UFC Undisputed 3 Review

Richard Walker

Punching and kicking faces has never been more popular. Not lately anyway. And with MMA and by extension the UFC brand now part of the everyday cultural lexicon and zeitgeist, the UFC Undisputed series is the daddy of virtual mixed martial arts. There's no disputing that. Yet, having broken the pattern of yearly updates for UFC Undisputed 3, just how much more bang for your buck does it offer over UFC Undisputed 2010?

Well first off, there's the integration of the PRIDE mode with its own ruleset, allowing soccer kicks and head stomps, but no nasty elbows to the dome. That would be awful. Kicking someone's head like a ball is all good though. Then there's the biggest roster of fighters yet, adding the bantamweight and featherweight divisions, allowing for speedier, more lithe pugilists like Uriah Faber and Damacio Page.

Of course, you've still got the usual stable of fighters to choose from, with UFC giants like Georges St-Pierre, BJ Penn, Rampage Jackson, Mirko Cro Cop, Cain Velasquez, Frank Mir and cover star Anderson Silva all present and correct. Movement has been improved too, with basic animations all motion-captured by a pro-fighter for each weight class, and the same great physics engine still does its job fantastically. Therefore you can expect the same kind of ebb and flow during fights, especially on the higher difficulty settings, where careful tactics invariably win out over wild button mashing.

"Have a sniff on that."

Still, as a button masher, there's plenty of fun to be had on the game's default settings and the ground and grapple aspects can be played with either simplified amateur controls or pro controls to suit your tastes. There's also the option to switch stamina to simulation, and with a new stamina system, managing your fighter's energy level is now more of a concern. This is especially true in the traditional square circle of the PRIDE fights, where the opening round lasts ten minutes.

Authenticity is still very much the watchword for UFC Undisputed 3, so the presentation remains unchanged to fit in with the televised sport, which also means loads of menus and screens to wade through as always. Visually, UFC 3 continues to stand up as one of the finest sports titles around, with superb fighter models and likenesses, making it about as close to watching the real thing as you can get. The animation is slicker too, and the impact of your strikes is as chunky and convincing as it should be, resulting in nasty cuts, bruises and a blood-spattered canvas.

Less bloody, but no less painful are the submissions, which have been given a whole new system to master. It's one that completely shatters the realism with a big octagon overlay on the screen, tasking you with chasing your opponent around the HUD and holding position using the right stick until he taps out. It's not particularly elegant, although it does beat indiscriminately twirling the stick like a maniac.

Loading times in UFC 3 are also still a pain though, but seem to have been slightly optimised, yet not to a point where you'll be satisfied to sit twiddling your thumbs while looking at a dull load screen. This is especially annoying in Career Mode, where there are a lot of menus to navigate through, each with its own loading sequence to endure. Granted, it's a slight niggle, but a niggle nonetheless.

"Weeeee! I'm a plane!"

Speaking of Career Mode, UFC Undisputed 3's has been nicely streamlined and refined, so scheduling fights, training and furthering the fledgling career of either your very own created fighter or any of the fighters from the UFC or PRIDE rosters, can be as straightforward or as complicated as you want it to be. Training games are far more involving than before, focusing upon key disciplines that you actually then perform in a fashion that makes perfect sense. So, hitting the heavy bag for instance, actually improves footwork, striking and so on, providing you do it properly of course.

UFC 3's career structure is more accessible than before too, and there's no need to worry about your fighter's form and stamina decaying anymore, as that's been done away with. You'll still need to be mindful of your stats though, as neglecting a certain area in your fighter's game can have a detrimental effect on the area in question. Career milestones are also punctuated by UFC videos and interviews with real-life UFC pros, which is a neat touch. When you experience your first win, loss, title fight or whatever, there'll be an accompanying video with an insightful anecdote or piece of archive footage attached. Earning cred also enables you to purchase items to wear and please your sponsors, and joining camps gives you moves to learn and level up. There's loads to do.

Career might be the crux of UFC Undisputed 3 as ever, but there's a wealth of content to be found in the Title Mode, Title Defence and Ultimate Fights Mode, the latter of which presents you with classic UFC fights to relive and re-write by completing progression-based tasks with each fighter, preceded by a video introduction. There's Tournament Mode too, which is pretty self-explanatory, and Event Mode that gives you the chance to create your own event card to play through, meaning you can effectively run the show. During all of this fighting, you can edit and upload your very own highlight reels too, thanks to UFC Undisputed 3's content sharing, which allows you to watch and rate other highlight reels, share logos, banners and any other custom stuff you've created.

"Wait! I've thrown my back out!"

UFC Undisputed 3 also does online of course, and as well as giving you the option to engage in ranked or player exhibition bouts, you can join or create Fight Camps once again. Thankfully, it's a case of quality and quantity both online and offline, although during the fights we had on Xbox Live, we did experience more than a little bit of lag on occasion, which marred the experience somewhat. Multiplayer still fares better than UFC Undisputed 2010's though, and now features mirror matches, effectively eliminating arguments that one player always picks the superior fighter. Now you can both play as the same brawler and purely test your skill. During your online career, you'll also accumulate points and be able to monitor your standing on the leaderboards, so those wins and losses really matter. Finding a match is also quick and simple, which is always a plus.

As a fighter UFC 3 might be balanced, and you could possibly say the same of the game's achievement list. Reaching the milestone of having 500 fights online will take an eternity and winning five matches online can be a big ask for less experienced players, but there's a range of comparatively easy achievements to earn that encourage you to play all of the various modes the game has to offer. There's actually quite a good spread of achievements across UFC 3's component parts, but you'll really need to put in the hours to unlock them all.

The extra development time that breaking out of the pattern of yearly iterations affords has really helped in refining and adding to UFC Undisputed 3 as an overall package, but despite knowing that virtually every facet of the game has been bolstered in some way, there's still the nagging feeling that it's basically more of the same. That's not necessarily a bad thing however, as UFC Undisputed 3 remains unchallenged as the king of the MMA genre.


Grating rocking rock music will soon drive you insane, but the atmosphere of the octagon and the commentary is right on the money. That said, the commentary does have a tendency to repeat itself quite a bit.

Fighter likenesses and animations are superb, and all the cuts and bruises look suitably raw and bloody. Arenas are atmospheric and detailed, replicating the televised PRIDE and UFC events impeccably.

UFC Undisputed 3 is the most accessible UFC game yet, with fluid fighting and the option to keep things as simple or as intricate as you want. It's as intuitive to play as ever, but the refinements make it a more playable game than before.

Like any UFC Undisputed game, the third in the series isn't lacking in modes and options to play with. There's Tournament, Title, Title Defence, Tournament and Event modes, not to mention Ultimate Fights and online Fight Camps to get swept up in, as well as a meaty Career Mode to fight through. Stellar stuff as usual.

A pretty standard achievement list, but one that requires you play all of the various modes and explore everything the game has to offer. It's a list that'll have you playing for a long time, and should keep you coming back for more.

UFC Undisputed 3 is a triumphant return for the ultimate fighting champion, with more modes and options than you can shake a clenched fist at. In the octagon, the action is tighter, more fluid and still fun to play, but the submission system seems like a misstep and overall, we can't shake the feeling that deep down, it's essentially more of the same.

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