You can’t blame Mike Goldberg for having such limited in-ring commentary. After all, he’s been shoved into a studio to voice a tutorial for nearly every action in UFC 3. Admirable as it may have been to streamline menu browsing, THQ’s take on the UFC is the MMA equivalent of EA Sports forcing Madden players to memorize entire playbooks.
That’s not a completely fair comparison, but in the years of video-game football, there have been ways to break the game down to its essentials. Three games into the refreshed UFC series, and that goal still hasn’t been reached. So much of the career training is better paced by letting the CPU handle it automatically, and not because it’s beneficial. What that avoids is yet another loading screen for a brief snippet of mini-game play, and stupidly, it takes even longer just to assign a logo.
For all these back-end decisions, the extended alloted time for development has led to a revamping of the original merciless, complex control scheme. The initial choice remains, with a myriad of winding analog movements all assigned to one twist or turn for ground coverage. Simplification and downsizing has led to an optional amateur design, where the right stick motions are streamlined to four straight pushes. It’s accessible, certainly more pick-up-and-play in a competitive atmosphere.
Some things are taken too far, namely a pitiful, idiotic, and embarrassing submission mini-game. While most players may choose to stand and slug it out -that is the fan favorite after all- those looking for intricacies will be offended. A quick grasp into a rear naked choke (or any attempted tap out) will bring up a swirling octagon, requiring players to avoid each others icons as they spin around with the analog stick. It’s as if the escape of a grapple is down to child’s play.
This edition, free of a yearly cycle, adds a mystique and an energy to the career. Videos are plentiful, spotlighting memorable moments with actual fight clips. This is on top of the already pristine presentation, a mimic of pay-per-view and free TV brawl fests.
UFC 3 invites Pride into the mix, the distinctive roped rings replacing the cage for a more open style of martial arts. That federation will expand into the online arena, although said mode is locked behind the stupidity of an online pass. Even at its core, the UFC in video game form was meant for versus combat, and this edition is the first to even up the playfield. Mixing up game mechanics and relying less on wonky, imprecise analog motions goes a long way to refining how the game is played.
Although it’s a pipe dream, seeing what a wider, more involved sports dev cycle can produce makes one wish other studios would take notice. UFC 3 isn’t reliant on buzz words, but a legitimately fresh approach to the design and concern for community (and critical) feedback. That’s how you sell a sports sequel.
UFC Undisputed 3 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence. This game can also be found on: PS3