This year, you're not just fighting for yourself when you take your fighter online in THQ's UFC Undisputed 2010. You'll also be fighting for the pride of your fight camp--where you and your online buddies can gather, train together, and take on a world full of virtual UFC wannabes in octagon matches. Online fight camps are just one part of UFC 2010's impressive list of new features, and they're the focus of our look at the game today. In one sense, fight camps are nothing new to the UFC series--in last year's game, you could train in fight camps during your career mode, and in UFC 2010, you'll also be using fight camps to learn specific moves when going through your single-player career. By putting fight camps online, however, the developers at THQ and Yuke's have taken things to the next logical step by getting your friends involved. Once you're in a camp with buddies, there are a number of things you can do to make one another better fighters; there's even a tie-in to the game's single-player career mode that will help your created fighter improve.
First things first, you need to create a fight camp. Creation is simple: you pick a name for your camp and a banner, which you can design from the ground up using tools similar to the tattoo-creation tools found in the game. The tools aren't as flexible as those found in the Forza Motorsport series, but with a little time and some imagination, you can come up with a cool-looking banner that will be displayed in your gym and in your fighter's corner during matches. Once your camp is created, you'll be able to go back and redesign your banner if you like or create custom messages that your fellow campmates will be able to read when they log on.
With your camp created, you'll need to invite some members to beef up your ranks. When you invite a friend (or perfect stranger, for that matter), his or her rank is automatically set to "recruit." Recruits cannot train other members, and any losses incurred by recruits do not negatively affect your camp's leaderboard status. In essence, leaving a new member at recruit status serves as a probationary period--once a recruit has proven to be a valuable member, the camp captain (or other high-ranking members) can promote the recruit to a member. Camp members can train one another, and their wins and losses will count on the camp's overall record. The next level of promotion is "trainer," which gives that player a degree of administrative ability over the camp. Finally, as captain, you can promote another member to captain, but you'll automatically be demoted to "trainer" if you do so.
When you're logged on to the fight camp, you have a number of options available to you, including chat, train, exhibition, view camp stats, camp news, invite new member, and leave camp. First up, the train option is where you'll be able to hook up with fellow fight camp members to spar or learn some new moves. The sparring option puts two fighters in the octagon and lets you duke it out for as long as you like with no health meter, and all of your controller inputs appear onscreen--a perfect opportunity to work on specific moves or watch another player in action without having to worry about getting knocked (or tapped) out.
The training session is a bit more involved. Here, one camp member acts as the trainer, and the other is the trainee. Once the session loads up, both fighters are in the octagon, and a series of instructions appear below the fighters. The idea is to perform the moves or sequence of moves as they appear onscreen, and you'll have a short period of time to perform each set of moves--if you complete a sequence before the time limit runs out, you immediately move on to the next sequence; if you don't, you fail that task and move on anyway. Once you've gone through the entire sequence, you'll be required to perform the whole thing over again.
So why take part in a training session? There are a few reasons. First off, you earn cred for your created fighter for any of the training session tasks that you successfully complete. Second, while you don't learn new moves for your fighter that you can add to his arsenal, you can still learn something as a UFC player, especially if you have a good trainer that you're talking with. All of the training sequences have a beginning and end point--they aren't just a set of moves chosen at random. If you pay attention to the sequences and how they transition from one move to the next, you might just learn something that you can apply to a real fight the next time you find yourself in the octagon. According to THQ, there are around 20 grapple programs, 20 striking programs, and 15 clinch programs to play through.
Best of all, online fight camp training sessions are built into your single-player career mode (you'll see the option to visit your created camp in the fight camp menu). If you choose to visit your camp, your fighter won't take a hit to his fatigue or conditioning and won't lose a week of training as he would when training or sparring otherwise. However, you can only attend online fight camp training sessions once per fight; so once you've trained you'll have to move ahead to the next fight in your career before you can train again. Essentially, training in online fight camps is a chance to earn some bonus cred and, if you've got a good instructor, maybe learn a thing or two in the process.
When it comes to fighting, you'll have a couple of options. You can have exhibition fights with fellow camp members or fight in ranked fights against other camps, the results of which will count toward your camp's record. Just as in a ranked match, these camp matches are random in order to prevent people inviting friends from one camp and exploiting the leaderboards. Over time, members can earn milestones for the camp--think of them as group achievements. Examples include winning five ranked exhibition matches in a row or winning 60 percent of all ranked matches, and there are milestones for overall position on the leaderboards, total number of ranked matches won, and more.
The implementation of fight camps in UFC 2010 seems like a good start for a feature that could evolve and grow in future installments of the game. The training session instructions tend to be somewhat vague, and as a result, it's often tough to correctly finish a sequence, especially the complex grappling programs. That said, as another aspect of your single-player career mode, or simply as a place to gather around with your friends and take on the world, fight camps should be a popular addition. UFC Undisputed 2010 is due for release on May 25.