Above: Field goal attempt from 40 yards... and it's good!
Forget the new submission system, forget the simplified transitions, and forget the addition of featherweight and bantamweight classes. Forget all of the upgrades, updates, and fixes in UFC Undisputed 3. We spent a few hours passing the controller back and forth, trying out the game’s new combat and fighters, but none of the additions we saw were as cool as the inclusion of the Pride Fighting Championships. Pride was a mixed martial arts professional fighting league out of Japan that the UFC purchased in 2007. Now, in the third iteration of the fighting franchise, THQ has added a Pride Mode to their game, letting gamers get a chance to step into the squared-circle for something different than a typical UFC event.
And it’s absolutely freaking brutal.
In any given UFC competition, 80% of all fights will eventually go to the ground, with the fighters wrestling and elbowing each other to try and either daze their opponent, or get them into a good position for a submission.
Above: He's going to feel that in the morning. And the morning after that.
Such is not the case in Pride. Sure, some fights go to the ground, but rolling around on the mat isn’t as safe as it is in UFC. Why? Because Pride also allows soccer kicks to the head (ouch), head stomps (ouch ouch), and knees to the head (ouch ouch ouch), so the defensive “laying on the ground and hoping your opponent lets you stand up” position simply doesn’t work as well. If you lay on the ground, someone’s going to stomp on you with their bare feet, and your face is going to be reduced to a puddle of blood.
Being able to kick up towards your opponent’s face when you were on the ground made laying down fairly safe in UFC Undisputed 2011. In a way, it was almost a dominant position, and the opponent usually had to let you up, since there usually wasn’t an easy way to get into a good position on the ground. Now that your opponent can just grab your foot and step on your nose, he’s less likely to stand back as you kick your feet and flail. He’s going to run up, grab on, and start stomping on your head.
Above: A trailer for UFC Undisputed 3's Pride Mode.
The added ability to dodge attacks on the ground made the stomping into an interesting mini-game of sorts. Dodging is as easy as pressing in one direction or the other, and makes for intense sequences. When the stomps did land, though, it was wonderful and violent. The soccer kicks to the head are even more brutal, and absolutely thrilling when they connect.
Pride Mode comes with more than just Pride rules, though. Commentators Bas Rutten and Stephen Quadros narrate the fights, and the Octagon is replaced with a traditional four-sided ring. Even the referee is replaced, fully selling the Pride Fighting Championship feel.
Above: Knees to the head hurt no matter which country you're fighting in.
All of the Pride fighters (about 30) THQ added can be used with either UFC or Pride rules and vice versa. That means you can take Brock Lesnar and Chuck Liddell into the squared-circle and have them stomp on each other’s heads, even though they’d never meet in a Pride ring in reality.
There’s only one downside to the Pride rules that we noticed, and it’s not something that will bother most people. Purists have often complained that UFC Undisputed’s matches end too quickly. Real UFC matches often go all three rounds, with the winner being decided by the judges instead of a knockout or submission. In the games, however, fights infrequently make it out of the first round. It’s not a problem with the game, per say, but with the way people play it – when you’re not actually worried about having your nose broken, you’re less likely to protect it. With Pride rules added in it’s even easier to play things risky, and we saw fights ending just as fast as they did before, if not faster. It’s not going to be a problem for those just looking to have a good time with the game, but traditional UFC (or Pride) fans will likely be upset to hear that their largest complaint has gone largely unaddressed.
For everyone else, though, Pride Mode is an absolute blast, and we can’t wait to see if it works its way into the game’s Career Mode when the game launches in February.