Annual sports games are in my opinion the toughest thing to develop for. Each year you have to come out with some new hook to get fans to invest their hard earned cash on the next outing. A lot of gamers will say the annualized sports video games are mere roster updates, and for a lot of sports games that’s not far from the truth. However today we are talking about UFC Undisputed 3 a game that got a year and half development cycle and the big question that remains is does that make a big difference in the overall product? Read our full review to find out.
The UFC franchise from THQ has always been good but I have always thought it was a few tweaks away from living up to its potential. In UFC Undisputed 3 the gameplay is one of the big focuses the developers had going in and its apparent right from your first match. To me the big stand out in the series remains the stand-up fighting, as both punching and kicking feels incredible. I really wish the Fight Night series from EA would take a page out of the true feel of power that you get when you land a solid uppercut or body blow. The stand-up combat is still the standout area of the game and is just an absolute blast to play.
Where things are still a bit sketchy for me is when the match goes to the ground. There is no denying that it has to be a huge challenge to get the ground game right. It’s a huge aspect of UFC but also doesn’t easily translate like the stand-up game does. Without spending 50% of the review trying to explain the two mechanics for the ground game I will just mention there is both an Amateur and Pro grappling system that offer different amounts of complexity to the controls. The pro system works very similar to previous games where the amateur is much simpler with simple analog stick movements to the side or up and down to do transitions. I definitely preferred the amateur controls which allowed me to focus more on the fighting and less on trying to precisely pull off a move.
The other big control change is the submissions which I am still bloody awful at but I like the new mechanic all the same. You have a gauge pop up with that has two bars and the goal for the one trying to pull off the submission is to have the bar cover the opponents bar while the opponent will do everything they can do get away from the submitter. It sounds complicated but it’s actually probably a pretty simple mechanic that works well.
My big gripe with UFC Undisputed 3 is still the career mode which to me is far from the level we have expected in sports games to date. With other sports games like Road to the Show in MLB The Show and My Player in the NBA 2K franchise showing how career modes can be done, it’s hard to settle for a rather generic career mode. You never get the sense of ownership or pride in the games career mode and it’s a shame. There are such great stories in the UFC that it’s a shame they don’t try to tie that into the franchise. One thing though that I have to give huge accolades to THQ for doing is getting a rid of a lot of filler that had been in the career mode in the past few outings.
One other big addition that I haven’t mentioned is that Pride FC which is pretty neat. I will admit I am a pretty casual UFC fan, I watch when I see it on TV or a friend buys a pay per view. So needless to say my knowledge on Pride is limited but the inclusion is pretty neat and the difference in the two leagues is remarkable.
The UFC franchise has been a graphical power house since the first game. There is no doubt that bar was set pretty high with games like Fight Night which are known for having stellar visuals. Things have only improved in UFC Undisputed 3 which continues the positive trend of great fighting visuals. The fighter models are stellar, and the whole look and feel of the UFC/Pride is captured at an extremely high level. I am hoping (although don’t expect) that THQ decides to let the franchise go to a Mature rating to allow for the brutality that actually occurs in the UFC. Right now although the feel of punching/kicking power sounds great it doesn’t visually represent as well as it should.
What I appreciate more than anything about UFC Undisputed 3 is that it really captures the “UFC” feel in the game. From the commentary, to the ring judges, to the closing bell, it all just feels like what we all love watching on TV.
There is an absolute ton of content to be had in UFC Undisputed 3. From the addition of the Pride FC, to now having bantam and featherweights, to the extensive online play and offline there is just a lot of fighting to be had. For me though the game is still missing that one key component that would take it over the top which is a great career mode. Steps have been taken to improve it but it’s just not there yet. I am happy to report though that although I wasn’t thrilled with the career mode the fighting itself is fantastic and is leagues better than previous games.
UFC Undisputed 3 is a fantastic fighting experience. THQ did right by allowing the developers more time to polish the experience. For me the next step has to be to get a deeper more engaging career mode that allows the player to really feel part of the experience rather than just fighting match after match without any real hook. With that being said UFC Undisputed 3 on its own merits is a great game and worth a look if you’re a UFC fan.