The UFC as a video game franchise and THQ faced a somewhat do-or-die scenario with the release of UFC Undisputed 3. While the launch of the original back in 2009 turned out to be a huge hit the follow-up was a disappointment both financially and in terms of product quality. The company had to deliver with UFC 3 or its growth potential going forward would be greatly diminished and brand tarnished further. Thankfully, for the most part, UFC Undisputed 3 is an excellent product that has thoroughly justified the decision to spend extra time on developing. Continue on for a run through what UFC 3 got right and where it faltered in this “Hits and Misses” review.
•Extended Development Cycle Pays Dividends
There was simply no way a yearly release for the UFC series would work – without the crutch of roster updates to fall back on any lack of advancement would be made more obvious on the short cycle. By elongating the benefits became immediately apparent. Gameplay is more balanced, elements of frustration in gameplay and Career have been removed, the feature set is more appealing and authentic, and significant investment was made to improve online performance.
Acting as the big addition to the series Pride mode provides a great deal of fun with its authentic presentation and unique set of rules. It also produced an opportunity to essentially beef up the roster with new fighters from the past and earlier versions of others who are still active in the UFC.
Generally the most important aspect of a game but often the one overlooked while analyzing everything else like authenticity to the sport – UFC 3 is flat out fun to play. The gameplay balance produces challenging, and in turn, entertaining fights with a wide variety of results. The series needed more accessibility, and while it remains on the tougher side for new players to adapt to, options like the amateur controls help significantly. Making things like the clinch easier to manage plays a big part in that as well. When fun is still had despite losing that is a great sign of things and UFC 3 has proven to deliver that regardless of whatever the results may be.
Again Pride mode adds variety to the presentation with its own entertaining entrances, ring announcements, rule sets, commentary team, and more. Outside of that though menus have been streamlined, Career mode received some worthwhile videos from fighters to coincide with events along the way, and standard UFC fights have received upgrades with better entrances, commentary, and on-screen graphics. The biggest in-fight adjustment comes with a new lower camera angle which works out well. Replays though between rounds and after fights are lacking.
Though accessibility was a focus, and an important one, UFC also did an admirable job providing options to appease the more hardcore fans. The “sim stamina” is huge in that regard and fights utilizing it play out much more true-to-life than what can turn out to be a slug-fest on default. The advanced controls also offer more options over those who stick with the amateur ones. It’s important that those who put in the time are rewarded by improving their skills and being able to display them in fights and UFC 3 allows for that potential to grow.
Though online has gotten significantly better over recent days it remains a clear weakness of the series. Issues with the servers being down, lag-plagued fights, and a high rate of disconnects remain concerns. Content wise bringing in Pride mode as an option is great but otherwise it’s a thin offering as the Fight Camps feature isn’t widely utilized and has its own share of problems. Losses aren’t always given to quitters, “cherry picking” happens at the fighter select screen due to records being displayed, and there’s little to no reason not to choose the highest rated fighters so variety in match-ups is lacking. It also would’ve made for a positive had the sim stamina had been utilized for ranked fights.
Just because it’s not the “shine” doesn’t make the new cat and mouse style mini-game for submissions a good one. Visually it’s too prominent – completely taking the focus off the actual fighters – and it’s too gimmicky in nature. On the standard stamina it’s also nearly impossible to get a submission or be submitted whether the opponent is the CPU or human controlled. That really has an adverse effect on strategy.
While UFC 3 offers a strong roster there were a number of fighters left off the base roster and reserved instead as pre-order incentives or to offer as downloadable content. $17 for the “Season Pass” of DLC is a bit extreme – though it’s not the outrageous $40+ that fans of the Tiger Woods series have to face every year to get all the content. Really the extra fighters are the only selling point to the DLC as the additional Ultimate Fights and “boosts” hold little widespread appeal.
UFC Undisputed 3 will almost certainly go down as one of the best sports games of 2012. As online improves it becomes a more complete product but as is acts as a very good game that does justice to the sport it represents. The level of content has successfully been expanded, gameplay is fun and strategy within rewarded, and elements of frustration throughout have been removed. UFC 3 is a game that will be satisfying for fight aficionados while providing an admirable level of value even for those who may not consider themselves to be fans of the sport.