Sports games, they’re all the bloody same aren’t they? Once you’ve slammed a dunk in one you’ve done it all, no need to buy the endless stream of clone sequels that will inevitably follow. Well actually no, you’re wrong. Whilst some sports game franchises may offer very little in the way of progression, it’s important not to tar all with the same brush.
If all sports games are the same then what about other genres such as Japanese Role Playing Games? By the same logic JRPGs could be seen as offering the same gameplay experience over and over again, with the only developments being narrative based. And what about your modern day first person shooters? The more you analyse, the more you uncover and it’s not too long until you realize that all computer game genres are pointless, meaningless words we use describe and categorize for the sake of doing so. At which point you’re probably also questioning whether the moon landing actually took place, gravity as a concept and life in general.
Anyway, enough with the life questioning quandaries. Sports games simply aren’t all the same because games like UFC Undisputed 3 exists. The third installment in the UFC Undisputed series throws that many new tricks, tools and features into the mix that even the most experienced UFC Undisputed veterans may feel overwhelmed by it all.
Even at its core, UFC Undisputed 3 is a far different beast to those previous in the series. For starters its fighting mechanics have undergone a dramatic transformation. Far more sophisticated, UFC Undisputed 3’s combat has balanced out it’s striking mechanics, making timing your strikes vastly more important, no longer can you just flurry punches and kicks like you used to. UFC Undisputed 3 has a greater emphasis on timing, increasing the level of strategy in fights, ultimately providing a more compelling experience.
Alongside its rebalance of the striking, UFC Undisputed 3 boasts a revamped submission system, swapping out the frustrating button bashing system of the previous games with a new, cat and mouse-esque mini game, providing a little light relief from a combat system which is very technique heavy. Speaking of techniques, UFC Undisputed 3 features even more techniques than ever before. The addition of more transitions, the inclusion of fakes and feints and the addition of positional based striking adds even more variety, authenticity and technicality, something which will no doubt appease the series die hard following.
But what about us casual UFC Undisputed players, or those of us new to the series I hear you ask? Well, thankfully UFC Undisputed 3 also caters for you too! The game’s brand new ‘beginner’ control system simplifies the games controls enough that it can easily be picked up and played by just about anyone without compromising on the more technical aspects of the game. Just like the great job Yuke’s have done in refining UFC Undisputed’s striking in order to improve balance, they’ve also made strides of progress in balancing its casual and technical aspects to provide an experience which is both, accessible and in-depth.
In addition to the game’s core combat gameplay, Yuke’s have really gone to town on the actual game modes in the series. Without getting too into the nitty-gritty (for the sake of boring you all to death) the level of change and refinement throughout is pretty astonishing. Career Mode includes increasingly in-depth customization now allowing players to now create their own banners, logos and fighter entrances, increasing the level of personal investment you make in your fighter.
Aside from a total interface revamp, the way you train your fighter and prepare your fighter for upcoming fights has been given a complete overhaul with a variety of mini games training exercises adding some much needed variety and relief. They’ve also added an entirely new game-plan system which allows players to train in a specific way and hit goals during fights in order to gain more ‘cred’. This can then be spent on pimping up the fighter or training to learn and level up moves in different fight camps, giving you much more of an incentive to approach fights in new, interesting and different ways. The ability to play as existing UFC fighters during a career is also a very welcome one, allowing UFC diehards to rewrite the history books and play out the careers of their favourite UFC fighters.
The system of having in-fight goals and targets to meet via a game-plan has been modified and also used to revolutionise the games Ultimate Fights Mode. In previous iterations in the series the concept behind Ultimate Fights Mode (acting out fights as they happened in real life to unlock videos of the historic fights) has been solid but never really delivered on such promise due to an intense difficulty and unrealistic targets to meet. UFC Undisputed 3 still doesn’t fulfil the potential of such a mode, however it has made some great strides of progress through its use of time specific targets and the ability to replay fights over, unlocking and hitting different targets each time rather than having to go through the frustration of reaching each goal in one go. Far less frustrating and more refined, UFC Undisputed 3’s Ultimate Fights Mode isn’t the finished product just yet but still provides an authentic, enjoyable experience.
However aside from the other minor improvements made to the Title Challenge & Defence modes, now complete with their own ranking systems, the biggest new addition that’s been brought to the table is the games inclusion of the PRIDE organisation. Now rather than fill you in completely with MMA history (this is a games review after all), for those with no prior knowledge PRIDE was a Japan based organisation that was a competitor with UFC before it was eventually bought by ZUFFA (who already own UFC). This eventually lead to the dissolving of PRIDE, merging the crème de la crème of the PRIDE roster with that of the UFC. With UFC Undisputed 3 comes the return of PRIDE (sort of) a shortened down version of the old PRIDE roster is included.
And that’s not all in terms of additional content. With new characters and weight classes, PRIDE Ultimate Fight Mode and PRIDE Grand Prix tournaments (giving you even more choice as to what to play), PRIDE arenas, personnel and commentary team are included to stay true to the unique presentation of PRIDE (something I’ll get onto in a moment) and, perhaps most importantly, PRIDE’s rule set. This is vastly different from the UFC rules, bringing with it brand new moves, strategies and tactics at your disposal. UFC Undisputed 3’s inclusion of all that is PRIDE makes for a very nice change of pace from the presentation of the UFC, adding even more variety.
In terms of overall presentation though, they have been improvements made, yet some areas which needed improving have remained untouched. The unique presentation of both the UFC and PRIDE has been paid huge homage. UFC Undisputed 3 brings with it fighter entrances from both organisations which heighten atmosphere and immersion. Commentary have been kicked up a notch, delivering a more intelligent analysis of the fight than ever before, again increasing immersion. However it is the overall graphical look which now seems a little dated. The cuts and injuries look as brutally as they ever did, but there’s a lack of depth within the character models that detracts a little from the authenticity of experience… but not enough to significantly hamper the experience.
Graphics: 4/5 – Additions like fighter entrances and the true to live portrayals of the PRIDE style is marvelous, however fighter character models lack a little bit of depth.
Sound: 4.5/5 – By far the most intelligent commentary in any MMA game to date, which only helps add to a heightened sense if atmosphere.
Gameplay: 5/5 – Refined, re-tuned and bolstered. It’s genuinely staggering how much UFC Undisputed 3’s gameplay has evolved from previous titles in the series, making this the most in depth MMA game out there currently.
Longevity: 5/5 – With the vast additions in gameplay comes even more longevity. More fighters and more feature-packed modes will be more than enough to tied you over until the next game.
Overall 4.5 out of 5
Aside from a few graphical issues UFC Undisputed 3 is almost certainly the market leader in MMA games. More sophisticated, varied and refined, THQ And Yuke’s continue to evolve the Undisputed series in an attempt to continue to improve and lead. Unmissable.