Admittedly, I’ve never been a big UFC fan, which is why I was hesitant to check out UFC Undisputed 3. After spending a decent amount of time with it though, I’m pleased to report that it’s a wholly enjoyable experience, one that will surely please fans of the series and one that will likely attract some newbies as well. The game is a well-polished, fair and deep MMA fighting experience that, for the most part, succeeds on all counts.
What immediately struck me about UFC Undisputed 3 was just how accessible it was. I consider myself very much in the dark when it comes to UFC. Sure, I know a few fighters and I understand the general rules of the sport but I rarely watch it and I really don’t know very much past the absolute basics. However, I was able to pick the game up, hop right into it and get going with little to no frustration. In fact, after about an hour or so, I was completely hooked.
That being said, for those who do need a helping hand, the game features a robust and user friendly tutorial mode with a plethora of exercises for you to warm up with (there are also in game tutorials which can be toggled on or off). While most of these excercises just go over the basics as well as some slightly more advanced moves, there have been some significant gameplay changes in UFC Undisputed 3 and those are also covered here. Due to that reason, even the more advanced users may want to check these tutorials out.
Speaking of gameplay changes, some of them are quite significant. For one, transitions now work off of directional flicks of the thumbstick, which is very convenient and easy to adapt to. Although, if you prefer the control scheme from the previous games, you always have the option to use that.
Then there’s the changes made to submissions. As seen in the picture below, a circle pops up with a blue and red section (one for each fighter). The point is to overlap the other fighter’s colour to force him into submission. Of course, on the flip side, the other fighter has to try and escape the one trying to force him into submission by avoiding his section in the circle. It’s a bit complicated to explain but it’s easy to get a grasp of, and though it does get a bit annoying, I think overall it’s an improvement on past games. That being said, it can break the immersion and disrupt the flow of the fight, making things awkward as you try to force your opponent into submission.
All your favorite fighters have returned this year with an impressive roster boasting over 150 names. Famous fighters like Georges St-Pierre, BJ Penn, Rampage Jackson, Mirko Cro Cop, Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones and many, many more make appearances. There are a number of classes to choose from as well, including the newly added Featherweight and Bantamweight classes. On top of that, we also get fighters from Pride FC, the formerly Japan-based MMA league.
Suffice to say, you won’t grow bored of the roster here. I should also mention that Pride fighters have their own mode with their own rules, adding a whole new layer of gameplay to the already exhaustive list of content. Pride fights are also a lot more brutal and grueling than UFC fights thanks to their different set of rules. It’s a welcome change playing in Pride and it’s a great option for true MMA fans.
Speaking of this title’s exhaustive list of content, let’s start with career mode. Gone is the needless micromanaging found in previous iterations and in its place is a fluid and well organized journey that everyone is going to want to check out. You start off as a fresh, new MMA fighter trying to build a name and reputation. You’ll progress through fights and training sessions as you build your career. And unlike most sports games, the training sessions, which come in the form of mini-games, are pretty fun and far more involving than in previous titles.
One neat feature to note is that milestones in your career are punctuated by UFC video interviews with real-life pros who offer insightful advice accompanied with archival footage. Also, as you progress and level up so to speak, you’ll be able to purchase more gear to please sponsors and join more intense boot camps to learn new moves.
Fights have a natural ebb and flow as the motion captured animations look authentic and feel genuine, as does the blood spatter and bruising. The physics system backing it all is also pretty impressive and ensures that every strike thrown is convincing and impactful. Add in fighter models that are shockingly accurate and you get a pretty pleasing experience on the visual level.
Online is back as well and this time it seems a bit less laggy with fights having far more fluidity to them. Ranked and player exhibition fights make an appearance and there’s also the option to create fight camps. Of course, you can also edit and upload your own highlight reels, which is a great feature! You can watch and rate other reels as well as share custom content like logos and banners.
In addition to all the above content, we’re treated to additional modes like Ultimate Fights Mode, Tournament Mode, Event Mode, Create a Fighter and more. Most of these should sound and feel familiar but one thing I’d like to point out is that Ultimate Fights Mode, which allows you to re-live and re-create classic UFC fights by forcing you to complete progression based tasks, has changed a bit. The tasks that the game wants you to go through now pop up far too often and really break up the flow of the fight. I lost interest quickly as a result of the annoying mechanic and haven’t gone back to the mode since.
While the game is pretty damn good on the whole, there are a few gripes I had, most importantly with loading times and the button mashing nature of it all. Yes, those pesky loading times are back and although there are things you can do to reduce them (turn off character introductions), they still happen far too frequently and for far too long.
Secondly, like most fighting games, most people will find themselves reducing the gameplay to nothing but a button masher. Sure, some people will take the time to learn all the combinations and moves and actually play with some strategy but most will likely just mash buttons, alternating between punches and kicks, in hopes of knocking their opponents down. This is something that you find with most fighting games though so it’s kind of tough to fault the game for this.
Lastly, I should mention that small changes made here and there really don’t work out too well. Just to point out a few examples, as I mentioned before, the new submission system isn’t great. Also, as fun as Pride mode is, its integration into the rest of the game feels a bit awkward at times. It feels more like a DLC add-on than something that was included with the main game.
Ultimately, what you’ll get out of the game is what you put into it. The sheer amount of depth here is staggering. There is so much to do and so much to learn that even the most hardcore UFC fans will find themselves fully pleased. If you put in the time to actually learn the technicalities of the game and really learn how to play it, you’ll find an immensely satisfying experience as this really is an accurate and impressive representation of the sport. It’s the closest thing you can get without being in the ring yourself.
Even those who aren’t as hardcore or keen to learn all the little intricacies will find a good time here. There’s a ton of content and so much to do that you’ll very rarely find yourself bored. This is the ultimate UFC experience and fans of all interest levels should pick this one up.