After a two-year hiatus from the franchise and the horrendous WWE ’12 (and we shall never speak of it again) there’s been a fair amount of nervous anticipation over Yuke’s Media Creations’ Mixed Martial Arts monster. Can it live up to the hype or will it just be another cut and paste offering? I’m pleased as punch to say that Yuke’s has come back with a vengeance with a slick and incredibly polished fighter that manages to cater to both the hardcore fan-base with a deep and layered control scheme while offering up pick-up-and-play accessibility to newcomers. No mean feat in its own right but Yuke’s managed to pull it off.
Let me just start by saying this is one fantastic looking game. The character models, animations and body language are all spot on and more than accurately reflects each fighter’s real-life counterpart. The attention to detail is off the charts and that carries through to the UFC matches. Whether it’s Mike Goldberg taking you through the training, he and Joe Rogan mixing it up in commentary, Bruce Buffer’s over-the-top intros setting the tone or the sexy ring girls strutting their stuff, it all just perfectly sits alongside the actual Pay-Per-View events.
By streamlining the career mode (which now offers UFC and created fighters) and offering two levels of transition control, Amateur and Pro, UFC Undisputed 3 has appeal to gamers of all proficiency levels. There are even mid-fight tutorials breaking down to newbies what they should be doing and bringing them quickly up to scratch. Besides all the stock punchy kicky things on the menu you can now body and leg TKO and any punch can produce a flash KO adding a whole new level of intensity to fights.
The Up/Down defense and offense is smoother and more advanced fighters will utilise feints to throw opponents off balance. Hell, you can even trigger the referee calling a break through inaction during a ground grapple. Defensively sway direction has a much more realistic feel to it with extra damage taken if you move into a strike and less if you shy away from it. The intricacies are staggering yet a few matches in and you’ll feel completely at home. The submission system for KOs has also had an overhaul and I’m totally on board.
When you trigger a submission an octagon appears on screen with each player represented by a movable bar on the edge. To submit your opponent you need to trace over his bar for a period of time. Alternately if you’re being submitted you need to keep your movements erratic to avoid the TKO. It’s a fine addition and a fun little mini-game of cat and mouse with a win immensely satisfying.
Other new features include two new weight divisions as well as the beyond brutal inclusion of the no-holds-barred Pride FC with punishing 10-minute first rounds, no octagon, elbows a big no-no but foot stomps, soccer kicks and knees to the head of downed opponents are all good. Brutal! Paying attention to the nuances of judging and differences in scoring for matches is crucial. In UFC bouts your focus should be primarily on takedowns and maintaining the dominant position during the ground and pound. Pride, on the other hand, is all about damage dealt and being aggressive so you’ll need to take these factors into account if you want to consistently come up with the win.
Energy levels have longer reacting implications as well. Throwing too many punches or kicks will leave you in a gassed state. It’s better to time your shots, work combinations and wait for that opening. You can regain energy slowly through clinches or base positions on the ground. This has a follow on effect during submissions with the bar moving faster or slower dependant on your energy level often leading to an easy win or a quick escape and you can even turn the tables on an over-zealous opponent.
With a far more approachable career mode (as well as the title modes and awesome title defense mode which plays out like it sounds), robust and deep combat system, great atmosphere, sexy graphics bolstered by entertaining and spot-on commentary by Rogan and Goldberg, UFC Undisputed 3 is easily the best iteration of the series. It incorporates everything its predecessors did right and still maintains appeal for newcomers. My only criticism is that it’s playing it pretty safe. Rest assured it’s an incredibly solid and satisfying title but taking a risk like Fight Night Champion did to incorporate a story element could have taken the franchise to lofty new heights. Maybe next time Yuke’s. Next time.