The sport of mixed martial arts has gained a lot of popularity over the past few years with its clash of styles, brutality and boisterous personalities. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has been at the forefront of the sport and UFC events feature some of the best fighters in the world duking it out in the octagon. Several video games have been made that attempt to give gamers the UFC experience and UFC Undisputed 3 is the latest in this series. Is it any good? Let’s check it out in this review.
UFC Undisputed 3 does a very good job of taking an extremely complicated and intricate sport and making a control scheme that streamlines all of the different moves that players can utilize. Punching and kicking is the focus of the standup combat and leaning the left stick towards your opponent makes you punch or kick a power move. These power moves can knock an opponent out but can also leave you vulnerable to attack if missed or blocked.
Moving in with the right stick allows players to begin grappling and there are several different ways to take an opponent to the ground while grappling like leg throws and hip tosses. Some of these moves will be programmed into the basic fighter but other more complicated throws will need to be learned (more on that later). The control while grappling isn’t very hard to master and most of the time it only requires a little turning of the left stick to throw your opponent to the ground.
The ground game is one of the most important aspects of mixed martial arts and it is one of the best or most frustrating elements of the game based on your preferred play style. Once you take an opponent to the ground you can attempt to re-position yourself for an advantage (like getting side control instead of being in an opponent’s guard) but usually an opponent will be able to counter your movements so for the most part you’re stuck in whatever position you initially hit the ground in.
The fighter on the ground can attempt to kick his opponent away and create enough space to stand up but a slightly more effective thing is to simply wait for the referee to stand you up. Most of the time if your opponent doesn’t have a full mount you will be stood up since it will be a stalemate. If your opponent does have the full mount you have very few options. One would be to attempt to grab his head and lock him up (this is achieved by using the left stick) or you could attempt to catch one of his strikes and begin a submission.
Submissions come into play once the game hits the ground and they are pretty well done in the game, however they are not perfect. To initiate a submission, you press down on the right stick and an octagon will appear on the screen. The player that is attempting the submission will have an empty bar and the player that is on the defense will have a full bar. The offensive player tries to keep his bar (which gets smaller as the time goes on) over the defensive player’s bar. If the offensive player’s bar is over the defensive player’s bar for long enough, the player will tap out.
This mechanic for the submissions is an interesting mini-game but one main problem with it is that it is hard to tell when you are doing the submission or when your opponent is trying to submit you. For example, if you are on the ground, you might try to get a submission to avoid being pummeled, while hitting the right stick in, the octagon will appear and you might think that you are attempting an arm lock. However, it will actually be your opponent attempting a different lock and by the time you realize this it is too late to effectively move your bar away from his. This isn’t an enormous issue since many times a submission attempt is only possible for one player because of positioning, but it does cause some trouble.
While the ground game is extremely important, stand up fighting can be just as effective, especially when you get one or two strikes through to your opponent. However, one of the largest issues with the game is the amount of damage that opponents can take and you can take before you are dazed or knocked out altogether. Sometimes you will land five clean head kicks in a row to your opponent with no effect but he will graze you with a hook and you will be instantly knocked out. This can make the game very frustrating, particularly in career mode when you are counting on wins to advance your ranking and looking for a title shot. Losing a fight on a dumb graze like that is very annoying and is one of the biggest issues with the game.
Other than all of that, the game does do a good job of representing different styles and offering a wide variety of moves for players that prefer the ground game to players that prefer a stand up fight. The gameplay is pretty fluid, especially for a sport that has so many variables, so the flaws can be overlooked in certain areas because of how well balanced everything else is. Gameplay isn’t prefect but it is very good.
UFC Undisputed 3 has some amazing graphics and it puts the attention right where it needs to be: on the fighters. Likenesses of the actual UFC fighters in the game are extremely well executed and custom design of fighters is well done in the career mode.
There are surprisingly few clipping errors in the game and graphical glitches don’t happen every often. There was only one time that I encountered Bruce Buffer (the announcer) talking without opening his mouth but out of the 50 or 60 fights that I played through, one glitch isn’t terrible.
One minor nuisance in the game is a graphical glitch where the referee will stand the fighters up and then block the foreground for a second, leaving you blind as to what your opponent is doing. This happens about half of the times that you are stood up but in a sport where one punch can end a fight, being blind for even a second can be devastating. Usually backing up until the ref disappears is the best way to avoid getting tagged, or possibly striking yourself to make your opponent back off.
The presentation in UFC Undisputed 3 is one of the best that I have seen in any sports game, as the fights look like actual pay-per-view UFC events. Everything from the tale of the tape screen to the music that is played at the beginning of each fight is true to form for the UFC and it makes you feel like you are really watching an event.
The authenticity of the game is set right when you start a fight as you hear the voices of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg introducing the fight, Bruce Buffer introducing the fighters and even the referees are actual professional UFC refs. There are videos that can be unlocked for different milestones in career mode like your first professional win and your first professional loss and these offer some great real life videos to augment the virtual fighting in the game.
In career mode, you are guided along by commentary and all of the different gyms, training sessions and sponsors are laid out in an easy-to-understand way. Everything in the menus for the different game modes and options are streamlined and there is no confusion on where to go or what to do next.
The real stand out option in UFC Undisputed 3 is the career mode and it allows you to either pick a famous fighter and rebuild their history or create your own fighter and rise through the ranks. The customization options are fantastic in the game, including the ability to create a banner for yourself, customize your walk-in music and the way you enter the octagon.
Career mode will see you taking your fighter through the ranks to try and become the champion of the UFC in your particular weight class. The ability to pick your fights and to even get a “tune up” fight against a lower ranked opponent to try and get some momentum is good and the “cred” system makes learning new moves and leveling up existing moves easy.
In career mode you have the option to learn more moves or level up moves you already know by training with a specific group. After a while you will need to align yourself with one group so be sure to pick the right one based on your play style.
Fighter attributes like strength and speed can also be increased between fights with training sessions. As is usual with fighting games, playing the training mini-games manually leads to better results but the option to “auto-play” the training games is available.
The “cred” system is a way to help your fighter level up or to customize the look of your fighter. You can use the cred that you win from fights to purchase gear like shirts and hats or to purchase new training partners or other useful help so you can get your skills higher or learn more moves.
The career mode is very much centered on picking a specific game plan and executing it to perfection against your opponents. There is even a “game plan” area where you can map out the kind of fight that you want to have with your opponent and you can attempt to use a sparring match to practice executing that game plan.
UFC Undisputed 3 is not a perfect game but it is a very well executed game. The controls are streamlined, the presentation and graphics are awesome and the depth of the experience is truly fantastic. While there are minor technical issues that crop up from time to time and the amount of controls can make the task of beating an opponent a daunting one, with a little time and practice you can become a great fighter.
THQ’s fantastic dedication to the source material and the fluidity of the gameplay make this a fun addition to any UFC fans’ gaming library. If you are looking for a great mixed martial arts experience with fun gameplay, fantastic graphics and an authentic UFC experience then look no further.