Having already played the game for a hands-on preview experience, I wasn't surprised to see just how well put together it is when played in my own home. Both newcomers and expert players alike will have no choice but to appreciate the phenomenal MMA experience THQ has crafted in UFC Undisputed 3.
No sooner does the game load up you're immediately immersed in the world of UFC. Clips of real-life fighters are shown between clips of animated characters, leaving you with no doubt as to how good the graphics are in-game. You're immediately asked if you want to try the tutorial and are given a choice between the original controls (which involve many twists and turns of the analog stick), or the newer, simpler version (push up or down,) designed to give just about anyone the chance to play without feeling intimidated.
The tutorial starts off great, explaining moves alongside techniques as well as why it's useful during matches. Once explained, you're then asked to successfully perform the move a certain amount of times before you begin to learn something new. Newbies will wish to stick to the beginner tutorials until they've mastered those as some of the later moves may seem too complicated at first. When you're tired of the tutorial, or simply feel you know enough to start a proper match, you can exit and continue where you left off later on if you wish.
When you're ready to fight, you can either play as an in-game fighter modeled after the real-life UFC fighters, or you can customize your own. As is with most custom-characters you may spend a good chunk of time modeling your perfect fighter, right down to the scars and tattoos you want him to have. You can even choose how he enters the ring and how he reacts to winning or losing a match. If you choose the in-game fighters, every detail right down to current tattoos and muscle conditioning is showcased in every detail. Even their stances and the way they kick, punch, and feint mimic their real-life counterparts, making it all the more fun to play as your favourite fighter.
The graphics are amazing, capturing the glory and feel a real UFC tournament entails. The regular UFC tournaments look very natural due to realistic colouring and shading, whereas Pride is truly captured by the over-bright white lighting and the crazy light-shows that accompany the techno beats when you fight. As you punch and kick in either setting, bruises and other evidence of the fight begin to show on the fighters, adding to the realism and feel of the game.
Each round in the octagon begins the same as any UFC event; the announcer discussing the upcoming match, the two fighters' entrances, the process up to their entering the arena, and the hype from the announcers throughout the whole thing. You can sit back and soak up the atmosphere, or you can skip over the visuals and head straight to the match. Once you begin, game tips will pop up periodically to remind you of what moves you can do. These pop up for every match unless you disable them in the options menu which also has a list of all your moves and how to do them. Between rounds, announcers will discuss the pros and cons of each fighter and you'll also be coached on what you did right as well as what you need to focus on, giving you a better idea of how to improve your fighting skills. Ultimately, if you've seen a proper UFC match on TV or in real-life, then you know exactly what to expect when playing this game.
The regular style of UFC is the standard MMA you expect, whereas Pride is truly a different experience altogether. Pride hasn't been around for many years, so to stay true to form THQ ensured that only fighters who've fought in Pride are eligible to fight, and their in-game looks reflect how they were at that time. In Pride, moves such as stomping on an opponent's head while they're on the ground or repeatedly kneeing someone while you have them in submission are more than allowed, they're expected.
In both, a new submission system has been introduced, making it easier to figure out what's going on. A diagram of an octagon is shown and blue for the blue corner, likewise for the red, are shown along the perimeter: the fighter who's trying to overtake the other must literally overtake their opponent's colour on the diagram in order to overtake them in the game. This makes it very easy to understand and is a significant improvement over the previous UFC, where players would have to quickly mash their buttons in the hopes of overtaking someone.
Unlike button-mashing fighting games, UFC fighter A.I. can't be beat by merely tapping the same button repeatedly. Like in real-life fights, you need to learn how to use punches, kicks and even feints to beat your opponents. Every style of MMA has been incorporated, ensuring that you have every chance to succeed so long as you work what works for you best. Without developing your own fighting style, you will only get so far in the game.
You can choose to show stats on-screen, giving you an idea of each fighter's stamina and where they're hurting most, or you can opt-out and hope for the best. With a "paper doll" of each fighter on screen, however, you can see just how badly you or your opponent is hurt and fight accordingly.
You can choose to play one match at a time or opt for a great career mode to follow. Impressively, career mode comes complete with real-life interviews of the fighters along with voice-overs during the game. When you're not doing so well, an inspiring interview will address some of the hardships the fighter has faced, boosting your enthusiasm for your hopefully triumphant next match. You work your way up to the top, but unlike other "story mode" games if you do poorly you'll fall toward the bottom again and have to train some more. Some of the comments the announcers will make based on your history in the league are most impressive, showing that even the smallest of details have been addressed in the game. It's well-paced and truly a feature every fan will appreciate as it's about as in-depth with UFC you can get from the comforts of your living room.
Though you immediately start with over 150 fighters to choose from, several more, along with other features, are available through DLC. Even so, the game itself has more than enough to keep any fighter happily occupied.
UFC Undisputed 3 is the amazing result of THQs efforts to improve on their last rendition of the game. It's without question that the excellent graphics, in-depth detail, and the overall feeling of actually being involved in the UFC, make this game a big success and a must-have for any UFC fan, both new and old.