Developer: Yuke’s Media Creations / Publisher: THQ / Played On: PlayStation 3 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Teen [Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence]
The UFC is one of the fastest growing professional sports in the world, so there is no doubt why the hardcore fans would be salivating over the arrival of UFC Undisputed 3, the newest addition to THQ’s lineup of videogames depicting the hard-hitting combat sport. Previous versions of the franchise have featured complicated control schemes and cluttered career modes that have kept some casual fans away. UFC Undisputed 3 aims to cut the fat and simplify certain control aspects that will allow experienced and novice alike to have a great game experience.
There really isn’t an inclusion of a brand new game mode to UFC Undisputed 3 other than the addition of the Pride Fighting Championship, a now defunct fighting league with a rule set that allows even more mayhem such as the ability to stomp on the head of a downed opponent. . What the team has done, however, is clean up and simplify each mode for the better. Modes such as the ladder style Title Mode, Title Defense, and Ultimate Fights return. Ultimate Fights is a good way to go back and replay iconic match ups from UFC and Pride history. A large amount of content such as extra fighters, ring entrances, clothing, and video clips become unlocked throughout the game by earning points to be spent in the shop.
Career mode is the meat and potatoes of the single-player element of this game, and by far where I spent most of my time. Gone (for the most part) are a lot of the tedious statistical manipulations of a fighter’s career and instead you have much more physically to do in between your career fights. Training is broken down into three categories in which you can improve your fighter’s skills. You can perform training skill games such as the tire flip (my favorite) in which you flip a tire from zone to zone using techniques you will need during your fights. This allows your fighter to level up powers in specific training categories. You can also select a fight camp made up of a select group of roster fighters that feature similar fighting styles. The camp you choose will determine the skill set that is available for you to learn and master through sparring. Another training choice available is to set a game plan for your next fight and level up you fighter’s relevant attributes for sticking to the plan. If you prefer a ground and pound style of fighting, go ahead and implement it into your game plan and be rewarded for following through. Typically between fights you have the option of choosing up to two of these training categories. I prefer each one of these training categories to the pure stat management that was involved in 2010. Even better is that you now have the option to either participate in these training drills, or skip them entirely and move on to your next fight.
Create a Fighter allows you to customize your fighter down to the very last details of appearance, clothing, and even entrance animations. I had a great time creating an odd looking fighter with purple hair (including chest hair) and a Justin Bieber-esque mop cut. The customization doesn’t end there, however, as I was able to choose different entrance and celebration animations for my fighter in Pride separate from those in my UFC matches. Add a fairly robust graphics editor for making banners, clothing logos, and even tattoos and you have a great set of tools to distinguish your character from the rest of the pack. I spent a ton of time creating unique logos and tats for my created fighter, an addicting side challenge that felt even more rewarding when he strutted around the octagon in my designs. Really how can you hope to defeat a guy with a flaming clown tattoo emblazoned across his chest? One of my biggest complaints with the customization was the relative lack of name choices for the announcers to say (is Matt really that uncommon a name these days?)
Career mode begins by throwing you into matches in the World Fighting Alliance, and with a decent record you will move up to UFC and Pride opportunities. Don’t get too comfortable once you make it to the UFC, however, because poor performance will find your fighter shipped right back to the WFA for more seasoning. It is this promotion and also possible demotion that makes career mode feel lifelike: stay on top of your skills and your game plan and you can make it big, but it isn’t an automatic progression. It should be noted that you also have the opportunity this time around to play career mode with one of the established roster fighters if creating one isn’t your thing. Pick a favorite and try to replicate their rise to the top.
Online offerings include the standard exhibition fights both ranked and unranked, as well as the ability to create or join a fight camp with friends or similar minded fighters. The mode also allows you to upload a customized banner for your club. Speaking of customized content, the content sharing portion of online is a very nice way for players to share their unique creations from create a fighter, to logos, and even custom highlight reels. I got a chuckle out of downloading a created zombie fighter as well as uploading my purple-haired creation from career mode. I did encounter intermittent connection problems with the online servers, making some, if not all, of the online modes unavailable for a period of time. I had to try several times for my create-a-fighter to be uploaded without an error message. The fights that I was able to establish a connection with were relatively lag free. It is a nice touch to be able to use my create-a-fighter character in online matches as well.
Undisputed 3 does not disappoint in the presentation category. Building on what had been accomplished in Undisputed 2010, this game ups the visuals with Pay-Per-View-style broadcast elements and flashy fighter entrances. The Pride Fighting Championship has been incorporated into this year’s game, bringing with it a separate style of its own. Pride fights have different entrances, different announcers, and even a separate rule set from the UFC fights. One new and welcome element is the career moments videos that will play throughout your career mode, showing real life clips of UFC fighters as they talk about their experiences. For me this added a new layer of realism and connection to the fighters and the sport that was missing in past versions. Announcers will mention details of your fighter’s record and skills that are accurate to what is happening in your career. Some of the lines are repetitive and get a little stale with each match you play, which is to be expected, but it isn’t a deal breaker by any means.
The UFC franchise has been known for a steep learning curve and complexity to the controls. Undisputed 3 does not scrap the depth of control options that advanced players have come to master, but instead adds an option to switch to “amateur” control sets that make the task of transitions and submissions easier to jump into and be effective with for newcomers. Speaking of submissions, they now play out like a mini-game of their own. You are given an octagon-shaped display in which you must align your bar with your opponent’s in order to gain the submission. Personally, it took some time to master as the graphic display pitches you into a cat-and-mouse game that takes your attention away from your fighter, but it is a fun idea nonetheless. Two new weight classes (bantamweight and featherweight) are introduced this year to make room for an even larger roster of fighters. Many are current UFC fighters, and some are from the now-defunct Pride lineup. Also new to gameplay is the addition of leg TKOs and “finish the fight,” which basically means you can pummel your opponent after a knockdown until the referee decides to step in and stop the fight. The sway system in the game is a little basic compared to what is found in the Fight Night boxing series. It would be nice to have full body control when avoiding an opponent, not just ducking, avoiding left and right, and pulling back. After having such full body control in the Fight Night titles, this control set feels a bit limited.
UFC Undisputed 3 takes a nice step up from the previous versions, trimming the fat from career mode and including a simpler pick-up-and-play control scheme for beginners. More time than ever before is devoted to the fights themselves, which is a very good move. It is more interactive via training, and more inclusive with new weight classes and fighters. Career mode offers a variety of training and fighting styles for you to climb to the top of the UFC in your own way. While gameplay is overall a great experience, I would like to see more control given to my fighter when it comes to the sway system, and I’m not completely sold on the new submission mini-game. I’d recommend this game for both the hardcore UFC fans who are looking for depth and an accurate depiction of MMA skills, as well as the first time player who will now have more ease of control in joining the fight.