It’s nice to see a sports game franchise bucking the prevailing trend and making a stand. UFC Undisputed 3 has moved away from the yearly release cycle and is the first new entry in the series since 2010. The idea, obviously, being that a longer development time will allow for significant improvement – rather than the ‘we’re constantly iterating’ line we’re force fed by developers/publishers with every new Fifa, Madden, Virtua Tennis and NHL game.
Those of you who only played UFC Undisputed 2010 in a ‘casual’, infrequent manner will pick up Undisputed 3 and wonder what all the fuss is about and where the extra development time has been spent. On the surface, the controls are the same, the visuals are the same, the rules are the same and the fighters are the same.
However, if you’re a veteran of the series you’ll immediately pick up on the differences, welcome their inclusion and sing THQ’s praises for allowing Yuke’s the extra year to work on it.
UFC Undisputed 3 is refinement, expansion and experiment all thrown into one. Combat has undergone a series of tweaks that, for the most part, improve it for all skill levels. Feints and counters are viable means of approaching a fight, allowing you to pick off aggressive fighters through deft sidestepping or shoulder drops and following them up with the killer blow while your opponent is off balance after that haymaker attempt.
Combine that with a much more varied and exhaustive repertoire of fighting styles and you’ve got a game in which the fighters look and feel like their real-life counterparts. Anderson Silva has the tricks, Lyoto Machida is the embodiment of the karate kid and Jon ‘Bones’ Jones can do pretty much everything.
The new combat elements add more depth not only to the gameplay, but also to the control scheme – which was hardly simple to begin with. A new simplified control scheme has been added for newcomers, although it only affects matters when in the clinch or when you’re both wrestling on the mat.
Clinch and ground transitions using the simplified control scheme are simply a matter of flicking up or down on the right stick. The change certainly makes it easier to transition into a new position, and it’s probably the option you should use if you already understand the sport and want to jump in for the first time and compete against your friends. However, those with ambitions of world titles and undefeated streaks should stick to the normal controls as it provides the freedom not only to transition but to transition into the exact position you’re looking for.
Anyone looking for further realism can also opt for the ‘simulation’ stamina settings which force you to think much more carefully about when to attack and how aggressively to do so, in fear of ‘gassing’ yourself out.
Simulation stamina also has a greater effect on shots to the legs and the body, making it possible to pick your foe apart by bruising their legs to the point where they can’t throw kicks and weakening their midriff to reduce their ability on the ground. Of course, the reverse is also true so you’ll want to make sure you’re checking those leg kicks and protecting your body.
The submission system has undergone surgery. Guillotine chokes, kimuras and arm bars are still initiated through a click of the right stick (when in the correct position), but no longer force you to hammer the pad into oblivion to get out. Instead a cat and mouse setup has been introduced whereby two bars appear in an octagon that is overlaid onscreen – the aggressor must overlap his bar over that of his opponent’s. Overlap for a long enough in the allotted time period and you’ll score a submission victory, if you opponent can stay away he’ll escape.
While it’s nice to see the end of the brute force approach and the attempt at something altogether more technical, the new system is hardly a work of art. Some fighters’ submission bars are so large that it’s near impossible to avoid it for long to stay safe.
I understand that the likes of Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Vanderlai Silva are hardly masters of the ground game, but not even they are submitted with every attempt. That’s what happens all too often here when against the computer set to anything but the easiest difficulty setting.
It’s a shame that the submission system isn’t what it perhaps could have been, because pretty much everything else works as well as you could hope for. Career mode has been streamlined and made more intuitive to navigate and progress as a fighter. It’s now much easier to move between weight classes to set up those mega fights between two division’s unbeaten champions and improving skills and/or joining a fight camp is made more interesting thanks to the inclusion of drills that are fun rather than a chore.
In a nice touch, the commentary dialogue in career mode remembers your past fights and training schedules. Meaning a rematch against Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua contains commentary references to how the last fight ended and what training regimes you’ve taken up to try and make good on the defeat.
Presentation in general is great, with everything (apart from the submission overlay) looking just as it does on a UFC TV broadcast. If you can be bothered you can also create your own entrances and in-game banner for your created fighter – my guy likes to dance a lot while pink spots circle the screaming crowd; he’s a true warrior.
UFC Undisputed 3 is easily the best UFC game yet, and it’s also the biggest. The option to fight in PRIDE arenas with PRIDE rules means square rings, head stomps to ground opponents and ‘soccer kicks’ to the face. In a nice touch, fighters such as Mirko Cro Cop have a second variation which allows you to play as them as they were when in their prime and fighting for the PRIDE heavyweight title.
The real-life UFC has recently taken on the WEC roster and created new weight divisions for the smaller fighters from that promotion. All of them are included here, meaning we can finally fight with Jose Aldo, Urijah Faber and Dominique Cruz.
Submission system issues aside, UFC Undisputed 3 is a great recreation of an incredibly complex sport. Compared to a TV broadcast, fights can still feel slightly mechanical but perhaps that’s a symptom of videogames in general rather than the design of this particular one. If you like the UFC, this one’s a no-brainer.