Perhaps it's just me being disorganised, but I found the constant time management to be a major drag. Your wait between matches is divided up into weeks, and you're only ever able to do one thing per week (why can't your fighter multi-task? I don't know, but I'm guessing brain damage is the answer). As in real life, there never seems to be enough time to do everything, and I found it very hard to keep my stats in line. Strength, speed and cardio sessions are resolved "off-screen", but with sparring you get a choice: either let the AI do it, resulting in a purposefully low-set budget of skill points to spend, or try for a decent amount by taking control for yourself. Player-controlled sparring bouts are essentially mini-fights, only for not as long. And without the excitement.
There's actually another activity that requires your time and input: the only way to learn decent special moves is to visit a special Fighter Camp, where you enter into sparring sessions that require you to perform specific moves or combos. As with last year, there's a slight problem here, as the AI will sometimes decide to be quite unhelpful. You might need to pull a certain number of submissions, for example, but your dim-witted buddy keeps grabbing you in a clinch. You flail away, the clock ticks out, and suddenly you've wasted one of your precious weeks.
I'll stop there, because this review is starting to sound rather negative. The truth is that I didn't get on with career mode at all, and that's a shame. If you're patient and really fancy the idea of a very long-winded road to fame, you'll probably enjoy it; personally, I thought there was way too much that got in the way of the fighting – you know, the actual fun bit.
Luckily, Yuke's and THQ have been very generous in their supply of other game modes. The Ultimate Fights mode returns, allowing you to play through some classic UFC match-ups, and this time there are goals to complete that ultimately help you to unlock stuff for Create-A-Fighter mode. There's also a Tournament Mode, and an Event Mode that lets you build your own pay-per-view cash-sapper, replete with all the flashy trimmings you get on the official TV coverage.
It's most telling, however, that the game is still at its most enjoyable when you're simply smacking seven bells out of a friend. Undisputed really comes alive when you're playing with another human, particularly one who's sitting right next to you. The best matches are slippery, unpredictable affairs, where you almost manage to pound your chum into submission, only to have him escape at the last minute. It also helps that the action itself is extremely good-looking: UFC 2009 turned a few heads, but this follow-up manages to look vastly more natural and realistic. Given that it's essentially the same setting, albeit with an expanded roster, that's really quite impressive. Once again, the violence is extremely well-rendered, and there's no doubt that Undisputed's beatings are among the most visceral in modern gaming.
It is also, naturally, the most authentic depiction of Mixed Martial Arts on today's gaming market. EA's MMA title will be surfacing later in the year, but no matter what that game achieves, it'll lack the sheer star quality of Undisputed. Yuke's has once again done a grand job with the UFC license, and existing fans of the sport (and the first game) will find plenty to love here. If you're a curious newcomer there's still every reason to give this a shot – just don't expect to learn everything overnight.
A quick note about multiplayer. Frustratingly, our efforts to access the Undisputed servers prior to review proved fruitless. There are new mechanics in place to prevent the cheating that hindered UFC 2009 Undisputed's multiplayer – particularly the "quitters" who abandoned matches prior to an online defeat – but at the time of writing, we've not been able to test out the new netcode.