UFC Undisputed 3 hands-on preview

Back in 2009 THQ and the hotter-than-ever UFC were a match made in MMA heaven, as the game redefined how fighting games could play, becoming one of the year's biggest titles. 2010's version was a very good update, but it wasn't as financially successful, leading the devs to make a surprising decision: take 18 months instead of the normal 12 to make their third UFC game, UFC Undisputed 3. Was the time off enough for the team to create something special?

As we jumped in for our first match, everything quickly returned to us. Soon we were dominating the opening slugfest, entering the clinch and throwing our opponent up against the cage. It was nice to see so much familiar stuff from the start, as few that played the previous games would find fault in the stand-up gameplay. Strikes flew fast and precise, though you had to be careful to watch your stamina, as you're playing as real people, not superhuman street fighters.

The stand-up game has been altered some, with new strikes added, along with new defensive choices. For one thing, you no longer need to just tough out an opponent’s leg kicks thanks new blocking options let you stifle a kick attempt to your legs, doing damage to the adversary in the process. Additional you can fake out your enemy with new strike feints that cancel a strike halfway through and are easily followed up with a real punch.

The ground game has been updated even more, though we’re not totally sold on all of it. We’d say the ground strikes are improved, what with the new added positions along with the ability to use the sway system from the ground, but we’re less convinced of the huge overhaul of the submissions. Though we liked that the controls in UFC were dense enough to make the 20 minute tutorial at the game’s start basically mandatory, it seems many players had trouble with the old grappling system, as completing a submission has been totally changed. Now, once a sub begins, what could easily be described as a minigame begins where an octagon pops up on screens, and the subber tries to cover the subbees portion of the octagon, turning grappling into a weird chase around the eight-sided structure. We’ll admit we had trouble with the old way of grappling, but after our first time with it, this feels fairly dumbed down.

Other updates also step away from reality, but in ways we can already appreciate. For one thing you can finally have mirror matches, meaning a UFC fighter can at last face off against himself. Another move made by the devs to appease players is the ability to customize the fight rules, such as removing cut stoppages and flash knockouts, or making a fighter’s stats normalized to even the playing field no matter who you choose. Lastly, a little extra brutality was added to knockouts, as you can get in a few late hits on a downed opponent should you so choose. Sure, a real UFC ref would stop the fight immediately for the personal health of the defeated, but the digital officials are much less worried.

Unfortunately, in our time with it the devs weren’t showing off the addition of the Pride fighters, the Japanese promotion that once dominated the UFC but is now part of the octagonal empire. We did enjoy our experience, despite our issues with the submissions, as we kept playing match after match, hoping the devs would forget to take the demo back with them. UFC Undisputed 3 comes out early next year, so hopefully we’ll at least get a few more rounds with it before then.

Aug 29, 2011

Henry Gilbert

Henry Gilbert is a former GamesRadar+ Editor, having spent seven years at the site helping to navigate our readers through the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation. Henry is now following another passion of his besides video games, working as the producer and podcast cohost of the popular Talking Simpsons and What a Cartoon podcasts.