Other fresh ingredients include the choice to switch to a "southpaw" (i.e. Lefty) stance on the fly, and the ability to catch in-bound punches and kicks by flicking the right analogue stick. There have also been changes to the ground-based mechanics, too: each position on the floor will now have additional sub-positions of sorts, thanks to the fact that you can shift your posture to give yourself an offensive or defensive advantage. Furthermore, fights that that have gone to the mat can now be ended at any time. In Undisputed 2009 there were situations where you knew that you were relatively safe, where you could be hurt by your rival but not in a match-ending way – but now there's no place to hide. If anything, bouts are even more dangerous: one of the neatest things about the first game were the Flash Knockouts, unexpectedly lethal punches and kicks that could bring a match to an immediate close; now there's an equivalent for submissions, too. If you let your guard slip at the wrong moment and your opponent gets in, you could find yourself with you ankles wrapped around your left ear lobe (or something equally painful) before you realise what's happening.
Naturally all these refinements come as good news, but a long list of tweaks is nothing compared to a sense of how the game actually plays. This month's big reveal in Las Vegas offered only a fleeting glimpse of the game in action, but there was certainly many reasons to be cheerful in the slender 10 - 15 minutes of gameplay that were shown. Undisputed 2009 was a great-looking game, and its 2010 big brother should be even sexier (assuming you have a taste for the rough stuff). The two fighters on display, Mike Swick and Paulo Thiago, both looked superb, with large character models that were even sharper and more detailed than their counterparts from last year. The developers are also keen to underline the fact that all of 2010's stars have been entirely built from scratch, rather than using the same tools that appear in the Create-A-Fighter area, as was the case with some fighters in the first game.
Beyond the immediate photo-realistic level of detail, the new Swick and Thiago seemed impressively natural in their movements. To be honest Undisputed 2009 was already a pretty great-looking game, and in appearance this follow-up felt more like a refinement rather than a total overhaul. Still, I'm sure that the more subtle nuances will become noticeable when I've seen a bit more of the action. At any rate, 2010 is certainly a lot bloodier and sweatier than its forebear, and the developers have wisely thrown in a few stylish flourishes like dramatic camera zooms when someone is attempting a submission – a device that gives visual feedback on the progress of the move, as well as making the whole scrap that little bit more exciting.
Naturally there's only so much that you can glean from a fifteen minute presentation, but THQ's first reveal of Undisputed 2010 has certainly whet my appetite. Will this sequel really "kill" its predecessor, as Neven Dravinski intends? I hope so, because the first game was an unexpected highlight of 2009 – a deep and dynamic fighter with brains to match its brawn. If this second effort can retain that appeal while giving us the things we want – particularly an expanded campaign and better support for online play – then Dravinksi may get his wish.
UFC: Undisputed 2010 will be released on PS3 and Xbox 360 on May 25