The latest installment in Yuke's and THQ's mixed martial arts game series, UFC Undisputed 3 is a truly outstanding game.† The developers clearly redesigned the game to make it a cleaner, more simplified experience, while simultaneously adding a great deal of new content. The two goals may seem at odds, but they have been balanced beautifully. Those who wish to play a simple combat game will enjoy the ease with which you can administer a sound beating, even without much experience on the controls. Others, hoping for a more comprehensive MMA experience, will savor the variety and accessibility of technical maneuvers, training and strategy. And for those who are fans of the UFC organization, its personalities and affiliates, they are treated with additional fighters and weight classes, insightful interactive commentary, and the debut of the epic PRIDE fighting mode.
As a sport, MMA is the fusion of many disciplines that are highly technical in their own right; but the best fighters of the modern era, those that reach the elite levels of competition, are athletes who master multiple forms of fighting.† This naturally leads to challenges when trying to create a control scheme for a game that allows one to freely exploit the savage and graceful natures of everything from jiu-jitsu to boxing.† The previous attempts, while producing adequate results, seemed sometimes clumsy and random.† This time, the pro and amateur control setups offer the ability to do a variety of transition grapplings with simple flicks of the joystick. A generous supply of tutorials help to not only get started but to master the fine points as well. There is still a ton of exotic strikes to execute, but they seem to flow a little more freely in this game than the previous efforts, and they certainly can be brutal. (I loved the enhanced, and accurately modeled, damage on the fightersí faces from in-game action in-between rounds.)
After softening your opponent with quick, precision jabs (improved since the last game) and crushing kicks (also well-done), you can grapple, clinch or try to take the fight to the ground. Even in the more difficult pro setting, transitions (standing or rolling) come quickly, smoothly and result in a wider range of positions. While on the mat, the much discussed submission portion of the game has a completely new system, that if nothing else, allows for some measure of control over submitting and being submitted. When a submission is initiated, an octagon track appears in the corner of the screen, and the dominant player's marker chases the victimís marker around the octagon shape attempting to cover it for long enough to force the opponent to tap out (indicated by a bar graph). Now easier to understand, the submission game has been made more interactive and true to the spirit of the sport.
The career mode is the meat and potatoes of any progressive combat-sport game, and UFC Undisputed 3 has made improvements in this area as well. Previous editionsí career modes turned into mind boggling exercises of time management and tedious resource allocation.† This year, the emphasis is on fighting and training, not managing the calendar and checking your emails (I play videogames to avoid that kind of stuff!).† There are less training camps, but more maneuvers and techniques; there are more types of training exercises, but they all affect more attributes; and most importantly, there is less turn-around time between fights.
Some of the new features follow the natural evolution of the sport. There are two new weight categories (Bantamweight and Featherweight) which, naturally, add new fighters. Some of the new features celebrate that natural evolution of the sport, like the sensational PRIDE fighting mode. (If you're unfamiliar, PRIDE is a famous MMA fighting league in Japan where many stars found intercontinental success in these brutal competitions.) From the combat stars of yesterday like Don Frye, with dazzling entrances and rings walks, and quirky commentary (provided by the inimitable Bas Rutten and Stephen Quadros) to the violent, head-stomping rules of the classic Japanese spectacle, PRIDE mode is a hit.
With all of the positive aspects of the game, itís still not perfect. The commentary of Mike Goldberg can be a little overbearing at times, and there's still want of having some favorite fighters who have been left out of the standard package.† However, the least satisfying part of the UFC Undisputed 3 experience is its inundation of commercial spots. As a rule, I try not to begrudge anyoneís right to earn a living, but itís obvious that certain parts of the game's flow revolve around the resolution of the sponsorsí messages. Itís far from a deal breaker, but a touch unsavory nonetheless.
That said, this is the type of game that from the moment it loads up, has the feel of a project that people have spent a lot time, effort and money to make genuinely better. Visually it is stunning and the audio is crisp, with a soundtrack that's much cleaner and spacious than previously. Yuke's took a good game, beautified it, added both historical and contemporary content, made it more readily understood and easier to play, and made it a great game. That's how a team that really cares tunes a franchise.
Pound for pound, does the Undisputed series have any competition? What features would you like to see in the next game? Pummel us a tweet @gamers_hell