With a hands-on preview of ‘UFC Undisputed 3’ (UFC3) barely in the rear view mirror, the simple – but $59.95 question: how does finished product measure up to that played and promised? From all impressions, it’s the same damn thing. Even Brock Lesnar would approve.
Referenced in the Preview, UFC3 is arguably a subtle advance from the terrific ‘UFC Undisputed 10,’ (UFC2010) but what’s new to the menu is substantially tasty. Meaning, veterans of the THQ/Yuke’s UFC series will be quite pleased, as an already solid offering took small but strong strides in its latest iteration.
To elaborate and at its core, UFC3 maintains the both overly sophisticated and robust control scheme of its predecessors, but with some key wrinkles. Crashing the rock ‘em, sock ‘em party are sway, feint and quick strike mechanics, offerings intended to provide better strategic and tactical flow to matches. Cheats of yore – elbows buffet style, streams of headkicks, forced referee breaks – are now remnants of gameplay past. Veterans of the series: wave ‘em like you just don’t care.
Thus – and at extreme risk of oversimplification - UFC3 ‘plays better’ than its two parents. By ‘better,’ I’m referring to cleaner character models (now motion captured versus extensively hand drawn), timing that rewards counter-striking, and a reason to chop down opponents via leg TKO’s. The glue to this trifecta is a much- appreciated emphasis on fatigue; attack like an idiot and pay the band-aid price. Price being a fighter gassed left solely to defend toward hopeful eventual recovery and/or round end.
Perhaps a by-product of criticism from UFC 2010, UFC3 now features a simplified grapple control scheme, where quick flicks of the right analog stick can replace half circles for transitions. Moreover, pre-fight training now features skill development via moves replicated in actual combat. The only catch is, some of these training sessions are executed by semi-circle movements alone…ones obsolete in combat via the simplified control option. C’est la Jon Jones vie.
An additional – and no doubt controversial – mechanic is UFC3’s new submission system, now relegated to cat-and-mouse chases once a submission is attempted (via R3). Fighter damage, fatigue and skill combine to produce the size of threshold needed to produce a tap-out. Attempt too many and/or ill-timed submissions, and risk being reversed and/or overly gassed. Related, UFC3 intelligently matches submissions to fighters, meaning don’t expect Greco roman masters unleashing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu finishes.
I, for one, am a big fan of this new mechanic, as it encourages logical skills development plus in-match tactics. In past UFC titles, over-emphasizing particular skill sets was a double-edged sword, as: a) this a clear path toward success in a match, but b) failure to beat the bejeebuz out of an opponent via preferred method almost always produced a surefire loss. In UFC3, grapple skills are now expanded and specialized, where even standup fighters can keep a submission rabbit in their hat should situation require it. As nearly all actual UFC matches end up – at some point – on the mat and/or against a cage, this is a welcome and realistic adjustment.
Akin to boxing, the UFC little guys often engender the most epic of contests. Thus, introductions of Bantam and Featherweights are both welcome and long overdue. Fighting with those of smaller stature truly unleashes the strategy in UFC3, as counterstrikes, leg kicks, and shooting for the takedown must be carefully staggered sans one hit knockouts. Aforementioned timing and quick strikes contribute mightily here, as well placed jabs or push kicks can truly change tempo…and fast. Per above, the decision to motion capture fighters empowers this dynamic, as the jerkiness of crossing and/or interrupted strikes of UFC2010 is almost completely absent in UFC3. One thing that hasn’t changed from the Preview write-up is my inability to execute new sway or feint moves. Some day, young padawan.
Also - and while subtle at first glance - the clinch game gets a facelift via improved strike distance and damage mechanics. UFC3’s offers a selectable damage HUD, a godsend in clinching where my supposed ass kicking was actually ass-kicked. Finally, selecting a Muay Thai fighter in Career Mode is no longer a handicap for a nak farang like me.
Continuing the Career Mode thread, UFC3’s created fighters start our more stat jacked and balanced, with no skills deterioration over time. While less realistic in theory, I must confess this safety net empowered more risk taking by challenging higher ranked opponents, likewise diversifying skillsets and training for the heck of it. Camps are restricted in tandem, encouraging perfecting move types versus a cornucopia of poorly implemented supplemental strikes. This is not to say, however, that beginning a career outside of appropriate difficulty won’t punish you quickly and often. I proudly wore my intermediate level mantel versus the destruction awaiting Hard and Expert modes. I salute you, more skilled warriors.
Easily the big selling point – in addition to updated rosters – for UFC3 is Pride Mode, one I can thankfully insist is not simply window dressing. The window dressing, however, is magnificent, with visual (presentation, fighter garb, intro’s, etc.) and audio (custom announcers) authenticity down to the finest of details. Pride fights – open to UFC fighters as well - are fought in rings and 10-minute rounds, realities a sharp contrast to UFC tactics favoring cage-friendly takedowns and/or shorter burst attacks. Throw in mirror matches – doppelganger to the max – and it’s madness, I tell ya’. One can’t talk Pride without its signature head kicks and face stomps, tactics illegal in UFC octagons but fair game in Pride’s rings. And the occasional playground brawl. (Gimme’ back my sandwich, punk.)
In playing UFC3, I was transported back to ‘Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood,’ the game many thought Assassin’s Creed II should have been. Much like Ezio, UFC3 clearly heeded criticisms stemming from 2010, advancing player models, fighter weight classes, TKO potential, training dynamics, and rosters for its baby brother. Still, the vast majority stayed the same. Those struggling with UFC2010’s overly complex control scheme will encounter similar hiccups in UFC3…with even more hurdles awaiting them in new strike, grapple and avoidance possibilities. Case in point: UFC’s vast Tutorial Mode is a lesson in button combination frustration, and with it recognition of a gameplay system clearly not designed for the uninitiated.
At the end of the day, however, there’s almost nothing for an MMA connosoieur not to like in UFC3. The game truly captures the sport, with enormous diversity in modes, fight types, and a 150+ roster authentic to real life name sakes. Presentation – already a strong suit among the series – is further improved via TV-style introductions, backed by an entirely new mode and presentation.
UFC Undisputed 3 is certain to please even the most discerning MMA fan. Its new Pride mode plus suite of gameplay tweaks address the few but noticeable holes of an already winning predecessor. The game remains as complicated as ever, however, a reality certain to scare those new to the sport and series.
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