UFC Undisputed 3 had potential to be right there in the discussion on what was the best sports game of the year. A few design decisions, and the disruption that came with the sale of the license to EA, ultimately ended up burying any chance at consideration. In some ways UFC 3 benefited from the struggles THQ had been having as they attempted to make the series more appealing – and hopefully profitable – but it also encountered issues that otherwise would not have been present and ultimately could not be overcome.
The ranking of games in the best of 2012 list is based on number of factors including the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title, whether advertised features were fully delivered, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is largely a personal take and one with the advantage of tracking the games beyond just the release frame and does not act as some sort of recap of those with the highest scores on Metacritic. The analysis is weighted heavily towards those high in fun factor while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the field.
After the huge debut of UFC 09 sales of the franchise plummeted with UFC 2010 and led to THQ moving it off a yearly release schedule. A gap of 21 months passed between that second release and UFC Undisputed 3 which allowed for the game to offer significant improvements. The short development cycle for UFC 2010, coupled with the inherent lack of roster turnover, prevented it from being a product that fans felt needed purchasing. UFC 3 offered much more in terms of gameplay improvements, the removal of elements of frustration, and level of content.
UFC 3 succeeded in terms of fun factor with very good gameplay balance and new controls which provided a sense of much needed accessibility. Pride Mode was one of the best new features in a sports game this year and offered variety that had been lacking with its special presentation, unique set of rules, and separate roster of fighters. It was also admirable that so many “sim” options were offered with a much more realistic stamina setting and the ability to use the more complicated controls if so desired.
Online play was again a big issue for THQ as the servers at times went down completely and when active the matches were plagued by lag and disconnects were frequent. Variety in match-ups was also lacking as no incentive was given to choose anyone but the highest rated fighters. The online features and options weren’t great but that means little when the performance is bad enough that the desire to play online at all dissipates. Online was supposed to be addressed in a patch that would sadly never come.
The other widely disliked aspect of the game was the new submission system. Many who saw it first hand at E3 2011 expressed displeasure with the visually prominent cat and mouse style mini-game. It was perceived as being gimmicky and naturally took the focus off the fighters in such critical moments. THQ didn’t listen though to those concerns and stuck with it. Being better than “The Shine” did not mean it was the ideal system to go with and being stubborn cost them in reviews and word of mouth.
The transfer of the UFC license to EA Sports, which came after UFC Undisputed 3 failed to reach sales goals, will be discussed at length in another article but the impact was immediate on the game. THQ no longer had incentive to support the product and though they for some reason continued to promise a patch the lies eventually fizzled out and one was never released. The license changing hands shouldn’t even be cited as the reason for no patch however as THQ had four months to put one out before that even happened. That lack of post-release support – and the stringing along of consumers with assurances that they wouldn’t be abandoned – on its own cost UFC 3 a couple spots on this year-end list.
UFC Undisputed 3 was a fun game that showed some true advancement due to the extended development cycle. It widened its appeal with increased accessibility, more enjoyable gameplay, and an expanded featured set. It was unable to recover though from the slide that THQ was in as they let consumers down by not providing a much needed patch. Now EA Sports will have to dig out of the hole that THQ has created in the past three years as well as the damage that has been done in recent months to consumer confidence towards the UFC brand.
Year in Review
Much more to come throughout the month!
•#5 of 2012: UFC Undisputed 3
•#6 of 2012: Forza Horizon
•#7 of 2012: MLB 12: The Show
•#8 of 2012: NHL 13
•#9 of 2012: NCAA Football 13
•#10 of 2012: NFL Blitz
•Vote for the 2012 Community Choice Awards
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: Turning to Entertainers for Marketing Exposure
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: Lawsuits Faced by Electronic Arts
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: Disingenuous Marketing and Unfulfilled Features
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: The Disastrous Road Towards NBA Live 13