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Stepping into the Octagon

It is one of the fastest growing sports around the world and as it has begun to move solely from Pay-Per-View and into the primetime realm of various cable and standard channels, its move into the mainstream is all but guaranteed. Of course, the UFC knows to really grow a relatively new sport in this day and age, they’d have to have at least a small foray as well into the number one entertainment industry in the world: video games. But unlike anything else the UFC had done, they fell into a pattern similar to other sports where they tried to release a game on a yearly basis and after only two attempts they realized that was not the way to go. So they took their time on working on this new title in the hopes of silencing their critics.

Well, I’m happy to say that in many ways the extra time in the gym has really paid off for UFC Undisputed 3. This third chapter in the UFC series sees a bevy of new additions that both hardcore and casual fans have been clamoring for. The first new feature you’ll see as you soon start playing the game is the chance to pick one of two controls schemes. The first, Advanced, controls are the ones that the series used in its first two iterations, where a series of half and three-quarter right joystick turns were required in your ground game. The second, Amateur, controls though is what will make this game much easier to just pick up and play, and maybe help in the education of those more casual fans.

The Amateur controls replace a lot of the right joystick movement that turned the other two games into a waggle-fest for less experienced players and instead a simple flick up or down allows you to perform the transitions necessary for you to lock in some devastating holds. And speaking of the devastating holds, a new submission system mini-game has been put in place to help fans understand if they are winning or losing with their hold and how close they are to tapping or making their opponent tap out.

Unfortunately, even with the new Amateur control system, for people who aren’t as familiar to the sport and are looking to learn more about it, you will still likely have a difficult time as there are so many button and hold combinations, you might be intimidated quickly and feel like you might be better off with a keyboard in front of you than a controller just so you can quick assign your favorites instead of trying to memorize some three-button finger contortion just to pull off a feint. There is a tutorial system, but it is long and boring and will turn you off to the game in the first place if you should choose to suffer through it and so you are left really only with the trial by fire option again.

If you can get past this factor though, there is a great reward for the hard work you’ll put in learning the controls. The career mode is deeper than ever before with better pacing as now you only have to train once or twice between each of your fights and you can better see just how each exercise will benefit you. From speed punching body bags to tire flipping to sparring in the octagon at the gym, there is a plethora of new games just waiting for you to try out in between fights as you try to take your personal fighter, who you create through one of THQ’s celebrated customization modes, from WFA scrub up to UFC superstar. And along the way when you have key moments, you’ll see some never before seen interviews with some of the UFC’s best and brightest talking about how they bounced back from their first loss, how great it felt when they won their first title, or how nervous they were their first time in the octagon.

If you’re not a career mode kind of guy though, don’t worry as the online versus modes have also been fleshed out. For the first time in the series, mirror matches are allowed as well fighting tournament rules that equalize combatants stats to truly see who is the best of the best. There are also all seven UFC weight-classes available now including Bantam and Featherweight fighters. But the most exciting part, especially for old-school MMA fans, may be the new Pride Mode where you can take some of your favorite fighters from today and take them over back in their prime when they fought in Japan or even have fantasy match-ups like pitting Rampage Jackson when he was in Pride against Jon “Bones” Jones. And included in this mode are Pride’s rules meaning face stomping and punting are now allowed. Talk about a game changer.

All in all, this is easily the best UFC title yet and the new additions definitely make it more pick up and play friendly than any other in the series, but that’s not really saying much. And much like an actual fighter in the UFC, you’re still going to have to work relatively hard at the controls if you’re ever going be a force online, but at least now you should stand a chance. Plus, with the additions to career mode, the game at least offers a decent enough single player experience that should online be too much for you, especially as Advanced control schemes trump Amateur ones in lock-ups, you’ll at least get your money’s worth as it will take a decent amount of time to turn your custom fighter into a hall of famer and you’ll have a good time doing it.

SUMMARY: A new control scheme and deeper career mode should lure fans back that were turned off by the last game for one more go in the octagon.

  • THE GOOD: New amateur control scheme helps pick up and playability
  • THE BAD: Even with new controls, hard to shake that button masher feeling
  • THE UGLY: My opponent’s face after dropping a dozen haymakers in a row on them

SCORE: 8.5

UFC Undisputed 3 is available on Xbox 360 and PS3. Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.

King of the Octagon

Up to this point we had seen the new Amateur control scheme and the Pride rules set for UFC Undisputed 3. But the elephant in the room had been “What about the career mode?” since we all knew that would comprise the bulk of the game. Well, the elephant is loose and I had a chance to go hands on and try to tackle the behemoth that this mode has become with all the changes that have been introduced to it.

The first thing you’ll notice when entering career mode are new live action movies that highlight everything you do. From first deciding to become an MMA fighter, to your first victory, to your first defeat, to your first championship, all the major moments of your career come with a short video revolving around a similar moment of either a UFC Hall of Famer or current superstar. Some of the footage has been repurposed from previously released UFC DVDs, but some stuff is completely original for the game.

We then entered into one of THQ’s staple character customization modes. Whether tweaking every fine detail of our fighter ourselves, or using a new “quick face” turn wheel with hundreds of pre-set faces laid out on it, the customization process has never been smoother. After choosing our weight class, we were then asked to select our MMA background. Whether we wanted to be a karate master, a Muay Thai monster, or an all-around MMA all-star, the choice was ours and different moves and move sets we would start with and could later learn would be affected by our choices here.

After deciding what path I would walk down, with UFC Play-by-Play man Mike Goldberg talking us through every moment, we learned about all the in-depth options we now had as we crafted our Ultimate Fighter. The first new feature was “Creds”. By participating in fights, and more so by winning them, we would earn Creds, which basically serve as currency in the game to unlock new gear and sponsor logos and better sparring partners and training equipment in order to increase the ceiling of where we could boost our stats to.

Then came the actual training. With 14 new mini-games, seven in the gym and seven in the octagon with a sparring partner, we could begin working on our stats. From tire lifting, working the heavy bag, and sprawl drills to working on our takedowns and clinches with our partners, the choice was ours in what areas to work on and when.

We were then shown six real world camps, including the legendary Greg Jackson’s American Top Team, where we could learn new maneuvers. From simple things like spinning back fists to more complex submissions, depending on where you study depends on whom you work with and what moves you can learn. After trying all the gyms, you’ll be locked into one and by training loyally at that gym you’ll unlock the right to learn even more involved moves.

Once learning some new moves, we were shown the game plan mode where instead of training, you could come up with a strategy against a particular opponent and if you succeed in the subsequent training, you’ll receive a huge boost to one statistic for one match. For example, if you choose the “Aggressive” game plan, you could end up with a +12 to your punches and kicks.

After all this, we finally got into the octagon and began our careers and played the game as normal. What is great though is that after you go through all the tutorial stuff of each activity you can do, you’re only allowed to do one or two of those listed activities above before your next fight. This still gives you the sense of control you’d want in personalizing your fighter, but it also keeps the action coming at a good pace so you don’t drown in mini-games trying to improve your submission defense stat or trying to learn a spinning back kick.

As you begin advancing up the ranks, that’s when things get the most fun as you start in the WFA and then you start getting a lot more choices about your fighter than the last game’s career mode. More opportunities to change weight classes along with the chance to go into the UFC or even Pride, which has been resurrected at least in this game, and earn their respective championship belts offers you the career management aspect many people have been looking for.

All in all, the Career Mode in UFC Undisputed 3 looks to have finally found that balance of fighting, character management, and customization that should allow players to feel like they are truly in the octagon themselves. This is shaping up to be a simulation worthy of making your wallet tap out and cough up some cash when it is released in February.

So what do you folks think? Are you pumped for the newest chapter in the UFC franchise? Are you excited about the new layout to career mode? Let us know with your comments below!