The Average Gamer

UFC Undisputed 3 Hands-On Preview

“He’s looking for a Kimura”

Get used to this. You’ll be hearing it a lot, at least if the tournament I played is anything to go by. The development team at THQ have worked hard on making the commentary system sound natural. “You’re actually getting live broadcast feeds,” I was told by senior designer Wes Bunn. “The UFC gives us all their mic feeds and our sound team chop up every bit of commentary from every fight and incorporate it into the game. So when you hear a guy say ‘Oh, nice left head kick’, that came from a fight somewhere.”

Led by Antoine Peltier, the audio have actually done a great job, especially with the contextual commentary. Turn off the main VO and you’ll hear your coaches shouting at you to get your guard up or protect your head. Still, when certain submission positions like the Kimura are easier to get into than others, you’re bound to hear some lines repeated over and over (and over) again.

The team had to use a different approach for the new PRIDE mode in this game, since PRIDE matches no longer take place. “We’ve added a whole new commentary team with the PRIDE Fighting Championships so everything you have in the UFC had to be mirrored for PRIDE. We did that with Bas Rutten and Stephen Quadros who were two of the commentators at the time. It’s a little more WWE-ish – they’re making jokes, they’re talking about the sport and the history as opposed to technical descriptions of what’s going on in the cage.”

I also spoke to Bunn about the game’s controls. “One of the big pillars that we wanted to do for this game was accessibility. We kind of fell into a lull with [UFC Undisputed] 2010 after 2009 came out. We just assumed everybody knew how to play our game and what we found was that the new players who picked it up were getting lost and frustrated and didn’t understand how to do things. We went back to our roots with 3 and brought back more of the tutorial aspect so whenever you jump into a fight for the first time, you’re gonna get these pop-ups that come up and tell you how to play the game.”

The last fighting game I played was WWE ’12 and the contrast between controls for the two games is obvious. Where W’12 requires frequent and confusing shifts between the face buttons and the thumb sticks to pull off a single move, UFC3 splits control-sets into a number of different “modes”.

Loosely speaking, you focus on the face buttons for out-and-out combat and the thumb sticks for grappling and movement. You’ll have access to different types of punch, kick and motion (or “transition” in UFC parlance) depending on whether you’re standing, in a clinch or on the ground but the controls themselves remain consistent. With the help of the initial tutorial pop-ups, this separation makes the system much easier to learn and modifiers like the left stick, bumper and trigger add depth and variety for the more experienced fighter.

Exhibition matches are your quickplay option to fight as a professional UFC competitor like Anderson Silva and this is what’s available in the demo that came out this week. As a mixed martial arts competition, UFC is more brutal than its entertainment-focused contemporaries. There are two ways to win a match: tire out or beat your opponent to a bloody pulp until he can no longer intelligently defend himself; or hold him (and it’s always a him) in a submission pose until he “taps-out” and admits defeat. In Undisputed 3 you’ll find that fighters have noticeably different strengths and weaknesses. Swinging punches with a kickboxer will deplete your stamina faster than it should and trying to throw an experienced wrestler to the ground while playing as a boxer will get you on the wrong side of a submission. Knowing your individual fighter’s skills is key. This is where Career mode comes in.

Supposedly the mainstay of UFC Undisputed 3, the Career mode is where you design and train your own fighter to battle your way up the ranks. In focusing on accessibility for new players, it seems to me that the team have erred too far on the side of education. Creating the avatar for your new fighter is easy enough. The problem starts when you choose your fighter’s specialities.

Everything seems to require half a dozen button presses to either select something, learn about it or skip the annoying verbal history. Once you finally navigate through the maze of menus you’re forced into a sparring session to determine your level of skill in that particular discipline.

This is fine for the first couple of rounds of just mashing the punch/kick/grapple button until the sparring meter fills up. When 15 minutes later you’re still struggling through menus and tutorials, it’s very tempting to just put the controller down and walk away. Sure, you can skip the sparring matches (after sitting through the loading screen) but you won’t get the stats boost for your character. Given that there are 62 individual tutorials you can choose to play through from a separate menu, forcing this seems like an unnecessary hindrance for those who are experienced or want to just get on with it.

When you’re in the cage, this game can be great fun. Pounding away on your opponent as he lies dazed on the floor triggers an incredible endorphin rush of satisfaction. Even watching other people play is entertaining. Matches are brutal and quick and I guarantee that any spectators will let out a collective “Ooo” of anticipation when you successfully daze your opponent with a solid blow to the head. It’s what happens outside the cage that lets it down.

UFC Undisputed 3 will be released on 17th February for Xbox 360 and PS3. The demo is available for download now.