The best thing about mixed martial arts is that it brings together several disciplines of fighting to make one brutal sport where fighters have to be well-versed and extensively trained so that they can hold their own in all disciplines. Anything goes. That very openness makes for a fine foundation for a videogame, but translating that wide range of physical freedom to controller input could be difficult.
THQ nailed it right out of the gate with UFC Undisputed. They've since tuned the control formula over the past titles to a point where players can explore the sport's full range with confidence and still have a pretty good time. Now, with UFC Undisputed 3, they've made control even more accessible with a new entry level control option. But don't write this title off as a dumbed down version of the last one. It's bigger, better and more accessible. Everyone wins. Well…you know what I mean.
UFC Undisputed 3 is a huge game. There's now 150 fighters. Seven weight classes are available, including the newly added Featherweight and Bantamweight divisions. THQ's Danny Bilson says that they took the extra time spent on this game and packed it full with new visuals, new animations and brand new control sets. Oh, and now Pride is part of the mix.
Undisputed 3 was developed with accessibility in mind, and that showed from the very first option that was presented. The new "Amateur" control scheme lets as many people as possible get into UFC as the developers have simplified the last game's somewhat complex transition controls, which required detailed input with the right analog stick. In this new mode, a simple flicking of the stick up or down will perform transitions to get in and out of actions easily.
Of course, there's still the standard control scheme, now called "Pro" control. The control set comes straight from the previous games, so series fans will have no trouble jumping right in.
The Amateur control is great for newcomers as it lets players slowly ease into it. Not hung up on input controls, I was free to develop strategies by watching my opponent's play style. It allowed me to confidently implement new strategies and even pull off a couple of wins. A couple. EGM's Ray Carsillo handed my ass to me countless times. My record was about the same with the previous Undisputed title, but this time around I was more confident, and less worried about proper control input. Simply put, this one is easier to get into and have fun.
Hardcore series fans may be worried that this entry level option will someone put them at a disadvantage. Don't worry, folks. I lost enough rounds to be able to tell you that. THQ says that users of the Amateur control scheme are actually more likely to be reversed. Well-versed Pro users will have more control over when a transition takes place, giving them a real advantage. Amateur mode may make it easier for more people to play, but good players are always going to win.
Furthering accessibility is the addition of in-game education. You can turn on pop-up hints to give you prompts to help you out as you progress. They'll actually stop the action and tell you what you need to do. Between rounds you'll also receive advice on your fight. I was given advice on what to watch for and what to shoot for, and it was helpful every time.
Another change for Undisputed 3 is the submission system. It's graphical, and it replaces its predecessor's stick spinning input. Bars controlled by each player move around a hollowed out octagon. The size of these bars are determined by each fighter's skill and stamina, with larger areas giving players more chance to force submission. The goal is to move the analog stick to move your bar around the octagon, with the outside bar rotating around to try to cover the inside bar. It's like a game of chase, and makes for a fun sort of mini game.
Undisputed has always been a nice looking game, but they've stepped up the game with new models and animations in Undisputed 3. Fighters now have their own entrances, complete with licensed songs. Even menu graphics and backgrounds are all-new. We were told that they plan to make images from the latest fights available as DLC backgrounds, and will work to continually update them.
Undisputed 3 will also replace in-game engine graphic cutscenes with actual UFC footage. I saw the introduction to the Pride mode and it looked like a television broadcast. Very nice. We didn't get to try the game's career mode, but we were told that it would use real UFC footage to sort of tell the story of your career, making for a more immersive experience.
They've got Pride:
The addition of a Pride Fighting Championship mode makes for a game within a game. It has its own weight classes and fighters. The setting, ring type (square vs. octagon), round times, settings, refs and even the fighting style are different. This is a really great way for UFC fans to explore some of the sport's Japanese MMA roots.
What's neat about Pride mode is that UFC fighters that go that far back are represented with younger looking models. The game is pretty open with your player choice, though. Feel free to play with UFC fighters in Pride, as well as the other way around. Dream matches are a reality with this freedom.
I really enjoyed Pride fights -- even the ones I lost in. I ate lots of foot in my matches as the rules permit head stomping and soccer kicks to the face. It was never not funny, even for the loser. It was also nice to mix things up with changes to the settings and rules. I'm sure fans will really dig seeing an important part of UFC's history.
They went all-out with UFC Undisputed 3. New control mechanics open up the game to more players, and new features and modes are there for the series fans. Pride mode alone is enough to make this the biggest MMA game ever. We were not able to check out the career side of the game, which is a shame, as this mode was a huge part of previous titles. We'll look forward to seeing that soon, but it's already looking like Undisputed 3 will be the ultimate MMA game.