UFC Undisputed 3 ReviewBlake Anglin
Sports games face quite a dilemma. With the pressure of yearly releases, developers are forced to decide between adding sexy new features and fixing the problems of the past. With Undisputed 3, developer Yuke's smartly decided to forego the yearly grind in favor of a longer development cycle. Has the extra time given the franchise what it needs to last five rounds in the octagon?
One of the biggest barriers the game faced is the daunting control scheme. While familiar enough so fans of the previous installments can pick-up-and-play without too much problem, a host of minor (and a few not so minor) tweaks make the excellent tutorial a must play for newbies and veterans alike. This extensive tutorial covers everything from advanced striking to the complex clinch game, and everything in between. A new amateur control scheme is also available for those having trouble with the ground game, but I preferred the traditional method. Thankfully you can filter between them for online fights. Like the real UFC, Feather- and Bantam-weight classes have been added as well, although they can't quite match up to the loaded Light Heavyweight division.
I would recommend the tutorial for everyone, as it makes tremendous strides in opening up the gameplay. The sway system introduced in UFC 2 returns, and allows expert users a tremendous advantage over button mashers. Leg kick TKO's have been incorporated into the game as well. While it takes quite a few calf kicks to do so, it opens up a degree of strategy for leg strikers, and actually makes leg kicks relevant. Yuke's has also figured out that "spin the analog stick as fast as you can" isn't a compelling gameplay model, so they have completely overhauled the submission system. A octagon-shaped meter now appears on line, and you maneuver a colored bar around it attempting to tap your foe out. It's leagues ahead of its predecessor, and removes a lot of the frustration of getting tapped out.
Similarly, a ton of new strikes, clinches and animations allow the fights to flow together much better, while demanding a well-rounded approach if you want to dominate. Playing to your strengths while attacking your opponent's weaknesses is a fascinating interplay filled with momentum changes, highlight reel moments, and (occasionally) one-hit knockouts. With the beautiful man-graphics on display, these fights are nothing short of gorgeous.
The wealth of game modes from UFC 2 also return with a few twists. The career mode has been completely overhauled, almost exclusively for the better. Instead of requiring Microsoft Excel and a calculator, the character creation and training aspects have been simplified. Stats no longer deteriorate over time, but instead each training exercise, which have been improved as well, affects certain stats positively and negatively. The insane and frustrating time management paradigm of previous career modes has been removed, replaced with a simple schedule: two training segments, a match, repeat. This allows a fighter with stats that wouldn't shame my grandmother, a welcome addition.
Title Mode plays out like a standard arcade mode, with you guiding your chosen fighter through a gauntlet of foes before taking on the champ. Beating this opens up the grueling Title Defense mode. Title Defense tasks you with defending your title up to 100 times... with no save points. All I have to say about that is good luck. Ultimate Fights is a great way to pass the time, even if I'm not enough of a completionist to attack all the myriad challenges. It does, however, give the game legs beyond the standard title and career options.
In addition to the usual UFC fare, Yuke's introduces the now defunct Pride Fighting Championship rule set into the mix. Vicious soccer style kicks and head stomps are allowed, with the first round upped to a hardy 10 minutes, with two five-minute rounds following that. I had fun with this, especially in multiplayer, and I like the way it is incorporated into the career mode. Deciding to go for the number one contender spot or competing in a lucrative Pride tournament is an option with more weight than anything in previous installments.
As long as you have your online code, online matches work well. The lag that plagued the earlier titles is mostly non-existent, and every match I played was smooth. A Theatre Mode and Spectator Mode fill out the other modes, but make for a solid package.
As much as I enjoyed my time with Undisputed 3, the experience wasn't without some setbacks. Constant and excruciatingly long load times are everywhere, at times so frustrating I had to leave the room while it loaded. The clinch game, while featuring better positioning options, still too often devolves into a forty-five second hug. While the training segments are more relevant than they were before, some of them are so tough you'll stay away from them, leaving their stat boosts unable to be gotten. There are plenty of options to sidestep this though, so it isn't a deal breaker.
It's easy for me to recommend this to newcomers and returning champs alike. The extensive mode tweaks and welcome fighting additions, as well as new implementations like Pride and the new submission system, make this the definitive MMA game on the market.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.