There are few sports I enjoy more than MMA. I was thrilled when the UFC finally got a competently made video game from THQ. Like any video game, UFC Undisputed isn’t without its flaws, but it’s the closest thing to an actual simulation of the sport fans can get. Though the console version of the title came out some four months ago, a portable version of UFC Undisputed 2010 for the PSP was only recently released. While handheld ports don’t typically come as feature-packed as their console brethren, UFC 2010 on the PSP matches the 360 and PS3 version game mode for game mode. Unfortunately, the controls on the PSP don’t do the martial arts in UFC 2010 any justice, and the game, and your fingers, ends up suffering as a result.
In what is perhaps the title’s greatest strength, every single game mode that was in the console version makes it to the PSP. Though you could spend your time playing Title/Title Defense mode, reliving some great moments in the Ultimate Fights mode, or just banging out wins in exhibition, the robust Career mode is, like its big console brother, the highlight of the experience. The creation tools are nearly as deep as they are on the 360 and PS3, and you’ll still have to earn your way into the UFC by fighting in the amateur circuit. You’ll still be able to train and spar to build up your stats and levels (which still cap at 30, 50, and 70), and visit with various camps around the world to learn new techniques. There aren’t nearly as many post-fight interview opportunities, but they are present. Too often, PSP ports of console titles end up being watered down, but THQ has gone to great lengths to make sure the UFC experience you have on the handheld is almost identical to the one you have in your living room. It’s quite impressive just how much the developers have managed to pack into UFC 2010 on the PSP, but it would be even more impressive if the fights were as fun.
Let’s face it; the PSP does not have the best analog stick. When playing a game that places such a huge emphasis on the analog controls, having a nub as imprecise as the PSP’s really hurts UFC’s “Shine.” Trying to frantically spin the PSP nub in order to stuff a takedown, prevent or sink in a submission, or improve your position is one of the more frustrating aspects of the game. Because it was so awkward and uncomfortable to use, my gameplan for every fight was to out-strike my opponent before they had a chance to grapple or take me down. Fortunately for me the striking is still pretty strong in the game, but since grappling and submissions are practically impossible on the PSP, every fight ends exactly the same way – the knockout. While this was a bit of a problem in the console version, at least with a real controller in your hands, you were able to perform subs and takedowns with more frequency and ease. Though you rarely had a fight make it all the way to a decision, my fights in the PSP version have rarely made it out of the first round, win or lose. It’s tough to beat another strong striker if you can’t manage to slow their pace by taking them down. I wouldn’t have wanted the game to use button mashing as an alternative, so I’m not really sure what the solution is in the future. All I do know is the Shine on the PSP is not easy or fun to use, and saps a lot of the enjoyment out of the title.
Impressively, UFC 2010 on the PSP is one of the better-looking titles on the handheld. Though sponsor logos and textures are a bit blurry up close, fighters are rendered well, especially from the neck up. Every single fighter in UFC looks just like his real-life counterpart, and though the PSP doesn’t have anywhere near the processing power of the consoles, the game runs at a pretty smooth clip when you’re fighting. There is no commentary during a fight, and unless you’ve won a main event, you will hardly ever hear anyone else’s voice beyond Marc Laimon and Dana White. Where the PSP’s presentation suffers is the collision detection. UFC on the console has a very good collision detection and physics system in place to make sure that when you punch a person, they react accordingly. In the PSP version, many of your punches will miss visually, but connect in the programming. I understand that the PSP just doesn’t have what it takes to properly visualize an actual fistfight, but there were times I missed a punch by a pretty big gap, and the game said I connected. On a few occasions, I even knocked out an opponent, yet they were still standing and striking with me even though the fight was over. The other fighter never hit the mat, and the game just started loading up the victory screen. Though it happened just a few times out of maybe twenty-five or thirty fights, it still happened.
Despite there being an incredible amount of content in UFC Undisputed 2010 on the PSP, the actual in-ring action is a bit of a work in progress. As the first portable title in the series, it’s a strong effort. However, there’s still a lot to work out when it comes to the combat, and that’s really the reason you’re picking up a UFC video game. While die-hard fans of the sport like myself will no doubt find some enjoyment in the title, the PSP version of UFC 2010 is not for everyone. I hope THQ continues to improve the portable version in the future, as there is a great deal of potential here. Unfortunately, not all of the potential is realized, and UFC Undisputed 2010 ends up leaving you wanting more instead of being satisfied.