UFC Undisputed 3|
UFC Undisputed 3 is pretty hard to, well, dispute. Between its amazing graphics, vast variety of fighters and options, and its online features, it's got a lot that makes it the premiere option for mixed martial arts on consoles today. While it might lack some of the more interesting online options from EA's MMA offering last year, it makes up for that with its intuitive gameplay, accessibility to beginners, and improvements on the already-winning formula.
The game's presentation is top-notch. Every impact feels heavy, new readouts and modes let you run everything from competitive tournament play to realistic simulations, and even the computer matches are great to watch. Undisputed 3 might have taken a break from the series' previous yearly roots, but the extra time added up to a game that takes what worked from previous years, and made it better.
Really, the focus with Undisputed 3 is on variety. New players who can't handle the advanced transitions can switch to a simpler control scheme, letting them change their position in grapples or on the ground with the flick of a joystick. It'll be easier for veterans to counter their moves, without the ability to fake out or abandon a risky move, but for people who just end up spinning their analogue sticks wildly, it'll help them get themselves comfortable with the game. As someone who had some difficulty with the subtleties of the grappling game, and prefers striking, the simplified transitions were a great feature.
The game's character customization shines through as well. With footwork separated from attack speed and top and bottom grappling differentiated from one another stat wise, players will have more room to define their fighter's personal style. Meanwhile, the visual customization gives you the ability to recreate yourself, your favorite fighters, or some genuinely terrifying freaks of nature. For a fun surprise, set all your sliders as high as they can go, and play a fighter with the Innsmouth Look!
I played a Muay Thai fighter and a boxer, and as the career mode went on, pulled my special moves from an array of different schools, from various camps of fighters. By the end of my play session, my Muay Thai fighter was throwing spinning backhands, launching devastating knees to the chin, and smashing my heel into opponents' foreheads, while the boxer was focusing on strong punches that weren't quite as spectacular, but could send an unprepared opponent to the ground incredibly fast.
It might not scream excitement at first, but the biggest addition of the year is probably the way the game teaches you to play. While there are semi-intrusive tutorials when you first start up the game, telling you how to punch, kick and grapple, the real meat of the game's teaching comes mid-match. As you fight, in addition to the announcer, your corner man gives you context-sensitive hints. Between rounds, your trainer will point out the strong and weak points in your strategy. The pointers went a long way towards making me more aware of how I played, improving my game quite a bit.
Another fantastic new option included the fighter HUD, which included a paper doll damage display, shading body parts redder as they get damaged, as well as a stamina meter. While a small addition, the extra information makes a huge difference when planning out your moves and it definitely beats looking at the player models to check out their cuts, bumps and bruises.
That said, you'll still want to check out the player models, if only for how well-rendered they are. Each scar, mark and tattoo on every fighter is represented, and their models, skins, and animations are so fantastically put together that when footage of the game and footage of real life fights were projected at the event, I often had trouble telling them apart at first glance. Put simply, this is an incredibly pretty game.
When playing through the career mode, in addition to training your stats and leaning new signature moves, you can also formulate game plans for fights. Each game plan outlines a rough strategy for the fight, gives you certain goals to meet, and alters your stats, raising some and lowering others, giving you a great way to prepare for fighters that you're not quite ready for. Against a wrestler, you might take Lay and Pray in order to help your ground game out, or adopt an aggressive strategy in order to beat your opponent down before he can take you off your feet.
As you progress in your career, you'll graduate from a small-time league into the UFC, and eventually get invited to occasional matches in Pride. While UFC matches are the standard, Pride almost feels like a game in and of itself, with its own announcers, roped rings instead of caged octagons, and brutally lenient rules. As long as you don't go for the eyes, spine or groin, it goes in Pride, and it's not uncommon to see a torn-apart fighter trying to avoid getting their heads stomped on by his opponent. It might seem like small changes, but they really add up to a new experience.
And when you're done with matches, you can either assemble a highlight reel to be uploaded online, or else tell the game to automatically assemble a reel of your best moments. While I didn't get to try this out, on account of not wanting to sit there as the game rendered the video, it looks like it'll be a great option for hardcore players who want to take their games online.
Speaking of the online mode, while it's not spectacular, it definitely manages to do a solid job with the functions it does have. Ranked matches in Pride and UFC rules, unranked matches with whatever wacky rules you might desire, the ability to upload logos, fighters, and highlight reels, and the ability to join camps of online fighters all add up to a decent online offering, with a customizable experience for players who want their own thing.
Really, that's what UFC Undisputed 3 is all about: Great options surrounding solid core gameplay. Whether you're new player, ready to be taught what the game has to offer or a veteran coming back for the myriad improvements or additions, a competitive fighter looking for a balanced playing field to match skills or a huge fan of the sport coming in for the 150 fighters represented at different points in their career, the game's got something for everyone who could possibly be interested in it.