When UFC Undisputed came out in 2009, there may still have been an argument about the validity of Mixed Martial Arts. But no more. Compared to boxing, where all you get is the Paquiao / Mayweather fight that may never happen, or the absurdly over-priced self promotional sideshow that is Sonny Bill Williams, or the [fake - Ed.] WWE that seems to be in one of those funks where we’ve seen it all before, MMA is now the world’s most valid and seriously contested professional combat sport.
But MMA fans have known that ever since Bruce Lee submitted Sammo Hung in Enter the Dragon. Now we all know, if you want to see a good fight, and if you want to see highly trained men dealing out vicious beatings, you go to MMA.
And, these days if you want the best in MMA, you go to the UFC.
After UFC Undisputed 2009 and 2010, and last year’s curious but effective UFC Personal Trainer, THQ and developer Yuke’s bring us UFC Undisputed 3. So now we don’t just get a viable and recognised sport, we also have the beginnings of videogame franchise.
Like with other videogame franchises, you have to stop looking at the game in isolation and start comparing it to what has come before. The good news is that UFC 3 iterates on what came before it very well. You can jump right into the cage with all the current UFC stars, from established legends like Chuck Liddell, to current champions such as Jon Jones. You can fight it out under UFC or Pride rules, compete on Xbox Live, or create your own fighter to take to the Ultimate Fighter Championship.
From the start, UFC commentator Mike Goldberg is there to take you through a very comprehensive training mode. First, you get an in-depth look at the fight mechanics where striking is handled with the face buttons while grappling is controlled with the right stick. Although it works well, and is the obvious way to do it, in these days of shooting pucks and swinging golf clubs with the stick, it feels a bit old fashioned to win fights by walking forward while pounding on the X button.
If stand-up is not your fighter’s thing, then - with a flick of the stick - you can shoot in for the take-down. Once on the ground, or from the clinch if your opponent’s defence is good, you can still throw knees and punches but you can also improve your position by way of the now familiar up / down / around movements made with your stick. If you get it right, you can pass guard, posture-up, and start unleashing hell. After a few seconds of this your opponent’s face will be swollen, the cage floor will be splattered with blood, and Herb Dean will be pushing you back and declaring you the winner by TKO.
In general, the fighting in UFC 3 is excellent, and the balance and transitions between stand-up and ground is handled well. Deciding when to take someone to the ground or when to back off gives the fight a great tactical feel. However, submissions are less successful. Once you have your opponent in a clinch, pressing R3 will initiate a submission hold. Although you do have to beat a mini-game to finish off the hold, it feels kind of arbitrary that, at any time, you get the chance to end the fight just by pressing one button. It’s a shame because submissions are such an important part of MMA. Even if surprise tap-outs do happen in real fights.
Also part of the real fight game is all the pre-fight action. Once again Mike Goldberg will walk you through the finer points of creating a fighter, training, selecting opponents, choosing fight tactics, a gym, sparring partners, and sponsors. If you want a big career mode from your sports sim, UFC 3 will not let you down.
Once you are ready to fight you can choose to watch events leading up to your first appearance. It’s strange to watch the computer generated line up of a UFC main event fighting it out on your console, winning and losing as the Xbox sees fit. Although, just sitting and watching does make some of the graphical deficiencies more noticeable. While the fighters are all generally well done, presenters Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg look kind of freaky.
You can watch a recreation of UFC 120, your favourite match-ups, or - after the curiosity value wears off - you can skip the whole thing and go straight to your fight. As you would expect, training well, sticking to a game-plan, wearing sponsor’s product, and winning all add to your cred.
In UFC 3 cred is cash. With it you can get better sparring partners, buy merchandise, and fly around the world learning better moves and raising your stats. It’s all as you would expect, done very well, and on par with all the other sports sims’ career modes.
UFC Undisputed 3 is a very good, professionally put-together videogame. As well as an updated roster, you can now compete in Pride tournaments. There are title and title defence modes, where your choose your fighter and get them to the top of their weight division complete with pre-title weigh-ins and Dana White putting that belt around your waist when you’ve won. On top of this you can watch videos of fighter interviews as well as unlocking film of their fights.
Despite minor issues with Joe Rogan’s face and the submission mechanics, UFC Undisputed 3 is great fun. Commentary is not distracting, which is a very good thing, and most fighters come with their own entrance music and winning celebrations. Also, online menus are uncluttered and finding a fight is simplicity itself. Although, even at this early stage, you are likely to get someone who has won seventy fights already, and is ready to smash your face in within sixty seconds.
But, the world’s best fighters are there, all able to move up or down a weight division. Georges St-Pierre is all class, Anderson Silva’s knees are just as deadly, while Roy Nelson is just as fat. The fighting is as frantic or as tactical as you want to make it. It’s easy to get started, but has plenty of depth. And, lets not mess around, there’s a lot of very fit, very brutal men, handing out vicious, blood splattered beatings.