UFC Undisputed 3 Hands-On Preview – A Rush of Blood(sport)
Written Sunday, January 29, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Having abandoned annual iterations, UFC Undisputed 3 marks a bold step for THQ's face-punching franchise, freeing up the development team to spend more time honing and polishing the game to a mirror shine. It's an approach that perhaps more sports games should take, rather than slavishly adhering to a strict yearly schedule and putting out what is essentially the same game with minor tweaks each and every year. UFC Undisputed 3 is ostensibly more of the same, but the extra time that moving out of the annual grind has granted, really shows in the wealth of content and refinements.
Obviously, there's the entire PRIDE division complete with its own commentary team of Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten, a stable of fighters and extreme rules that allow head stomping, soccer kicks and ground knees, and its own unique presentation, referees and arenas. There's also an overhauled Career Mode and a whole host of improvements that should help in making UFC Undisputed 3 a more than worthy successor to the excellent UFC Undisputed 2010.
In Career Mode, you can now either create your own bespoke fighter from a number of options or you can take any of the game's 150-odd pugilists through the ups and downs of a career if you prefer. Customisation is easier to use than before, with the analogue stick used to adjust parameters on the fly with minimal loading, and there's more options to fiddle around with to create a unique brawler. There's new weight classes now too, so you can get involved in bantamweight and featherweight bouts, which adds dozens more fighters to the UFC and PRIDE stables to boot.
Quantity is not the only thing in UFC 3 though. There's a concerted effort being made to enhance the quality, so although the interface and presentation is largely unchanged, there are some pretty substantial improvements evident once you actually step out onto the canvas. The most obvious change is the new submission system, which eschews the usual analogue stick twirling race in favour of a system that involves moving your cursor around an octagonal gauge to catch your rival's marker and hold it there.
It sounds complicated, but is simplicity itself. It's essentially a straightforward game of cat and mouse, with an area of effect that varies based upon the submission statistics of your fighter and steadily dwindles the longer you have your opponent in a submission hold. It takes a while to get used to and makes submissions tougher to pull off, but it seems to make more sense than the mindless stick-spinning system from UFC Undisputed 2010. You could also argue that having a big obtrusive octagon in the middle of the screen interrupts the realism that the developer has taken great pains to achieve, but it makes for some great back and forth submission battles between rivals.
Between rounds there's also positive and negative feedback from your corner, offering a few helpful hints while your cut men work on your battered face, and there's more detailed damage on show during the course of a fight. Cuts, bruises, blood spatters... It all looks suitably grisly and slightly more advanced than the physical damage you'd accrue in the previous game. It's mostly a cosmetic touch, but it's still welcome. Fighters also move more realistically than before thanks to the new motion-captured animation, so it's a given that Undisputed 3 is the best-looking UFC game yet.
During our huge hands-on session, we enjoy countless one-off fights before embarking upon the beginnings of the revamped Career Mode, which now features new training games with input from UFC play-by-play commentator, Mike Goldberg. These enable you to focus upon key areas of your fighter's make-up, whether it's ground and pound proficiency, standing strikes or whatever. For instance, if you want to enhance your ability to take an opponent down to the canvas, you can play a training game that involves flipping a massive tyre, replicating the actual controls and actions you perform during a proper bout. It makes far more sense than the relatively arbitrary training system in previous UFC titles, and works perfectly.
Career by and large works in the same way, setting up fights and earning notoriety to work your way up the ranks until you make it big. Ultimate Fight Mode on the other hand presents you with preset fights to work through with a variety of progression-based tasks to unlock more fights. You'll also find the usual Tournament, Title and Title Defense modes too. UFC Undisputed 3 isn't far from release, so obviously it's shaping up remarkably well, with the PRIDE division offering an even more brutal option for MMA fans. Lasting through the opening 10-minute round in a PRIDE match is an achievement on its own, especially when you factor in moves that can easily have your fighter gassed and kissing the canvas in seconds. As ever, the threat of being rocked by a single well-placed punch is still very much present and correct, so keeping your guard up and moving efficiently is still as vital as ever.
There's added realism too if you switch the energy levels to simulation. Just another in a long line of new options that have been added to make UFC Undisputed 3 potentially the most comprehensive UFC game ever. Add drop-in versus play to that lot and mirror matches that allow you to pit the same fighters against one another for the first time, and you have the makings of what promises to be the only UFC title you'll need in a long time. And if THQ sticks to the current release structure to allow Yukes all the time it needs to craft the best games possible, you might have a longer wait than usual for UFC Undisputed 4, which on the strength of what we've seen of the third game in the series, is certainly no bad thing.
UFC Undisputed 3 is out on February 14th in North America and February 17th in Europe. It's the perfect Valentine's Day gift!