UFC Undisputed 3

UFC Undisputed 3

Most sports games do not need to be released every year.  I understand roster updates, changes, and draft picks are a huge part of why folks spend money on the new versions of Madden, FIFA, NBA 2K, ect.  But that isn’t necessary for the UFC.  Knowing that, THQ has decided to not “milk the cash cow” and actually developed this game for quite some time.  The benefits of doing this are evident from the start, particularly in the game modes.

Undisputed 3 features an insanely large amount of content.  The first crucial one is the Tutorial.  Sure, it can just give a quick run through of the basic button assignments.  But given some extra time, it teaches much more.  Working through it will give detailed explanations of the different moves and when and how to use them to be most effective.  So, you’ll learn that the clinch position is started with a quick flick of the right thumbsitck towards your opponent, and that it can be used to set up big strikes and allow for recovery time when “rocked” or “gassed.”  It has rundowns of everything from combinations, to takedown defense,to sways, to cage transitions, to feints.  After this, jumping into an Exhibition fight is a good way to get the blood flowing.  Choose specs like UFC or PRIDE weight class, rounds, difficulty, and so on.  Then pick you favorite UFC or PRIDE fighter from a list of over 150 fighters and have at it!

If “progression” is more your style, you’ll be happy to know there is an extensive Career mode to explore.  Start off by either constructing a CAF (Create-A-Fighter) or select someone already on the roster.  Then find a base skill set that most suits your style (Boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo, Muay Tai, MMA, ect.).  The Skills Tests will assess what abilities you already possess, and will suggest a difficulty level for the upcoming career.  Things start in the World Fighting Alliance, which was a longstanding proving ground and a potential catapult for the UFC.

Book your first fight, then it’s off to Training Sessions like the heavy bag, focus mitts, and tire flip to boost up different attributes before each match.  A good performance in these mini-games will garner more increases, but they will get progressively harder as you go along.  You may also train with some of the most renowned camps in the world to pick up on new moves or tweak existing abilities.  Go to American Top Team to work on wrestling, then jump in with the guys at Greg Jackson to arm yourself with the Superman punch.  The choices are all yours.

Before a big fight, a Game Plan might be in order.  Setup a “playbook” of sorts to determine the overall approach in the bout.  This will enable a temporary boost in particular stats depending on the style you set.  So counter striking will improve footwork.  If certain criteria are accomplished, you will retain an amount of the increase given.  After all of this prep work is attended to, it’s finally time to fight!  With each event, you may either watch the CPU fights, go straight to your match, or sim the entire event.  Nice performances will give you more CRED, which in turn are used to increase stats by paying for training sessions, camp visits, and so on.  Each fight will bring you closer to hitting the big league and battling the top dogs for ultimate MMA Supremacy!

There are a handful of other play types that can’t go without a mention.  Title mode is an arcade style “ladder” selection that has you working from the bottom of a division up to earn a title shot.  But the matches get tougher and tougher, as the last two battles are straight up hard to finish. If successful, Title Defense becomes unlocked.  The objective is inverted, and the task is to keep fools off your precious belt!  Ultimate Fights makes a return in Undisputed 3.  This has you taking control of a participant in some of the UFC and PRIDE’s best brawls to either replicate or change the outcome.  An objective list is tied to each fight (such as landing three power punches), and are timed.  So it will take some trial and error to accomplish all the goals for each.

Tournament replicates the PRIDE Grand Prix format.  Pick from 4, 8, or even 16 entrants and let the fun begin.  The really awesome part is that damage is cumulative throughout.  I played an 8 person tourney, and had to go into the championship match with 34% damage to the head.  This construct will alter how you deal with the first few fights and what your limitations might be later on.  It’s a great way to get a bunch of your buddies involved with session after session of Undisputed 3.  Speaking of real folks, what would a triple-A sports title be without Online.  It’s back with the usual ranked and player match to pick from.  There is also a “Camp” function that works like “Club” in Forza 4, which allows groups of people to form pseudo-team, and keeps the online stats of all the members together.  A cool way to try and generate some feeling of community in spite of the inherent solitary nature of the game.  Even with all of these selections, it would all be for not without solid gameplay to back it up.  This, my friends, is what separates this entry from it’s predecessors.

Last fall I reviewed EA’s venture into the foray of fists with MMA.  While I was a little underwhelmed with the “finer points,” I thought the overall gameplay experience was pretty good.  I said it then, and I still remain, I love the fact that the striking was done primarily with the right thumbstick and then “modified” with the L and R buttons.  I just felt like I had more, for lack of a better term, control.  The UFC games to that point felt a little “sloppy.”  Button mashing was taking over what should be a cold and calculated system.  And the stick delivered on this much better.  I’m happy to report THQ has trimmed things up.

Even though landing punches and kicks is still done with the face buttons, it just feels so, so much more responsive.  There’s a sense of real tact to tapping from square to triangle to lay down a quick punch combination.  Or holding down L1 (strike/ground modifier) with X to perform a face crushing push kick.  The annoying arcade-y feel of “whackabunch-o-buttons” is gone, and hopefully to never be seen again in the virtual octagon.  The ground work is just as strong as ever.  Shooting for takedowns will feel all to familiar, and the mechanic is just as clean as it was in the first two.  Once on the mat, the thumbstick becomes the main engine for action.  Short sweeps allow for gradual transitions, while bigger “loops” are more aggressive in nature, but have a higher chance of being cancelled.  The big revolution in Undisputed 3 is the new submission system.  In short, and octagon-shaped HUD appears upon attempt, and each fighter has a “bar” which must be overlapped to finish the maneuver, or kept clear to escape by moving the right thumbstick.  At first I wasn’t the biggest proponent.  In this awesome “HUD free” game, we have an eye sore to represent one of the most beautiful aspect of the real sport.  Kind of an odd dichotomy.  But it does allow each player a definitive way to battle for the win as opposed to the prior “spin and pray” tactic.  And the tap out victim can see exactly why they quit to that kimura.  No more guessing.  No more whining.

Generally speaking, the controls are simple and deep.  One could just tap face buttons and that’s it.  But with just a little bit more attention, the bevy of sig strikes, feints, clinches, ect. become a very worth while aspects to your arsenal.  The amazingly technical stuff really puts this title’s gameplay over the top.  The vast and meticulous ways you can break down your opponent is what kept the controller in my hand for hours at a time.  Maybe I just feel like taking JDS and rocking some chump with fists til they fall like a tree on Ax Men.  Or perhaps I want to fight with a dude like Jose Aldo, and exploit incredibly lethal (and undervalued) leg kicks.  As one can expect from a THQ “combat” game, the more you target one area, the damage begins to take a huge toll to that spot.  So assaulting the forward leg of the opponent at every “free” moment in the contest will begin to pay dividends in the later rounds, until the can’t hardly stand anymore.  Which will either cripple their ability to shoot/sprawl, or simply crumble to the canvas in wrenching pain.  Either way equals a “dub.”

There are also plenty of defensive tools as well.  Sways are a very dynamic system which sort of feels like a parry in boxing.  It’s essentially quick ducks and dodges to avoid strikes.  But when practiced and used properly to full potential, this “simple” construct will make your offensive game a lot easier to execute.  Most of these measures (such as the aforementioned) are based on timing.  So a sway could play right into an oncoming uppercut, which could spell “GOOD NIGHT IRENE!”  The counter sprawl is another “twitchy” block which is a stuffed takedown right into a knee strike.  Hard to pull off in a fight, but super satisfying when accomplished.  There are even cage transitions, in which a thumbstick loop while on your back next to the fence allows for a swing of the hips, feet push, and a flip right into dominant position.  Again, the effectiveness of all the tactics discussed hinder on the chosen fighters strengths and abilities, as it should be.  I could go on an on for days (as I already have) about how amazing the action itself is to play. Just know Undisputed 3 is deep enough to completely support the chosen fighting styles for all the featured athletes and it will take some time and practice to become really good and utilizing them for ultra effectiveness.

Last year I thought I had seen the pinnacle for presentation in a sports game with NBA 2K12.  The look of the players, the voice over work, the collision detection, the crowd, the sound, even the tattoos and team specific intros.  I said “this is it.”  I was wrong.  I have literally never experienced truer “real life” replication from a game.  Period.  Each fighter bears a scary accurate resemblance to the real life counterpart.  Urijah Faber’s look is one that I’d imagine would be hard to capture, as is Rampage Jackson’s “psycho with a smile” disposition.  Both characters are spot on.  I mean to the tee.  And the list goes on.  Jon “Bones” Jone’s odd placement of the “Philippians 4:13” tat across the shoulder and onto the pectoral should be a designer’s worst nightmare.  Not only does it need to look like it does on the real guy, but that is a “high movement” area of a fighter’s frame.  Absolutely no problem.  Never a strange “artifact” or uncanny “shift.”  Always looks 100% natural.  Crazy good work.  Even the accuracy of trainers like Greg Jackson are on point.  Which is a character model that has very little “screen time” in the grand scheme of things.  The attention to detail on this project is unmatched in comparison to the first two.

The other added pieces are also sweet.  The crowds look pretty good and react to the in ring/cage action very well.  Speaking of which, you’ll be able to hear the corner “hints” during rounds from each side of the fight.  I was playing while using my 7.1 setup and both coaches were allocated to either the front left or right channel speakers.  This sounds a bit “nit-picky,” but all I’m trying to express is the increased “need” for this game to immerse you in it’s experience.  It would sound unnatural for both sets of voices to come from the center speaker.  But having one barking from the blue corner, and the other the red sounds and feels as it should.  Simple from a design standpoint, but impressive in thought.

On the UFC side, you get to hear the punch-by-punch and color commentary from (for my money the best announcing tandem in sports today) Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogen.  The back and forth of the two tracks in correlation with the fighting is always right on top of things and never seems to waver.  And Bruce Buffer’s bravado makes the UFC portion of the game flat out awesome.  But just as accurate is the PRIDE section.  The mics are blessed by “The Fight Professor” Stephen Quadros and fight legend and Youtube sensation Bas Rutten.  And the same accolades about the “working order” of Goldberg/Rogen’s commetary rings true for this pair as well.  I even enjoy hearing the funny quips that Rutten will say from time to time.  PRIDE also features the true-to-form entrances that made it a true Japanese MMA spectacle.

The wear and tear of the fighting also has an amazingly rendered toll on the characters.  Cuts, bruises, and punctures have never looked better!  Repeated elbows from Bones is almost sure to create a nasty gash or two.  Continued abuse to the face will make eyes gradually closed and more inflamed.  Kicks to the body with redden, then black/blue and swell up the entire side of a fighter’s abdomen, which is really wicked stuff to see in pristine HD resolution.