If there is one thing I seriously dislike about the gaming industry, it is the annual instalments from franchises providing a lack of innovation. Sports games are usually the biggest culprits of this annoying crime, and usually end up presenting a deflated version of what was promised. While you wouldn’t exactly classify Pro Wrestling as a Sport, WWE ’12 is an example of this; huge promises of moving the series forward and ultimately stumbling backwards, looking a fair bit embarrassed.
However, developer Yuke’s decided to break the cycle by taking an extra year to develop a sequel to UFC Undisputed 2010, hoping to improve everything across the board. I got the chance to briefly try out an earlier build back at Gamescom (where our very own Tom Silkmore promptly beat me into a virtual pulp) and I came away fairly impressed. That said, new fighting mechanics, more fighter stats that affect the fight, as well as the addition of the now-defunct PRIDE rules meant more could go wrong if Yuke’s were careless, but I am glad to say their work has paid off, because the end result has been a satisfying experience to play, even for a newcomer to the series.
Before we get into the various modes you can engross yourself in, let’s get down to the basics; how does it play? Veterans of the series will find the classic controls for transitions with the right analogue stick from the previous instalments remains, although these are now renamed Pro Controls. Meanwhile, newcomers can ease their way in with Amateur Controls, which only require the analogue stick to be pushed up or down to engage a transition, as opposed to flicking and rolling the stick with the Pro controls. It’s a welcome addition that allows experienced players to battle newcomers without having to learn the various combinations, although newcomers will still need to take time learning the controls system and how to play, . The addition of a feint system also adds in the element of surprise, allowing you (and your opponent) to fool you into defending against an attack that won’t happen. Thrown into the mix are several alterations from previous instalments, including the removal of auto-blocking, more emphasis on the reach of a fighter, and more of a focus on stamina, which when depleted will not only slow down your fighter but temporarily lowest fighting stats as well. Overall it makes for a more tactical experience, which is something I applaud.
Also, you can now go to attack an opponent before the glove touch, which may well prompt boos from the crowd, but what the hell, I DON’T PLAY BY THE RULES.
Visually, Undisputed 3 is a great looking game across the board with the fighters and personalities of the UFC faithfully recreated on screen (although the “jiggle physics” of the Octagon Girls was a little ridiculous). Animations whilst in a fight are a mixed bag however, although some areas are worth highlighting. Facial animations, especially in regards to being hit, are well done as fighters are forced to react to being cut open (with blood going everywhere, although not in a unbelievable way.) Hit detection is done well, with the ability to interrupt an opponent’s move with a quick jab or attack with the knee. However, while some move animations have been redone for the game to provide fighters with some authenticity, there are still lots of stock animations that still look slightly robotic in execution, although when you are in the middle of a tense bout and you have MMA legend Bas Rutten commenting on how you just destroyed someone, chances are you really won’t care.
Various modes await you when logging in, with traditional Exhibition mode available with either the UFC or PRIDE roster, Title Mode which puts you in an arcade ladder with a “three strikes” rule, Title Defense mode which unlocks after winning a title, Tournament Mode which can be done with either UFC or PRIDE rulesets, Event Mode which has you making the Pay-Per-View of your dreams, and Ultimate Fights where you can rewrite history by replaying some of the sport’s most memorable fights. There are even more modes when players head online, with Ranked Leaderboards to provide a good challenge or unranked matches should you wish. My favourite part of the online mode is the Fight Camps, which allows groups of players to join together under a single banner to bring collective glory to their team.
However, Career Mode provides the largest chuck of content with the opportunity to progress through the ranks of the UFC, from the very bottom of the WFA before joining the UFC proper, as well as being invited to partake in PRIDE GP tournaments, over a total 48 fights. This can be done with either a created Fighter or one of the 117 UFC fighters and 33 PRIDE fighters (with DLC additions also available). Once the players has selected their virtual representation they must go through a tutorial to ensure they know the basics in the three main areas of play, Standup, Clinch, and Ground, before being awarded bonus starting points depending on how successful they are. Thankfully this does not need to be repeated with every new career character, with the bonus stats a permanent fixture after the first attempt, although you are given the option of trying to best your previous attempts if you wish.
A selection of opponents are listed for the player to choose, each with varying levels of rewards available depending on the difficulty and whether it is a Fill-In (or last minute) fight. These rewards are measured in CRED, which acts as the currency of Undisputed 3. CRED is used to buy new moves and upgrade a fighter’s maximum skill level, as well as unlock sponsor items and logos which, when used, grant better CRED gains. Of course, this is only a guideline, as the amount of CRED gained can be increased if a player scores a “… of the Night” or “… of the Year” award for their fights, or lowered if they end up being defeated.
After selecting an opponent for the next fight you are (unless stated) given two actions to perform before the fight by selecting Training, Camp Sessions or Game Plan. Training is fairly straight forward; choose a mini-game to improve the stats of certain areas of performance. The better you do, the higher the stat gain. However, later on these training sessions end up being a double-edged sword as they can slightly degrade other skills that are opposed. For example, training to improve striking moves will slightly lower your submissions skill, and vice-versa. It effectively means that a fighter cannot become a master of everything, forcing the player to make tough choices as to what to specialise in.
Camp Sessions provide the chance to either learn new moves or upgrade their effectiveness. This is done by repeating the move three times before engaging in a mini-game to execute it as many times as you can in the allotted time. The better you do, the further up the upgrade goes. At the start of the career mode the player has access to all the major MMA gyms but will be forced to pick just one further into their career, cutting off access to their specialty moves further down the line, and adds even more important decisions to the career mode (as well as providing some subtle replayability.)
The final action available, the Game Plan, provides the greatest stat gain but requires the most work. Several game plans are available, such as going for the knockout or going for the submission, but these come with additional requirements that must be met to get the best results. For example, if you go with the submission game plan you are required to not only make the opponent tap out, but to perform more transitions than them and ensure none of those transitions are reversed. This is done in a training match, and the success in that outlines the possible gain from doing it in the actual fight, which again is measured by the success in-game. Adversely, opposite stats that are not in use will be blocked from being improved overall when a game plan is selected, meaning forward planning at to what skills to upgrade is essential to the growth of a fighter’s career.
The creative components of Undisputed 3 are something that, for the most part, are well implemented. Perhaps my favourite aspect of this is its robust Create A Fighter functionality, which presents players with an extensive array of choices from which to design the virtual fighter of their dreams. Although there are a list of pre-recorded names that can be chosen, fighters can be given any name by the player and will be referred to by a nickname instead. After selecting an age and a hometown (including a handful of English cities, no Irish, Welsh or Scottish ones though) you can launch yourself into one of the best creation tools I have come across (although not all hair styles are catered for, with our Editorial Overlord most likely being annoyed by a lack of afro option.)
At this point, if you are building a character in the Career Mode, you will jump right into the game, otherwise you will be required to allocate stat points and decide what sort of moves to put into your arsenal. Of course, there are selections of pre-set builds that can be used if you are feeling a little lazy, but if you desire to create a digital Adonis with Brazilian Ju-Jitsu skills you can, or you could create a short fat man with a taste for punching people. I used the opportunity to re-create the character I recently created in Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Smuggler McGarnagle, in all his glory including his trademark beard (as you can see here, the results were highly satisfactory.) If I had to criticise the creation mode in any way, it would be the lack of custom music for the entrance themes. Ideally I would have used the theme from Cowboy Bebop, but was forced to use the music of another fighter instead, which is a shame.
Additionally there is the Create A Banner feature, which allows you to design the appearance of the banner than hangs behind you in the Octagon before a fight. These can be decorated with various patterns and designed, as well as plastered with sponsor logos as well as multiple decals. Elsewhere, players have the ability to create Highlight Reels of their fights, which can then be uploaded online for others to watch and rate. While I thought the idea was a nice touch, the execution is severely lacking. The amount of time it takes was so long I was able to go away, make a cup of coffee, and get back with a third of the process still left to go. The end result was a low resolution video that contained some custom music overlapping the commentary from the fight, which was cut mid-sentence in my highlight attempt. Not only that, but the audio didn’t manage to make it to the very end of the clip. As such, I’d only recommend doing this if it was the greatest fight in the world, ever, and you really, REALLY wanted to show it off.
My biggest criticism for Undisputed 3 is something that Yuke’s have always struggled with; loading times. This is especially the case when using a created character, and becomes something of an immersion breaker when having to wait whenever anything is selected, with the issue not really helped by the unimaginative loading screens (and repetitive soundtrack). An optional install would have been welcome in an effort to speed things up, but sadly this is yet another instance of having to deploy some patience.
- Huge Roster of both UFC & PRIDE fighters to choose from.
- Large number of modes both online and offline.
- Extremely robust creation tools at your disposal.
- Loading times and menu speeds are disruptive.
- Animations can occasionally look robotic in execution.
- Highlight Reels, while a great idea, deliver less than ideal results.
The short version: For all of the flaws that Yuke’s have let slip through, there are two or three improvements across the board to overshadow these blemishes. Fans of the franchise will welcome the grand return of the series, and while newcomers will need to put a little effort in to learn the ropes, the addition of amateur controls gives the series accessibility to a new audience. Tweaks to the existing system make this the definitive MMA game, so strap on some gloves and prepare to get brutal.