Improving the game’s accessibility is high on the agenda for Undisputed this time around, and a couple of new features work towards that. First off the submission system, which previously had you rotating the right-analog stick as fast as you could to land or defend a submission, has been overhauled. Now any time a submission is initiated an octagon-shaped HUD appears with a bar representing each of the combatants on the outside edge of the octagon HUD. A cat and mouse minigame ensues, with the aggressor trying to get their bar to overlap their opponents for long enough to complete the submission, while the defender tries to keep the bars apart until the timer runs out. There is a meter on-screen that shows how close the submission is to completion which gives a clear and precise visual representation of success and failure.
To go along with the new submission system, players can now choose between Pro and Amateur controls for transitions in the clinch and ground game. In the past minor and major transitions were done with quarter and half rotations of the right-analog stick, and this remains the case if you select Pro controls. Anyone who found that too challenging can now select Amateur controls which simply require you to press up or down on the right-analog stick to perform transitions.
There are heaps of other moves and techniques to learn but newcomers shouldn’t feel overwhelmed as there is a comprehensive tutorial that both explains and shows you what to do. There are sixty-two tasks all up, ranging from beginner to expert, and spending the required half an hour to complete the tutorial is highly recommended. You’ll learn things like how to sway out of the way of attacks, how to catch punches and kicks, how to use the octagon to your advantage as well as how to feint moves or target one-hit knockouts among other things.
All game modes from UFC Undisputed 2010 return so you can participate in exhibitions, career, online, Ultimate Fights, title mode, title defense mode, tournaments and event mode. The biggest change here is the addition of Pride FC. For those unfamiliar with Pride FC, it was a separate fighting organization that ran out of Japan up until a few years ago. The UFC bought it out when it ran into financial difficulties, and many of the fighters from Pride made their way to the UFC in the process. Pride differed from UFC in that it took place in a ring and had ropes instead of a cage. Also some of the fighting rules differ – in Pride you can’t elbow opponents but you can blast downed opponents with knees, or use the soccer kick to separate their head from their shoulders if the opportunity presents itself. There were subtle differences to judge’s scoring in Pride, and the first round went for ten minutes rather than the five minutes the UFC uses.
Training drills improve your attributes (strength, cardio, footwork and speed), while sparring drills improve your individual skills. There are seven training drills and seven sparring drills to choose from, and while that sounds like a lot you’re probably going to get sick of some of them by the end of your 48-fight career. As in the past you learn new moves by going to fight camps, but unlike past years you’re locked into one specific camp after a certain point in your career, making your choice more important. The game plan feature is more useful now because you can scout your upcoming opponent pre-fight. If you successfully stick to your game plan in the fight you’ll gain permanent skill increases (and decreases) for your fighter.
A few other neat features added to career this time include real-life fighter interviews when you reach certain checkpoints in your career, such as first win, first loss and your first title shot. As mentioned above you can now fight in Pride, but only occasionally and only in the Pride GP, which ties you up for three fights. Be aware that Pride doesn’t have divisions below welterweight so if you’re in a lower weight-class you won’t get the chance to fight in Pride. One other change (that’s present in other game modes as well) is your corner will give you comments on what you’re doing well and where you can improve in between rounds. I like that this was included in the game, but to be honest it’s not always that useful.
Event mode lets you put together the fight card of your dreams with up to eight fights on the card. Alternatively you can download previous or upcoming pay-per-views if you’re not feeling very creative. Ultimate Fights lets you recreate or rewrite history in some of the greatest fights of all time. You can control either fighter and you’re given a list of objectives to complete during the fight. In the past you could complete these at any point during the fight, but now you have to complete them in order and within a specific time-frame. This ensures that fights play out closely to the real thing and can make for exciting races against the clock.
As far as multiplayer goes you can play locally or online. Local games against friends are heaps of fun and run as smoothly as you’d expect. In a perfect world online play would be much the same, but as at the time of writing this is not the case. Currently there are major disconnection issues in both the lobby and during fights. It is possible to complete a fight, but at present, based on my experience, that’s a less than 50-50 proposition. THQ is aware of the problems and is working on a fix so hopefully things will improve soon, but currently online play has major problems. If the online service sorts itself out you’ll be able to compete in exhibition fights, join or create an online fight camp with up to fifteen other friends and share created content with the online community.
Disappointingly Title Defense mode, which could be an epic battle against one-hundred consecutive fighters, is plagued by the same problem. The issue here is compounded by the presentation which includes fighter introductions, tale of the tape and ring entrances before every fight. After playing the game for any length of time you’ll definitely be skipping as much as possible, but the time it takes to do so is galling. One-hundred fights with three minutes loading/saving between each fight is no-one’s idea of fun.
Title Defense has the potential to be awesome, but they need to cut the presentation down to a minimum and make it more arcadey in the sense that fights happens straight after one another. I’d also prefer it if fighters didn’t repeat in this mode – once you clear out a division you should start fighting people from the next division up. Also, the fact that you can’t save your progress in Title Defense is silly. Who in their right mind is going to play one-hundred straight fights? You’d need somewhere between eight and ten hours to have a chance at completing it. Having safe spots every twenty-odd fights makes a lot of sense – in its current form Title Defense simply isn’t a mode people will attempt to complete.
The sound is solid but by no means spectacular. There’s not much music beyond the theme songs of the UFC and Pride, but they’re perfectly recreated. Crowd noise is noticeably quieter here than in other sports games, with the developers preferring you to hear the corner-men shouting out advice as well as the commentary. Speaking of the commentary, having Bas Rutten and Stephen Quadros back in the booth for Pride fights is fantastic. They’re funny and interesting in a way Mike Goldberg will never be able to rival. Listening to Bas and Quadros makes me want to petition Dana White to get them back in the booth for UFC fights. The Pride commentary is great but also limited, so you’ll be hearing many of the same stories before long.
UFC Undisputed 3 improves on its predecessors by making the game more accessible, improving the submission game and career mode as well as adding Pride fights. Unfortunately there are problems to go along with the improvements – online play is nearly broken (which THQ are working on), long load times significantly affect the flow of most game modes and Title Defense is poorly conceived this time around. During fights UFC Undisputed 3 is the best game in the series so far, it’s just too bad that the flaws overshadow that.
Review By: Mike Allison