10 Thoughts On… the UFC Undisputed 3 Demo (Sony PS3, Microsoft XBOX 360)

It may sound silly, but the UFC Undisputed 2009 demo is the reason I became a MMA fan. I randomly tried it at a friend’s house and instantly fell in love with the depth and brutality of the fight controls, and that love soon bled over to the real thing. I now watch pretty much every UFC event I can, and own just about every MMA game that has been released since. Both 2009 and 2010 were in my top ten for their respective years, so Undisputed 3 had a lot to live up to. It also had extra time in development, further putting the pressure on.

Let’s see how things are shaping up.

1. The first thing I noticed was the inclusion of the Pride Fighting Championships in the demo. Players have a choice of Jon Jones vs Anderson Silva in the UFC or Rampage Jackson vs Wanderlei Silva in Pride. While these are great choices, I was definitely disappointed that the newly included Bantamweight and Featherweight classes weren’t represented. It was also interesting to not that, at least in the Light Heavyweight division, Jones had a better rating than the Spider.

2. In the UFC, the game pretty much controls the same. The four face buttons represent strikes with kicks and punches, the shoulder buttons handle attack modifiers and blocking, while the right analog stick is used for all things grappling. The sway mechanic from last year is still here, and it can even be performed on the ground this year. Players who find the half circles of the grappling system too complicated can now use a simplified scheme that has you either flicking the stick up or down.

3. The submission game has seen a complete overhaul. Last game, the controls didn’t make sense and submissions almost never worked unless you spent most of the fight landing body shots to wear down their stamina. Even then, it was a rare feat. This was disappointing because the first game truly captured the chaos of UFC fights by the fact that submissions could happen at any time. There was nothing like countering a ground punch into a kimura and getting the win.

4. Anyways, this game’s attempt leaves me undecided. When attempting a submission, you attack the player by trying to move your bar over theirs in a sort of cat and mouse type mini-game. At first, it seems eerily similar to EA Sports MMA, but this is a whole other animal. I tried several times to lock in a submission, but the controls felt awkward and I couldn’t get used to them. Even after spending most of a ten minute Pride round wearing Silva down, I couldn’t get close. I’m not terribly excited about this new system, but at least there’s some visual feedback to show you where you went wrong. I’m sure once the control scheme sets in a bit, I might actually be able to put someone away.

5. It’s a small gripe, but one that bothers me anyway. When introducing a champion, Bruce Buffer no longer says “the reigning, defending, UFC champion of the world”. He now just says “current” champion. That isn’t how it is in real life, and it just seems odd that they made that change.

6. The Pride fights are mostly similar, but with a few key differences. The first round is ten minutes, followed by two five minute rounds. (Although the demo only allows you to play one round.) You have a ring instead of a cage, and there are some specific positions and animations to reflect that. The biggest change is that you’re allowed to use kicks and knees to the head on a grounded opponent, as well as vicious looking stomps. This changes up how you play on the ground more than anything else, and opens up some vicious new knockouts.

7. One thing they’ve added this year is the ability to finish the fight by leg TKO. Basically, for those of us who like to use leg kicks, this is now an affective strategy to finish the fight. Using Wanderlei, I focused my attention on Rampage’s legs for most of the fight, using quick punches to open up the shot. As his leg deteriorated, he moved more slowly and didn’t have the same power in his takedown attempts. Eventually, I chopped him down with one last kick, causing him to collapse in pain and the ref to call the fight. I was one of the people really bothered by the fact you couldn’t finish a fight this way in previous games, so I was quite happy it was included here.

8. The presentation has seen some nice changes. Fighters now walk down towards the cage while Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan commentate, cluing you into their strengths. In Pride mode, you have a Japanese as well as an English announcer, while Bas Rutten and Steve Quadros call the action. These new guys work great together, and add as much to the fight as the UFC crew.

9. After you finish a fight, you’re shown a video package that includes many of the changes. The career mode has appeared to have been given a massive overhaul. You’ll now have to complete various minigames in order to improve your stats in training. You can also visit real life camps to learn new moves, but there were only six of them. EA Sports MMA had seven, so I’m hoping that UFC makes up for it in extra quality. You can’t try the career mode in the demo though, so fans will have to wait.

10. I knew I was getting my hands on this game either way from the second it was announced, but it was nice to see they didn’t rock the boat too much here. The game appears to add some minor tweaks to the gameplay, keeping the well established mechanics intact. It will be interesting to see what other changes they’ve made to other modes, as well as try out every single one of the one hundred and fifty plus fighters. UFC Undisputed 3 comes out on February 14th.

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