There are many aspects which serve to differentiate the United Fighting Championship franchise from boxing and wrestling but most prominently it’s the brazen use of Lycra underpants and the mixed martial arts. Having gone through various reforms since the early nineties the current series is based on seven weight classes, has a passionate fan base and with minimal rules and regulations delivers frenetic hand to hand combat quite unlike any other.
In recreating the series as a videogame, developer Yuke’s should be highly commended for its work in the graphics department. Fight moves are well animated, have a natural fluidity and even with the camera at close quarters textures retain their detail and definition. Fight arenas, training rings and character models all look gritty and detailed and the latter authentically mirror their real life counterparts right down to facial expressions and attire.
The tutorial is where most newcomers to the series will get their first taste of gameplay and voiced by UFC commentator Mike Goldberg there are five levels of expertise stocked with over fifty training modules. It does get monotonous, but you have to grind your way through them, the alternative is entering the ring with arms flailing like an epileptic chimp and the inevitable frustration of having no comprehension of the game’s underlying strategies.
Progression through tutorials brings with it a realisation that button mashing will get you nowhere in this game and as you reach the latter stages you start to appreciate the quantity and complexity of available moves. Control options include ‘amateur’ or ‘professional’ modes but either way there’s a lot to learn as the game uses every button and stick on the pad. This is compounded by Yuke’s rejection of the directional pad in favour of using both left and right analogue sticks consequently making character control feel a little lethargic.
Career Mode is well structured and includes detailed character creation. Almost every facet of your fighter can be modified and in no time at all I was able to make an exact replica of Terry Wogan specialising in Karate. Alternatively you can choose your favourite UFC fighter and take them through the ranks to fame and glory. Training sessions give an opportunity to improve key stats between events and act as a pleasant interlude between the furore of big fights with their dramatic ring entrances, announcers and commentary. Once combat gets under way it all feels pleasantly dynamic, you able to block, avoid and respond to incoming strikes with precision providing a real feeling of satisfaction when you get it right. Basic punches, kicks and combos feel snappy, there’s freedom to roam the ring as you please and when everything goes to plan there’s an extensive catalogue of knockout animations to keep things fresh.
The newly implemented Pride mode sees over thirty extra characters and a further relaxation of the rules, setting the stage for some brutal fights. In addition to new moves Pride mode also has the effect of increasing the intensity of fights as breaks and pauses become less frequent. Stamping on a downed opponent’s head is all part of the fun in Pride mode, essentially just keep punching until the referee drags you off.
Online play is faultless. The players I encountered all had very different styles making for great variation in gameplay and some close finishes. Lag is none existent, game lobbies are stable and functional and the online leaderboard gives an instant overview of your ranking in the big wide world. Other online diversions include the creation of a training camp where you and up to sixteen fiends can train together and online fight wins by any member increases your teams ranking online.
I only really have two complaints. Firstly the submission system, appearing as an on screen mechanic, determines the victor when players become interlocked on the ground. Bizarrely you guide a circle with extending bars either side around the perimeter of a hexagon chasing a second AI controlled circle embossed with ”CPU’. Your bars decrease in length as exhaustion sets in and lining up your circle over your opponents for long enough results in victory. It’s just demented. It may be a step up from joystick waggling but it serves to remove any feeling of fluidity to the fight and looks like rejected code from Daily Thompsons Decathlon on the Spectrum.
Secondly, I found the quantity and complexity of the fight moves a little prohibitive and whilst practice alleviates the problem to a degree I never quite got to a point where the execution of more advanced moves felt instinctive.
In the grand scheme of things though, they are small gripes. UFC Undisputed 3 delivers an incredible amount of polished content and with over 150 licensed fighters and seven different game modes its longevity is guaranteed. There are new moves, an accomplished AI to play against, and for fans of the franchise overt commentary and full motion video of angry men in tight underpants, which I endured rather than enjoyed, but it will all be seen as a positive and authentic reproduction of what UFC is all about.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: PS3/ Xbox 360 Release Date: 17/02/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of UFC Undisputed 3 for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.