UFC, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has surged in popularity in recent years, overtaking the farce that is professional wrestling and even the purer, sweet-science pugilism of Boxing. For those who’re uninitiated, UFC takes the MMA – Mixed Martial Arts – throwing really tough bastards into an octagonal ring to knock the sense out of each other, and legitimises it as a real sport – with rules and regulations and limits to exactly how you’re allowed to make people bleed. For those same uninitiated UFC’s ground game, which has sweaty, muscly dudes grinding on top of each other, MMA could well stand for “Man-on-Man Action.”
Fans are probably ready to knock the stuffing out of me.
THQ’s videogame versions started off well, but the barely-improved iteration just a year on left a bitter taste in people’s mouth. THQ and Yukes decided instead to stick to two year release intervals, and it’s been two years since Undisputed 2010 broke players thumbs. As Bruce Buffer would say…”It’s TIME!”
Prima facie, the game doesn’t seem like it’s changed much since 2010’s version – and you’ll be left wondering just what the hell Yukes has been doing for the last two years. Spend just a little time with the game and you’ll see how that’s not at all true. Though at first strikingly similar, the differences between UFC Undisputed 3 and 2010’s character models really starts to stand out, when you notice little details; whether the correctly coloured, detailed tattoos that behave the way they should on flexible body, or the way sweat beads off a beaten brow or the splatter of sanguine from a bloody, swollen eye, the brutal action all looks incredible.
Even the physics have been given a makeover; it’s far less twitchy and there’re no more instances of characters limbs passing through one another when there are simultaneous strikes – instead, a misplaced kick could see a shin knocked backed…y’know, as if it had actually hit something.The general mechanics remain the same; each of the face buttons maps to an individual arm and leg, used to deliver powerful strikes – with button modifiers changing where on the body those hits are delivered to, but there’s a big change to the ground game, especially for newcomers or those who had trouble with the previous games’ quarter and half circular motions for transitions; the new amateur mode allows you to execute those transitions with a simple flick of the right stick. Pros still have the upper hand when it comes to reversing or blocking transmissions, but the new, easier controls certainly keep the action flowing better.
The submission system’s been given a working over too, and you’ll no longer evoke memories of the first Mario Party, working the palms of your hands or your thumbs raw spinning the right stick in circles. Instead, there’s a new system where once a submission is engaged, an octagonal HUD pops on screen, with a blue and red bar for each respective player. What ensues is a bit of a cat-and-mouse chase, where the aggressor must try keep his bar within the opponent’s. The longer the two bars stay in contact, the greater the chance the submission takes hold and the floored opponent gives in. It’s inelegant, and detracts from the game a little – considering you can turn off informative HUDS completely, but it works – and it’s vastly superior to the twirl-and-pray system of previous games.
Also new to this year’s UFC is the now-defunct Japanese MMA circuit Pride’s return to video games. With a little more emphasis on WWE-like pageantry, over-the top and often humorous commentary by Bas Rutten and Stephen “The Fight Professor” Quadros, Pride is a welcome addition for old-school, hipster fans of MMA – not least because its slightly different, more brutal ruleset allows you to kick or stomp a downed opponent in the face.
Though it’s brimming with all manner of modes – including tournaments, exhibition fights, title and title defence and the very welcomed return of challenge-based Ultimate Fights mode, the games real meat lies in its career mode – which has been stripped of unessential fluff, and rather thankfully, stat decay – so you’ll no longer have to micromanage your career with the constant feeling that you’re taking two steps forward and one step back. Training is done, instead of via pages of dull, spread-sheet styled menus, a series of mini-games, pretty much like every other sport game in existence. Thankfully, the minigames manage to be both fun and rewarding, and actually help with raising your game. Between fights, you can align yourself with famous MMA camps to learn and perfect new moves, or implement a stat-stacking gameplan that adds an element of pre-fight strategy to your career. Though the option is there – and it’s an incredibly extensive option – you need no longer create your own fighter to progress through career mode; instead you can select any of the roster fighters and re-imagine their climbs to the top.
With content meatier than Brock Lesnar, a nearly flawless combat system and a roster of over 150 current and past fighters (though there are some glaring omissions) this is a game that any MMA fan should own – but it’s not all good. The PlayStation 3 version kicks off with a 15 minute-long, 3GB install – but still leaves the game suffering from far too many, far too long load screens; and those load screens are apparent in the Xbox 360 version as well. The commentary from Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, though generally quite fantastic, does tend to distractingly overlap and the menu’s are all very last gen – but that’s the sort of thing we expect from Japanese developers. Online play is mixed; most fights with overseas players is horribly lagged, making fights impossible – but those with friends and other local fighters are smooth as butter.
It’s not perfect – but it’s certainly poised itself as one of the best video game representations of MMA, and indeed any sport. It’s definitely the best UFC game to date and is worth picking up if whether you’re a veteran or newcomer to the series.
Polished and tweaked to a fine shine, UFC 3 is how a sports iteration should be done. Though instantly familiar to older players, the new gameplay changes are quite impactful. New simulation modes add more strategy, and there’s a system in place to equalise fighter’s stats – making it a viable competitive fighting game.
Design and Presentation: 7/10
Fighters and their associated blood, sweat, ink and tears are as well presented and realistic as they could be, and the new PPV presentation gives it that TV feel – but the square, dull menus still detract.
There’s so much content for fight fans, its ridiculous – with more modes than you can shake Vitor Belfort at.
It’s not quite perfect, but the changes, additions and tweaks make UFC Undisputed 3 a knockout champion.
Reviewed on PS3