UFC Undisputed 3 General Impressions

Posted February 13th, 2012 at 12:30 pm

The failure of UFC Undisputed 2010 to capitalize on the success of the first entry in the series forced THQ and UFC to reevaluate the viability of their product as a yearly release. The result has been a nearly two year gap that now culminates with the arrival of UFC Undisputed 3. The extra time has paid some substantial dividends – but one design decision in particular and troubled online performance remain concerns. 

UFC Undisputed 3 carries with it a solid amount of content. There is the standard exhibition fights in UFC or Pride, Career, Title, Tournament, and Event modes along with Online which are all pretty straight forward in what they offer.

The Ultimate Fights mode is intriguing in that they attempt to recreate popular fights from the past while including video packages about them. There are tasks set up to complete throughout the fight at specific times and a percentage grade is given based on how much is achieved. It can be tough to fight in that manner though – trying to complete the tasks rather than just do what is necessary to win doesn’t feel completely natural or even necessarily make sense contextually at a given time. Check out my full write-up on Career for thoughts on that mode.

Pride is a blast and a valuable addition to the series. Everything from the presentation to the varied rule sets and unique venue make it a lot of fun to play. It won’t at all be surprising if fans tend to prefer playing in Pride vs UFC. Presenation has been enhanced elsewhere too and the new camera angle, though not going to feel drastically different, does bring the action much closer and the perspective works well for the fights.

Gameplay wise there isn’t much to gripe about at least on the surface. Refs tend to stand up fighters a bit early – this was probably done on purpose rather than just becoming an unexpected issue as maybe casual types don’t want to be stuck maneuvering on the ground with little success whether they’re on the offensive or stuck blocking transitions. Ultimately though the big problem comes down to the flawed submission system which, going back to E3 last year, was the most cited gripe with the game and for good reason.

What amounts to a mini-game of ‘cat and mouse’ not only takes the user’s eyes off the fighters in these critical moments but the success of submission attempts remains inconsistent and unrealistic. Against the CPU it seems nearly impossible to submit them – at the same time there is little concern that the CPU will actually complete a submission against the user. There has yet to be a situation where either “caught” the opponent with a submission but instead the one in danger almost always escapes easily under the system. It’s been the same way in head-to-head (both off and online) fights too with submissions easily escaped by evading in the mini-game.

That alters tactics and strategy greatly. Offensively I find there to be little reason to attempt submissions. Why risk advantageous position when the submission is likely to fail? Conversely I haven’t found myself defending against submissions because they’re easy to get out of and the result is actually a positive shift of positioning and momentum.

Otherwise the gameplay has proven to be fairly well balanced with counter-strategies to utilize based on any tactic an opponent could be throwing out there. There has yet to be any frustrating element beyond the submission system – the clinch is handled much better and the ground game simpler to understand.

Fights have been challenging but fair. Those that I’ve lost I’ve never gotten upset about and in fact often been impressed by the outcome. That is usually the best indicator of a good game – when the time spent with it is enjoyable regardless of a win or loss.

“Sim” stamina is an addition that the more hardcore crowd will enjoy. It makes a huge difference and forces fights to be much more realistic. Most will probably stick with the default stamina but the option is appreciated regardless.

The new “Amateur” controls have been a refreshing addition and something I quickly got comfortable with using. There is a slight advantage for those using the “Pro Controls” (as there should be) but in terms of simplicity and accessibility the “Amateur” set holds up well. The tutorials also can help get users accustomed to the game to an extent but aren’t much more than just an introduction – there are even a couple that took a while to complete because they weren’t clear enough in what was expected. It’s just tedious to go through them one to the next and invest that much time but it’s probably worth it in the end.

Online performance continues to threaten the completeness of the product. Most of the fights have been so lag-plagued that they’ve essentially been complete wastes of time. It has been encouraging that at least there have been a few smooth and responsive fights and they’ve been recent ones – but even then the masses haven’t hit the servers yet so things are likely going to get worse before they get better. Quitters aren’t getting losses or seeing DNF % rise either which means that’ll be a serious problem to address and there’s also no real reason not to choose the highest rated fighters so variety in match-ups will be sorely lacking. Complete online impressions will go up late this week.

Other notes: There is some sort of issue with installing the game to the hard drive on the 360 that requires being signed out of Xbox Live for it to begin the install. Tapping gloves at the start of the fight is seemingly dangerous as the CPU usually chooses to throw a cheap shot. The refs can be somewhat distracting as they vanish or appear out of thin air at times. They also don’t end the fights as quickly as one would expect allowing for some awkward late shots. In replays collision detection looks iffy and there appears to be very little force on the blows. The “Highlight Reel” feature which was previously detailed is a nice addition but the best part comes with the game automatically storing the last 50 rounds of fights.

There is little doubt that UFC Undisputed 3 will be looked back on at the end of the year as one of the strongest efforts amongst the crop of sports games. Hopefully it won’t fall into the category of “almost great” because of poor online play so that’ll have to be monitored in the days and weeks ahead. Otherwise THQ has delivered a winner with refreshing accessibility, increased authenticity, stronger content, and fun balanced gameplay.