Being new to THQ’s series, and mixed martial arts in general, at first I felt pretty overwhelmed by UFC Undisputed 3 on PlayStation 3. This is an expansive game that could have taken some getting used to if you’re not familiar with the previous editions. But luckily, it’s ideal for newcomers as well as serious MMA buffs. As a realistic, bloody fighting game, it’s also an engrossing way to work out a lot of frustrations. The hand-to-hand combat is viciously displayed, with blood splattered canvases. There are dozens of playable real-life MMA fighters, past and present. In addition to Ultimate Fighting Championship, you can also play in the Pride Mode, which replicates the no longer existing Pride Fighting Championship.
Players get the choice right off the bat between the Pro or Amateur setting for the controls. It should be obvious that Amateur is geared for either the new player or someone who just wants a simpler experience. It’s a welcome option, as a new player can always reset to Pro once comfortable and experienced in the easier setting. Of the several modes in the main menu, Exhibition is the quickest way to get right the action. You chose your fighter (playing either against the computer or another player), the venue, and the referee. Exhibition mode offers the choice of either UFC or PRIDE. These exhibition bouts are a fun way to mix and match players. There are automated tips (which can be shut off) that pop up while the action is paused, help the new player understand how to execute maneuvers.
If you need to get up to speed in order to turn off the tips, the Tutorial mode is a great place to spend some time. The guided tutorial walks players through 17 beginner moves and 15 experienced ones, which unlocks 25 advanced moves and 5 expert. Even experienced players may find a few new tricks in this extensive mode. Also helpful for beginners is a glossary that defines unfamiliar terminology.
Career mode allows players to choose to play through the career of an existing fighter or create one’s own. Creating a fighter is a lot of fun, as there are a seemingly endless number of options to customize his look and fighting style. Set up is a breeze, as fight announcer Mike Goldberg serves as your guide throughout the Career mode set up. Once the tutorials have been completed, the player can select what difficulty level they want to fight in. Be careful though because whichever level you select is the level your fighter will remain at. Drilling various skills will build your fighter’s stats. The new career begins with fights in the now defunct World Fighting Alliance. You must work your way up, winning increasingly difficult fights, before reaching the UFC.
The Ultimate Fights mode allows players to revisit some of the most significant matches in MMA history. Video introductions to these fights offer some background information on what made a given match noteworthy. These might be of greater interest to longtime MMA fans, who are obviously likelier to appreciate the “what if” factor of these rematches. Tournament mode offers the choice between the UFC or PRIDE ruleset. The player (or players) then fills in a bracket with any combination of fighters from their chosen organization.
Gameplay is complex, but fairly easy to get the hang of if you’re not already used to it. The ample tutorials allow even the greenest rookie the chance to learn the correct combinations to fight intelligently. One specific aspect that takes a little work are submissions. Apparently this technique has gotten quite an overhaul from previous UFC Undisputed games. When you execute a submission, an octagon pops up with icons for each player. To successfully submit your opponent, you have to cover up his icon with your own until the submission is complete. If your opponent initiates the submission, your goal is to move your icon around the octagon, keeping it away from his until he relents. It takes some practice, probably even for experienced players since it has been changed from prior installments.
Building cred as a fighter occurs through various ways such as being featured on magazine covers and winning year-end awards. This cred can then be spent on additional sponsorships or upping your limit on improvement tools such as training programs. As you work your way through Career mode, the option of putting together a highlights reel that can be shared online. Speaking of online, players can meet up in Fight Camps, working together as a team. Ranked exhibition fights allow players to match their fighter against other fighters of similar skill level.
There lots of little extras throughout the game, not the least of which being the new addition of featherweight and bantamweight divisions for the UFC. There are video segments that play at various times with real MMA fighters. Sometimes they are interviews, other times they are clips from actual fights. These enhance the experience by providing historical context, but they can easily be skipped.
UFC Undisputed 3 is an extremely fun and involving game. The graphics are realistic, with the fighters moving in smooth, fluid motions. The animation is free of glitches as far as I have seen. The voice acting from the various announcers is top notch, with commentary that matches the action on screen to an acceptable degree (though it isn’t long before the same phrases start popping up). With such a variety of training exercises, and different playing modes, UFC Undisputed 3 has enough to keep anyone busy for quite a while.
UFC Undisputed 3 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, and Violence. This game can also be found on: Xbox 360.