Back with a bang
Publisher THQ should be commended for its recent approach to its popular mixed martial arts game series. Having initially opted to follow the annual update release strategy popular with many sports franchises, it delivered the first UFC Undisputed in May 2009 and a follow-up 12 months later. Both were great games, but given how little the roster of fighters had changed and the short development schedule, the sequel wasn't as polished or distinct as it might have been given some breathing room.
The company opted to change tack with the third game in the series, giving developer Yuke's over 18 months to work with the formula. And while UFC Undisputed 3 doesn't rewrite the rulebook, the inclusion of streamlined controls, the addition of the brutal Pride discipline, and a massive influx of fresh fighters shows it has done much to add to and refine the experience, leading to the most accessible and fully featured Undisputed game to date.
Loud and proud
UFC Undisputed's combat has always delivered heavy, realistic feeling blows, and now it's more varied too. The introduction of Featherweight and Bantamweight classes add faster and more agile fighters to the mix, but the biggest addition for hardcore fans comes in the form of Pride, a defunct Japanese promotion famed for its viciousness and acquired by the UFC in 2007.
Pride switches the action from the cage to a ring, matches last just three rounds, and there's a slightly different rule set, allowing for soccer-style kicks, head stomps and ground knees to the head. It's generally a superbly authentic feeling and bloody mode, with many playable legends including Bob Sapp, Royce Gracie and Don Frye, as well as younger versions of current UFC fighters.
Through the ranks
The main career mode sees players attempt to ascend the ranks from the low-level World Fighting Alliance through to the UFC and eventually Pride, building up their character and move sets through a combination of fights, basic training and more specialised camps. Between fights players receive action points to spend on training routines like heavy bag drills, tyre flipping and sparring. These mini-games can be played manually or automated for an instant but less significant increase to your stats.
Attending training camps specialising in different disciplines enables you to learn new moves specific to that camp which can then be developed, and the game definitely nails the feeling of character progression. Your fighter's skills increase notably as they mature and expand their move set, making bouts more varied, strategic and entertaining the more you play.
It's a knockout
Yuke's has also put significant work into tweaking and refining what was already an excellent fighting system. The difference between light and heavy blows is more pronounced, with big hits resulting in a Fight Night-like slow motion effect, while damage recovery between rounds has been introduced and drops in stamina temporarily affect your base stats. Elsewhere, there's an optional amateur control scheme for beginners and improved visuals, with new camera angles, improved facial animations and the introduction of fighter entrances.
From the array of improvements and new features, it's not hard to believe this game was given a more generous development window than its predecessors. It might not reinvent the wheel, but its realistic, fast-paced action and accessible nature combine to deliver what will widely be perceived as the best mixed martial arts game to date.
- The best UFC game yet.
- Exciting, varied gameplay.
- More accessible than before.
- Some long load times.
- Menus could be improved.
- Refinement rather than reinvention.