If 2010’s absurdly copious cluster of excellent videogames speaks volumes about anything, it’s that developers are getting gradually more and more aggressive when battling against the consumer apprehension of diminishing returns. If movie sequels are primarily known for their abject cynicism and sloppiness, then videogame sequels are on the verge of becoming renowned for being exactly the opposite. Almost every update or sequel released so far this year has been a work of genuine progression and obvious graft (amongst them Mass Effect 2, FIFA World Cup 2010 and even, bizarrely, Dead To Rights: Retribution) and fully in-line with that tradition, UFC Undisputed 2010 represents a massive step forward.

To be fair, the foundations were already extremely solid, so for developer Yuke’s to have messed this one up would have taken quite some doing. All of the issues that many people had with the 2009 iteration have been completely ironed out, including the simplification of a confoundingly complex ground game, which often turned online bouts into stressful, finger waggling games of haphazard chance. The clinch has been re-worked too, and instead of it being almost impossible to avoid getting knocked out if you were on the wrong end of it, it too is structured in much the same way as the ground game, with (refined) thumbstick expertise being the cardinal key to success.

Because the already massive move list has had several hundred new ones added to it (a few new fighting styles have been included as well, including sambo and karate) the possibilities for customisation are almost endless, with players who elect to create their own custom fighter being fully able to pick and choose their own skill sets, from stances to specific blows. The new ‘sway’ mechanic modifies the stand-up game quite considerably, and roundly encourages defensive play. Master it and you’ll not only dance around your opponents Anderson Silva-style, but you’ll also be able to subsequently deliver thunderous counters that are beyond satisfying to execute.

There are also a handful of ingenious new (small) additions, all of which similarly enhance your involvement, and some of which are destined to become staple features in every sports game ever released from hereon in. The best (and probably most impressive) is the ‘Game Is Watching You’ system, which tailors Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg’s commentary to incorporate significant things that you’ve achieved (or not achieved) throughout your career. So for example if you’ve recently suffered a string of KO losses, the commentators will work that into their banter, and although it may sound stupid, it really does immeasurably amplify the emotional investment you’ll have in your own career, and your fighter.

Last year, that career mode was a solidly entertaining if threadbare proposition. Bereft of any ornamental flourishes, it didn’t really allow for players to go entirely in-depth with it, whereas 2010 features a career course more akin to something in Fight Night; expansive, well structured and with realism at its forefront. This time you’re also able to choose from fifty nicknames (instead of 2009’s meagre ten) five different voices, and countless first and second names. The ways in which you can tinker with your fighter’s physical attributes have been increased too, with long hair (after its lambasted absence last year) being the most notable new addition.

If you aren’t into taking it all that seriously, 2010’s excellent Title Modes allow you to jump straight in and start unlocking extras with a minimum of fuss. The online component is comprehensive (and a huge improvement on last year’s) with excellent ‘Fight Camp’ clan support and an invigorating emphasis on team-based play. Best of all though is the Ultimate Fights mode, which is quite frankly a work of utter genius. Although present in last year’s iteration it’s been beefed up considerably here, and once everyone has maxed-out a career or two, and raised the profile of their clan’s online gym as far as it will go, Ultimate Fights will be where everyone heads, and it’s a mode that has clearly been built to last. It’s simple; you’re given the facts about how a classic UFC bout played out, and the more of them that you can match in the Octagon yourself, the more (absolutely superb) unlockables you’ll earn.

Our hands-on time last month suggested that UFC Undisputed 2010 was something extremely special, and so it proves. The perpetual rise of the UFC as a sport means that interest in the Undisputed series has only strengthened since last year, and Yuke’s could quite easily have sat back and button-pushed their way to an apathetic and deflated sequel that everyone probably would’ve bought anyway. They haven’t – they’ve continued to push the envelope, and if it weren’t for Capcom’s almighty Super Street Fighter IV, this would be the fighting game of 2010. Nevertheless, UFC Undisputed 2010 is a barnstorming classic, and a model update.

Watch the UFC Undisputed 2010 trailer…

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