It's time! Time for another installment in THQ's mixed martial arts fighting franchise, UFC Undisputed 3.
UFC Undisputed took the gaming world by storm in 2009, but its follow-up UFC Undisputed 2010 didnt quite reach the same sales echelon as its predecessor despite critical acclaim. Maybe it was the fact that the game was touted as more of a refined version of 2009 rather than a full-fledged sequel (that's the reason I skipped out.)
Whatever the case, THQ is throwing in the kitchen sink with this year's update to not only attract a wider range of players but also provide those who did pick up 2010 a reason to travel back down a familiar road.
UFC Undisputed 3 (Xbox 360 [Previewed], PlayStation 3)
To be released: January 2012
Since last year's version, the UFC has been a busy merging machine, integrating any and all of its competition. With Pride Fighting Championships and World Extreme Cagefighting fully assimilated into the UFC, Undisputed 3 now boasts an even larger roster with over 150 fighters from all seven weight classes (featherweight and bantamweight newly added). On top of that, new to this year's version are octagon-free Pride Fighting venues and rules (complete with kicks and knees to the head of a downed opponent) that have been added to mix up the typical cage-fighting strategies. The only thing that remains to be seen -- I could not get confirmation -- is if the recently purchased MMA rival Strikeforce roster of fighters makes any appearance in the final build.
Right off the bat, the first thing I noticed was the game's new and improved control scheme for entry level users. For the more casual fight fan who just wants to get in and start tapping out fools, a new "Amateur" control option allows for a simpler ground game. Instead of the sometimes complicated quarter- and half-circle right analog stick movements, the game replaces them with much simpler up-and-down movements. Going from top or side control to full mount is only a few well timed flicks of the sticks away.
Now, the thing about the amateur control scheme is that it doesn't give a novice players quite an even playing field with a veterans of the virtual octagon -- which could raise issues with competitive online rankings -- it just makes them more competent opponents. Due to the game's multitude of character animations, seasoned veterans have more options with the "Pro" control scheme, from countering into better positions or slipping on a submission attempt on users who use the amateur setup.
Speaking of submissions, the previous iterations' "rotate the stick frantically to tap out" system has been redesigned with a much simpler visual representation of what's occurring. Now, when a submission is being attempted, an octagon-shaped diagram pops on the screen, in which the submitter tries to overlap his zone on top of his opponent's zone to force the tap out. It becomes a sort of cat-and-mouse mini-game, a frantic chase around the edges of the zone that factors fatigue and stamina into how nimble one can be in evading or scoring the submission.
Other additions to the in-fight mechanics include the ability to dodge punches from the back when mounted -- though this does not lead to any broken hands from the attacker -- and a new seated animation when pressed against the fence. Unfortunately, players still can't use the cage to spring off of for some high flying acrobatic attacks à la Anthony Pettis' amazing kick last December against Ben Henderson (look it up on YouTube if you haven't seen it.) Overall, the simple additions to this year's game go a long way in delivering one of the sport's most realistic simulations.
I was only able to play two fights with UFC Undisputed 3, finishing with a respectable win ratio of 1:1, but it was easy to see that THQ is still bringing the excellence to one of my favorite sports. The crisp graphics, increased brutality of every strike and takedown, authentic commentary, new Pride fighting mode, and expanded weight classes all work together to make this year's game the most well-rounded package yet.
Hopefully, the career mode will see as much love and attention as the fighting system. Either way, though, 2012 can't come soon enough for MMA and fighting game fans alike!