UFC Undisputed 3 Review
|17th February, 2012 (UK)
|Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
Yes, it's time for another instalment of big, beefy guys pinning each other on mats while wearing skimpy shorts.
No, it's not what you think - and if you were thinking it, don't be surprised if one of these muscled monsters kicks your head off for fun - this is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, back once again for its annual outing to the Octagon.
For those of you who haven't seen UFC fighting, imagine boxing, then throw in an octagonal ring, mixed martial arts, big money and brutal, brutal combat. There's no finesse here - fighters aim to take out their opponents as quickly as possible, with elbows, fists and feet, pummelling them on the ground or forcing them into submission with any number of (not at all dodgy-looking) pinning moves.
UFC games have a pretty good pedigree, offering a chance to create your own UFC star and take them to the top through training, sponsorship and, of course, fighting. While UFC Undisputed 3 offers a more refined, detailed experience than the previous titles in the series, by and large it doesn't really offer anything particularly new.
That said, as the old saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
This time around the game has largely done away with the clunky menu screens of the previous title, offering a far more streamlined experience. The career mode, which has always been the meat of the title, has been fleshed out to include more brawling and less of the glad-handing and training that slowed down the action last time around.
Starting from scratch, the gamer is invited to craft a fighter in what is a pretty in-depth character creation mode. Unlike certain competing series' character creation systems, UFC fighters are slightly more restrained in their design options - so no nappy-wearing 70-stone pensioners here. The system is easy to use and quick as well, allowing you to get right into the action.
Starting from the small leagues, the gamer then takes their fighter up through the ranks, possibly all the way to the title fights, or into the Pride tournaments, which allow you to face off against more than 100 real-life UFC fighters.
Training between bouts is handled by one or two of various minigames, which actively work to fill in the holes in the gamer's play style, offering tips to improve your game. Also, the sponsorship system has been massively improved, allowing the gamer to get on with the fighting, while someone else answers the emails.
During the Octagon combat, the first improvement that springs to mind is your personal trainer. Not content with offering tips during the training between bouts, your trainer now yells tips at you during the fights, and in the breaks. It brings a new level of immersion to the gameplay to have a red-faced little man scream "High kick! High kick!" At you while he mops the blood from your brow - it all feels very Rocky - just with less Italians.
The brawling itself continues to use the combat system refined in the previous title, with the game using all four face-buttons and the shoulder buttons, combined with the thumbsticks, to offer a high degree of control. A certain control pressed at a certain time with a certain flourish of a thumbstick can mean an uppercut, or a kick to the side of the head - and it really shows as you reach the higher levels, when the AI opponents get so tough that you have to fight on the defensive all the time, fending off brutal, bone-crunching blows.
The combat controls have had a much-needed tidy up generally, and the submission system (previously a button-bashing affair that was rather tough on the thumbs) now uses the thumb-sticks, and sees you trying to keep or break a lock by out manoeuvring your opponent's icon in an Octagon-shaped mini-game. If you get bored of the single player (which will be difficult, as a career can last a very long time), the game also offers a lag-free, fun multiplayer mode.
The lobby system is far better in UFC 3, and finding a game is quick and simple. The combat is smooth and challenging, and the game's matchmaking takes pains not to put a total noob (me) against anyone whose using a higher-level character.
You can also use your personalised character in the online Octagon, which brings a surprising level of fun to the action, as you test your single player-honed skills against other gamers the world over.
Then, if you get bored with that, UFC once again includes a suite of historical brawls, tasking the gamer with either recreating history, or changing it. These historic fights, from the annals of the best UFC and Pride matches, also challenge the gamer to complete certain objectives, be it a one-hit KO, or getting in three or four bodyshots in quick succession. This keeps the action interesting, as well as challenging.
The game's graphics and animation are excellent. The fighters move with a liquid fluidity, and the muscles flex and retract with each punch thrown. As expected, the Octagon's audience are all a bit hazy, but considering the quality of the animation in the brawl itself, this is a very minor point.
The score is also excellent, as is the voice acting - even the commentators only repeat themselves once every couple of matches, rather than all the time - and the meaty thumps of close combat bring the game to life.
Overall, while UFC 3 doesn't bring very much new to the table, the work done to polish the gameplay, multiplayer and interface more than makes up for it. A must for UFC fans and martial arts enthusiasts alike, the game is sure to keep you in the Octagon for ages.
- Excellent animation, score and voice acting
- Lengthy, detailed career mode
- Balanced multiplayer
Not so good stuff
- Light on innovation
- Occasional graphical bugs
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