UFC Undisputed 3 Review
Game: UFC Undisputed 3
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Are you the next Ultimate Fighter?
For the unititiated, UFC is the Ultimate Fighting Championship , a mixed-martial arts competition that sits somwehere between the spectacle and pomp of professional wrestling and the precision and points-based scoring of boxing. Also known as cage fighting, the sport is brutal, vicious and engaging. Fights can last for several closely-matched rounds, or could be over in a matter of seconds with flash knockouts. The unpredictable nature of the sport is one of its most precious selling points.
THQ first put their mark on the sport in 2009 with UFC Undisputed, which was a surprise hit. A sequel followed less than a year later and fans were let-down by the fact the game seemed rushed and made little-to-no improvements over the first title. This time, the developers, Yuke’s, have gone away for an extended period in order to form a game that better fulfills the requests of the fans. Has the extra time paid dividends, and is the game simply another evolution, or more of a revolution?
GRAPHICS: Fighter models and animations are the main thing that players will notice in a fighting game. The title may not be complex in the terms of art style and in the variety of settings but when two fighters are standing toe-to-toe, the game really delivers in re-creating a realistic television-style experience. Physical damage is reflected well, as body parts that take excessive punishment really show the damage, and blood effects are more dynamic than ever. Different fighters will have their own recognisable traits and gait as they move about the octagon, with each grappler being a very accurate reflection of their real-life counterpart.
The only real issues remain in collision detection. Whereas the majority of the time characters will react impressively once they are hit, sometimes (most obvious in slow-motion replays) punches will appear to barely connect, yet still knock a fighter to the ground. These are few and far between however, and when you do watch a highlight reel back after a fight you really will notice how much it looks like a fight taken straight from a television broadcast. You really could be forgiven for thinking you had just seen a real fight. In terms of menus, THQ still haven’t quite managed to match the spit and polish we have come to expect in the sports titles from powerhouse EA Sports, but they have nailed it in-game where it really matters.
SOUND: The game consists largely of grunts and pounding noises, so the audio design is clearly not going to be something that gamers are going to write home about with any passion. That said, all of the sound effects are suitable and responsive – mirroring what you would expect to hear. The audio signals for the beginning or end of a round are spot-on and even your coaches give you a bit of advice in-between rounds. Fighter entrances and victory poses are all accompanied by the over-the-top ring announcers you would expect and this all helps build up the excitement for the bouts themselves.
This leads me onto another improvement this year, the in-game commentary has certainly taken a step up from previous entries. As the game now features both the UFC and its rival Pride Fighting Championships (a rival MMA organisation that was bought by UFC and closed down in 2007), the game features two commentary teams. Whilst the regular UFC commentary duo has returned, with more lines than ever before, the old Pride team has also been reunited to good effect. In general the commentary is more applicable to the action and less repetitve than is previous installments in the series, making the fights seem even more natural.
GAMEPLAY: As I mentioned, there are now two very different fighting modes in the game. UFC, the octagon cage-based bouts that we are used to, where kicks to the head and kness to downed opponents are not allowed, and Pride, where the action takes place in a more traditional square ring with ropes, and more vicious strikes are available to all fighters. Head stomps, soccer kicks and knees to grounded fighters are all game, as the fights are more heavy-hitting than ever before. It even includes the over-the-top Japanese ring announcing and the bright lights and fanfare that is even more showy than the UFC. Any fighter at any weight class can be used in Pride in career mode, so you could really put together some dream fights which never had the opportunity to occur in real life. The fact that it can be played seperately as its own organisation, or used in the story mode, means that fans of the league can either keep it just how they remembered, or can update it and keep it alive. This even allows for two versions of some fighters to appear in the title, from when they were in Pride, to their current UFC look and style.
The main bulk of the game is made up by the career mode, which is fairly exhaustive. You begin in the small-time WFA, where many of the biggest stars of today started out, and work your way up through the ranks, trying to win titles in that organisation with the goal of moving up to the big time of the UFC, or being invited to Japan for the Pride Championship Tournament. You begin by either creating a new fighter, customised all the way from looks, to moveset and clothing; these are all deep options, and you can morph the characters very well to create just the look you want.
Heading out into the career mode proper, you alternate between fighting days and training ones, where you can spar with partners, perform training exercises, go to training camps or make game plans, based on your upcoming fights. Depending on how well you perform with these training methods, your skills and attributes will be affected positively or negatively. There is more variety in the activities than before, even featuring a strange tyre-flipping mini-game, alongside more focused move-based drills. Some of these don’t give you enough instruction though, and you can end up wasting a session, simply because you don’t know quite what you were meant to do. There is no longer the stamina and rest system to be used from week to week, now players simply have a limited number of actions to perform between fights, so there is less resource management than before.
The game plans, which are all-new, allow gamers to pick certain stats that will receive a boost in their next fight. You should choose these wisely, depending on your next opponent. For instance, if you are fighting a boxer who will be constantly throwing punches at you, a good choice would be to increase your speed and defence, in a counter-attack attempt. These increases are only temporary for each fight, and also depend on your performance in training, but can be a real boon when fighting higher-rated opponents.
Returning from previous games in the series if the Ultimate Fights mode, where you can re-create famous bouts from the past, in order to unlock fight videos and extras. this time though, as well as trying to re-create the result, players are given a list of achievements to try and attain – such as avoiding grapple attacks for thirty seconds, or landing 10 clean punches in a short space of time. These are present for both fighters in each bout, so you can gain a lot of credits to spend in the in-game store by attaining them all, and the differing difficulties from fight to fight make this a really deep mode that will last quite some time.
There are some new control options this time, such as the new chase-based submission system. In the old games, players would spin the sticks to escape or apply submission pressure, but this has been replaced by an on screen octagon, where the attacker must chase the defender around. Each player is signified by a blue or red marker, that can be spun around the octagon as they wish. As the two go back and forth trying to chase, if the attacking player covers the defending player’s color with enough of his bar and/or for long enough, the submission is locked in and the victim taps and loses the fight. If not, the defender breaks free of the hold. The size of the bars and the speed at which you can spin will dpeend on how beaten up you are, or your submission abilities, so wearing your opponent down will make things easier, this isn’t simply a button-mashing or spinnig affair anymore, now it is about tactics and cat-and-mouse chasing.
This could seem a little confusing, but luckily the game features some fully-featured tutorial modes that are deep enough to explain all the ins and outs of the game, but clear enough that newcomers should be able to pick up the basics quickly enough. It covers the new submission style, new cage-based grappling and reversing moves, and all of the new Pride-based moves that were previously illegal in UFC. some of the moves are harder to pick up than others, such as the ground swaying that players need to use to avoid being pounded while on their backs, but the game will give you the time to master these if you go through all of the tutorials. And for players who still find things a little tough, transistions within grapples can be made simpler as there is a choice for an amatuer control method. This replaces the old quarter-circle analog stick gestures needed to transition in a grapple, with simple up, down, left or right stick flicks. Rather than make this the easy option for everyone, feints and dummies have been added if you stick to the professional controls. This means that veterans can still gain an advantage by sticking with the more difficult controls, and it doesn’t become too easy for amateurs.
MULTIPLAYER: Whilst there are some new online options in the game, there is still a distinct lack of online tournaments or title modes, and fights against other players around the world all just amount to one-off affairs. This is a shame, as some sort of online title modes would add a lot of drama to the already knife-edge fights. We saw the same problem with the WWE games for many years, but those have now adopted new online challenge modes that involve multiple players, and the multiplayer is all the better for it. Perhaps this is an area in which the game could still use a little improvement.
It must be said though that the fights perform admirably online, with very good performance in general. The balancing has also been evened out somewhat, with the chance of one-punch knockouts seemingly having been lowered. This does make for more intense and dramatic fights, where both players really have to go for the win, whilst still trying to defend themselves properly. Both players can also select the same character now, allowing for perhaps more evenly-balanced bouts, and avoiding ones where cheap wins can be picked up if you select the right fighter. Even if you don’t want to fight as the same character, an equalize stats toggle will enable you to level out the two fighters in terms of ability, leaving only their style and moveset different.
Even the simulation mode (which is not exclusive to online play) drains fighters energy far faster, so that performing big moves repeatedly will really drain your stamina in a much more realistic way; giving gamers options of how they would like to play their online bouts. The biggest change is the new Competition mode. This toggle option will remove flash one-hit knockouts and the possibility of a Doctor’s Stoppage through injury. This reduces the fights to pure tests of nerve, with the random luck element scaled back. The online experience is a much more polished one now, with tweaks that are bound to impress the more serious online brawlers. This game will be more balanced than ever, and could lead to some real back and forth fights.
LONGEVITY: The different modes and challenges mean that this title could literally take you hours and hours to play to completion. There really is a lot of content on offer here, and the development and training aspects in which you can build up your fighters to become better and better naturally rewards long and continued play. To achieve all of the targets in the Ultimate Fights mode – for both fighters – will also take you quite some time, in turn unlocking exclusive clips from the UFC archives to view at your leisure. The archives of video are quite extensive, and once you gain access to it all, you could spend quite some time pouring over the clips. The addition of more customising options like ring entrances and the build a fight card options give fans even more features to play around with to their hearts content.
You can even put together highlight reels of clips from your previous fights (the game can store footage from up to fifty matches), and these videos make the action look really intense – and are fun to put together to try and emulate the highlight packages we see on UFC TV programming. There really is even more to do here than ever before – and being able to change between the two organisations, with their different rules, does create a whole other layer of variety – and serious players will be hooked for a long time.
VERDICT: Yuke’s have really added a plethora of new features and ideas for Undisputed 3. Whereas their first sequel seemed a little lazy and rushed, the team have really gone away and invested a lot of time and effort into re-structuring and refining the experience. It will even capture a whole new set of fans, those who prefer the more break-neck style of Pride, and who didn’t like being restricted in the type of attacks they could perform. Online modes may remain a little limited in terms of the types of fights you can take part in; and an online tournament system is sorely lacking. It seems such a shame to miss out on something that the UFC was first formed around, and it could have helped create a lot of excitement around the title.
The grappling still feels a little random at times, and fights can stay on the mat for long expanses of time without much happening, but the very same thing could be said about real UFC fights. This game gets closer than ever to the authentic UFC atmosphere and experience, and could win a lot of new fans with the options to simplify matches and to remove the random match-ending elements. These options all give the fans the chance to mould the game into more of what they want to play – they can pick and choose what they like or what they don’t, in order to tailor their perfect figthing simulator. That is a great acheivement, that a game can be many things for many people, whilst still being the same title at heart.