UFC Undisputed 3 Review
Anyone can throw a convincing punch or a big flashy kick, but not many people can actually fight. That’s a distinction some wannabe fighters fail to make when they walk into an MMA gym for the first time with their sculpted pecs, busting out all sorts of shapes shortly before they’re taught a sharp lesson in respect.
Moving from stand-up to clinch effectively is hard, and so is the transition to the mat. Even without the gradual attrition of our stamina, working our way around the ground game into a position we’re comfortable with takes a tactical genius to master.
Yuke’s was very good at simulating the strategy of the ground game in UFC 2010 – probably too good. Taking a stand-up fight online, we’d find hundreds of players capable of going toe-to-toe with us but few who had put the effort into figuring out how to take-down and fight from the floor, probably because it was too much effort.
And why bother cuddling up to another man when a carefully timed counter followed up by a Brazilian-style roundhouse to the temple looks way cooler?
Unfortunately, adopting this blinkered approach to fighting saw these one-trick ponies eating canvas when faced with a comprehensive MMA fighter.
So, despite a panoply of changes to Undisputed 3 that are worthy of individual comment, we’ve decided to prioritise discussing the new pro and amateur control options.
Not even his mother loved him.
In amateur mode, transitions and take-downs remain the same. But once we hit the mat, shifting the right analogue up or down will automatically switch our position to a mount, side-control, north-south, etc, without needing the precise rotation required by pro controls.
If THQ’s Undisputed series is to build on its success, it does need to be more accessible, and thankfully the changes made to this version are a very effective step towards easing new players into the most authentic MMA simulation yet.
For a similar reason, submissions have been given an interface to replace the blind analogue system of the previous two games. Now, once we’re in a clinch or grappling situation, depressing the right analogue will bring up an octagon, around whose border we have to chase our opponent’s icon.
Overlapping the icon will bring us closer to a successful submission, while the longer our opponent can evade it, the more likely they will be able to escape.
It’s facilitated by our grappling skills and base attributes like strength, but what used to feel like arbitrarily rotating the analogue until an eventual submission or escape emerges, has now become a precise mini game that is especially tense when going head to head against another player.
The stand-up game has been made more fluid, with motion-captured strikes and a focus on combining fast jabs and lead kicks with power shots for a more realistic system.
Using Muay Thai or another discipline that specialises in leg kicks, we can beat a man via TKO by pummelling his legs until he drops (not a nice way to go), while weaving around their shots.
Weaving around punches brings a new dimension of realism to Undisputed 3.
Checking a kick with a well-timed shin-block can break a leg, elbow spamming has been addressed, and bad cuts can now affect a fighter’s stamina.
Generally speaking, the series feels as if it’s getting very close to the ideal balance of fighting simulation and accessibility, a gaming nirvana that sports games in particular strive towards and usually take a few iterations to achieve. Yuke’s checklist of things to improve is still a large one, but it’s now become a case of honing rather than fixing.
The big new addition to Undisputed 3 is Pride mode of course, the license of which was brought under the Zuffer LLC umbrella a few years ago.
Pride is still cage fighting, but in a ring instead of the UFC Octagon, and with a different rule set. Or rather, a relative lack of rules, as we quickly discovered when we jumped into the ring as Pride-era Quinton Jackson in his famous showdown with Wanderlei Silva, at Pride Final Conflict 2003.
The moment Jackson found himself on his back, a seething Silva wasted no time leaping forward and planting his size 11 foot in our face – which, along with strikes to the groin and punches to the back of the head, is a strictly illegal manoeuvre under UFC regulations.
Yuke’s has made similar efforts to streamline the career mode, trimming down the arbitrary units of measurement used to define the skill set and a style of our bespoke fighter, replacing it with more meaningful progression on named techniques.
The emphasis is on learning and levelling up individual moves, via a triple-tier progression system in a specialist MMA camp. Basic strength, speed, stamina and footwork can be improved by focus training with bagwork, sparring, tyre-flipping and other exercises.
Choose special techniques carefully; a focus on a looping overhand or Brazilian head-kick can make or break your career.
There’s a more distinct sense of forging our fighter in the specific way we want him to evolve, rather than working on increasing a set of numbers on-screen and merely hoping that these stats will complement our preferred style once we’re in the cage.
The results of the choices we made during training were clear once we were actually fighting, taking down a title, or winning our re-match against a fighter who pummelled us in a previous encounter, which gave us a real sense of pride and satisfaction.
As much as we know that creating a fighter who looks like an inbred hick and has a Union Jack tattoo on his forehead will annoy the hell out of American players, we can now visualise the course of his career, we can push him in a predictable direction, and train him in specific moves to tackle certain fighters in advance and adapt when necessary.
The returns are diminishing now we’ve reach the third episode in the series, but UFC Undisputed 3 is easily the most playable and accessible game so far – and it’s still the undisputed champion of MMA fighters.