but the fighters do look good. They move realistically, bloody wounds will pop up, and you’ll have no trouble identifying your favorite fighter from a glance at the screen.
In motion, things can be a bit less impressive. Punches and grapples will occasionally clip through the opponent, and the presentation isn’t really up to snuff. The screen goes black and white when you’ve dazed a fighter, but the sound drops out and it becomes too quiet. The knockout post-round and post-match replays are super-quick flashes of ho-hum moments, and I’ve had matches end in flash KOs where the opponent didn’t fall down — I just hit him in the jaw and the bell rang.
What made the other versions of UFC rock was the TV-style presentation. Name bars and stats pop up on the PSP sporting the colors and fonts you know from the real show, but there’s no announcing and the fights feel a bit flat without Joe Rogan screaming in your ear. The crowd noise isn’t very reactive and it doesn’t sell the feel of the main event. On top of that, the loads are a bit long here. They’re not terrible, but hopping between matches and options screens will take some time — even with the optional install.
If you’re looking for features, you’re getting your fair share here in UFC Undisputed 2010
(they are all exactly the same as the stuff we saw in the other versions), but I find most of them too similar. Exhibition lets you pick a fighter and fight someone, ad-hoc lets you square off against a local friend, Title mode lets you chase a championship in a series of fights, and then Title Defense mode lets you defend the belt you just won. That’s all kind of the same, you know?
Shaking things up are Ultimate Fights Mode and Career Mode. Ultimate Fights gives you 15 classic bouts and asks you to relive them or rewrite them. You pick a competitor and get a series of objectives (recover from a knockdown, win by decision, etc.) that you need to complete in the upcoming fight. Pull them off and you get rewarded (there is plenty to unlock in this game in the way of clothes, trading cards, and so on); fail, and you get chastised by the sexy UFC Octagon girls. If you’re a fan, there’s some appeal to this mode, but if you don’t remember the matches it doesn’t bring much to the table.
Career on the other hand brings a lot no matter your level of UFC knowledge. You’ll create a character (it’s basic but functional) and start off as an amateur fighter. Hone your skills, go pro, and soon you’ll accept an offer from Dana White and become part of the UFC. You’ll work your way up the ladder of success, but the real work is done in between bouts as you train (improving your strength, speed, and cardio), spar (improving your attributes), and accept camp invites (allowing you to learn new moves).
The system’s complicated and deep — if you want a full breakdown, check out this 360 preview and imagine it’s on the PSP because it basically is — and it is cool to build a fighter from nothing to something that fits your specific play style. The trouble is, the mode is pretty repetitive. You’re going to get used to seeing those menu screens over and over again, and there isn’t much variation throughout the years of your career. You never look any older, you’re occasionally interrupted by new sponsors, and so on.