UFC Undisputed 3 Review
North American Release Date: 14th January 2012
European Release Date: 17th January 2012
Trophies: 1 2 16 21
After the release of UFC 2010, I was a little worried about the franchise. They'd shipped a fantastic game, with significant improvements made from it's prequel released the year before. But after spending time with the game I was left wondering where they can move to next, especially if it became a yearly franchise. Thankfully, Yuke's took a step back and reviewed the whole thing, and decided to take some time out. Nearly two years after UFC 2010 shipped, UFC 3 packs a fistful of new features and gameplay to create the strongest MMA game I've ever came across.
The gameplay aspect has always been the main strength for the UFC game franchise in my eyes, so it is no surprise to me that it feels so strong once again this time around. Built on the foundations created by its predecessor, UFC Undisputed 3 provides the most realistic MMA experience you will find in a video game. The changes they've made aren't massive, but that's something you come to expect in a sports game. But the changes feel more like precise adjustments to a well polished engine.
The main change you'll notice from the start is based around the key part to the striking game, and that's shots to the head. Before, if you held L1 and tried to punch/kick your opponent in the head, you would. This button press has now been reserved for your more powerful strikes, and the fighters signature strikes. This mixes up the pace as you begin to know exactly which button presses will suit your situation based on speed and power of the strike, and I felt much more in control of my fighter. The submission system has been changed again and I feel that this time they've cracked it. Instead of over complicating things, it's a mini-game of cat and mouse basically. The guy trying to submit his opponent controls a circle that zips around an on-screen octagon, trying to overlap his opponents circle. Whilst the guy defending has to try and zip away. Both fighters have a bar behind their circle and the whole mini-game is based on stamina, strength in the submission department and of course, what happens during the mini-game. Little additions like the way you can carry on punching a knocked out opponent until you are dragged off by the ref make the game feel much more ruthless and aggressive, just like the games real-life counterpart.
Pride mode captures the aggression of the Pride fighting league
The game has always struggled to welcome in newcomers to the franchise in my eyes, mainly due to how much depth there is to the controls. Previously, the only way to combat this was through a fairly ugly looking and simple feeling tutorial system, and the option to change difficulty. Now, there are in-game hints and tips that you can turn off and two different sets of controls. The advanced set is exactly the same as what we experienced players are used to, and you can turn off the hints so there is nothing to aggravate any returning players. But the simpler control set mainly simplifies the grappling system to a much more primitive form. Instead of inputting a more difficult movement into the analogue stick, you simply move the stick up for an offensive move, or down for a defensive move. In the older games I've always found that when playing with friends who are newcomers, all we could do is throw punches at eachother because they couldn't understand the controls quickly. This isn't what MMA is about. So with this new control system, we've been able to take part in much more realistic fights, and I don't feel like I have a massive upper-hand just because I've played the game more. Yuke's have done a great job of making the game much more presentable and easier to pick up and play, but they haven't dumbed it down at the same time.
Before the game released I was curious and wary as to what new direction they could take the game-modes to, but I am more than impressed with what they've came up with. Returning are the classic game modes, such as career mode, title/title defend mode and ultimate fights. Along with an all new Pride mode. Title/Title defend mode handles like a king of the hill, ladder based game-mode that's never really grabbed me, and stays similar to how it was in the previous games. Ultimate fights mode has you recreating classic fights and trying to reach certain objectives during the fight, which can be a fun challenge at times. Pride mode uses the Pride rules and creates a different more violent feel all-around feel, with stand-out rule changes being the fact that you can stomp on your opponents face, nearly everything goes in Pride. And whilst I wasn't into MMA when Pride was in its prime I'm sure this is a great nostalgic feel for any fans of the fighting league.
Career mode has been both simplified and improved at the same time. The whole menu system seems much simpler but the core components are there. Last time around the career mode involved trying to create your fighter into some sort of superstar, with post fight interviews and other events of the sort sometimes taking the limelight off of actual fighting. This time, you're given two different events you can use towards training in a given area, then you fight. You'll start getting through the career mode much quicker this way, and you don't get distracted by less important areas. Training exercises were surprisingly fun aswell, and they serve as mini-games that will also improve your own fighting style. They've included the option of jumping up and down in weight classes so you can compete with even more fighters and try to win more belts, and you can fight in a pride league which recreates the classic feel and vibe of pride fights. Whilst it's a cool feature they've added, it felt a tad unrealistic as there is no such thing in the real world UFC, and they've been trying to build up this realistic career mode all along. What's also worth mentioning is that you now have the choice in playing through career mode with your own created fighter or with a pre-existing fighter. Whilst it's pretty fun taking control of a fighter who's already well established, it doesn't have a patch on using your own fighter in my eyes.
UFC Undisputed 3 makes training in a gym fun
One of the downsides to previous UFC games for me was the quality of the online multiplayer, it just simply didn't work. Issues with lag and matchmaking outshone any of the online features, but this has been entirely different for me on UFC 3. From the short amount of time I've spent playing ranked matches, I've had an enjoyable time. The matches were relatively lag-free and I haven't been disconnected. The whole system rewards players who fight in a smart manner, you gain more points for taking less damage to the head, for having more stamina than your opponent etc. and of course, for winning fights. The only flaw I found in the online ranked matches, is that I was often matched up against people who'd fought in over 100 fights, when I'd just started up. Of course they knew all of the tricks of the game and I was beaten easily, making it a much less enjoyable experience. But once you start stringing a few wins together and racking up some points, the online mode can be very enjoyable, but it's still outshone by the singleplayer.
One of the new online features is the inclusion of a highlight reel. This feature impressively stores the highlights of your previous 50 rounds, allowing you to see just how well you fought. Afterwards you can edit the clips stored (albeit with simple editing tools) and create and share you own highlight reel with the community. I felt like this was a very lengthy process though, which makes it much less enjoyable. I had a fantastic fight and wanted to make sure I had the highlights saved, so I saved them to my highlight reel. The whole saving process took someone between 10-15 minutes (I made and ate a sandwich in this time, with some time to spare just to put it in perspective) which is a massive drag, and it completely takes you out of the feel of the game. Additionally, online camps have returned which are basically a small hub for a small community created by players. If you have friends who play the game you can make great use of this and it gives the impression of being a useful feature.
Much to my disappointment, a lot of my online fights ended this way
The one thing that the game does better than most other sports game is that it fully captures the essence of a UFC fight. Everything is fully authentic and exactly how it would look on your television when you're watching a fight, from the music playing during the build-up, to the fighter information before the fight. This feels like a real event. I've even watched live fights and been amazed at how well the game replicates the energy of a live fight. The commentary doesn't always live up to the same level of quality however. At first they appear to work in well, and during the career mode you get updated commentary lines about your fighter and how you've been performing and training recently. The game simply disappoints in the same way that most sports games do in terms of commentary. When I first started playing the commentary surprised me, it seemed fairly refreshing and intelligent, like it was actually accurate to what I was doing on-screen. After some time with the game though you come to realize that it's nothing special, and is more along the lines of your basic generic commentary.
The game holds its own weight in the technical aspect, which is the reason why I am only picking the faults in the unimportant aspects, such as the fight commentaries. The game looks spot on, especially for a sports game. There's attention to detail paid towards the finer details such as the sweat built up on the fighters during the fight. The blood looks a lot more detailed as do cuts and bruises on the fighters. The character models show even more detail than ever and it gives the impression of each member of the roster being given the right amount of work put into their character, unlike a lot of other sports games. The inclusion of having a cutscene showing the fighter entering the ring just rounds off how well they've recreated the energy and electricity of the UFC.
What looks like a great set of trophies is ruined by an online trophy wanting you to play 500 ranked online matches. Other than that, you're required to pretty much complete everything in the game, which I like. But including a 'play 500 online matches' trophy just seems like overkill to me.
The best MMA game out now, and I can't see that changing for a good couple of years. They've made great strides since UFC Undisputed 2010, and it's a great testament to how improvements should be made to sports games. So long as they don't turn this into a yearly franchise I can see nothing but good things in the future for this franchise.
Fantastic game in the gameplay aspect, I had next to no gripes with anything, and I was impressed with their attempt to make the game easier for newcomers.
Whilst all of the modes there will entertain you, there isn't exactly a massive amount of depth. Career mode is a definite highlight.
There's nothing particularly wrong with the multiplayer, it's just nothing out of the ordinary, or exactly original. It helps that this is the first THQ sports game I've been able to play online without lag.
The game looks, sounds and feels exactly how it should.