We've just been to New York to get to grips with THQ's hotly-anticipated UFC Undisputed 2010 - the vicious sequel to last year's grappler. From a standing start the game plays out essentially the same as last year - big fat KO's and wince-inducing submissions FTW - but as soon as the fists start flying in the octagon you notice just how far this sequel has come.
Above: Ground control feels so much slicker in Undisputed 2010
1. How it plays
The first thing you'll notice is that the speed of the action has been taken up a notch. Punches and kicks are lightning fast from the lightweights and takedowns can happen in the blink of an eye.
There's also a sway system added to your defensive arsenal now. You can use this to bob and weave away from incoming strikes, but you can also combine it with a punch or kick and increase your chances of knocking someone out.
You can now use the cage to tie people up against. It's a struggle at first to work out how to take advantage of this position but we find that softening up your opponent with knees makes for an easier shot chance later.
Unfortunately there's still a steep learning curve in place for novices, especially when it comes to grappling. Our first few fights saw us exchanging grapple positions with another human and then stumbling into something special. But as we played more and more we made Georges Saint Pierre the takedown machine he is and Dan Hardy simply couldn't handle him. Like in real life.
This is another facet to Undisputed 2010 in that all the fighters are mimicked brilliantly, meaning they have all the strengths and weaknesses of their real-life counterparts.
2. It's not a sequel, it's a reinvention
Studio head honcho, Neven Dravinski, puts it thus "It's so hard to look at it now. Even though that's sad sometimes you gotta kill your own baby". Clearly, he's referring to Undisputed 2009 rather than confessing to bad parenting and it's something that's emphasised throughout our interview time and any time THQ speak about their game.
Basically, Neven and the team knew they could do better, so they did. There are animations, moves and presentation aspects that have all been over-hauled in Undisputed 2010 to create a far closer simulation of the UFC now.
3. Flash KO's are less frequent
Now before you make with the boo-ing, you still *can* knock an opponent out with a quick strike, it just won't happen nearly every single match. When this was announced we had to question whether this would still appeal to the casual gamer who bought it solely for the knockouts. After all, the ground game of UFC 2009 is a fairly complicated affair for novices.
But to spice things up, THQ have introduced flash submissions, which means you can tap a guy out in mere seconds. A feat that will be beneficial for excellent grapplers like Georges Saint Pierre. We pulled off a few with GSP and trust us, it's just as brutally satisfying as laying a guy out with a super-man punch.
Above: Carwin chokes out Mir, rather than KO-ing him like recently
4. The game watches you
No, not forgotten West Coast rapper, The Game, but Undisputed 2010. This is a tracking system that follows you throughout your online and offline exploits and lets the AI/human opponent know what type of fighter you are. Won your last three fights by KO? Then the AI will adapt and change their game-plan for taking you on. It even feeds back into the commentary meaning Joe Rogan will mention your a knockout king.
It also links directly to your fighter profile online so your foes will be able to prepare themselves for your trademark skills. It's a great system that provides some kudos for your key attributes but it will also force you to change up your fighting styles so you keep things fresh.