In terms of actual content, the largest, most notable addition is the inclusion of the Pride Fighting Championships. Pride was the largest MMA league in the world for several years, running out of Japan and featuring a different rule-set from the UFC. But while the rules were important, Pride was about the spectacle. It was the the spirit of the samurai, brought to life with bright lights, big stars, and a much, much different vibe from the serious tone of UFC. This year's UFC game doesn't just add the Pride mode's rules, it adds the spectacle, and lets every one of UFC Undisputed 3's 150 fighters do battle in the ring with the full Pride presentation.
Above: Check out the Review Club livestream we did with OXM's Dave Rudden
This means everyone has introductions from the Pride announcers, entrances into the ring, and personalized commentary from Pride's announcers, Bas Rutten and Stephen Quadros. It's an absolute treat, especially for Pride fans, to see fighters tap gloves in the Pride ring that might otherwise never have been able to fight in the classic setting.
But even more interesting is what it actually adds in terms of gameplay. Pride was much more brutal than UFC. The rounds were longer (the first lasts ten minutes, and there are less regulations in terms of what is and isn't a legal strike. Kicks and knees to the head of a downed opponent are banned in UFC, but completely welcome in Pride, meaning that missing a take-down is much more detrimental when there's a chance your opponent might kick you in the head. These changes make the game riskier, and totally change the way we played the game. While we didn't prefer it to regular UFC rules, we found that we were constantly going back for more, just for a change of pace. It's an absolute blast, and kept us coming back time and time again.
Above: That's the definitive "he's going to feel that in the morning" kick
Pride also shows up occasionally in the career mode as a special invitational event, but, sadly, that's where it ends. We really would have liked the option to start our career in Pride to really make it feel like it's a part of the experience, but it's reserved for "special" occasions.There's the inclusion of Pride's Grand Prix events, which were long gauntlets where fighters would sometimes have to fight three or four fighters in a single night, but buried in the "Tournament" menu, which technically makes sense, but isn't very practical. We really would have preferred the Grand Prix show up as Pride's version of the "Title Defense" mode, where players need to fight increasing difficult fighters, as it's an absolute hassle to set up as a tournament, so we ended up barely ever doing it.
In fact, that's our problem with Pride in UFC Undisputed 3, on the whole – it's obvious how much heart went into it, and we wish that Yuke's treated it like something more than a rule set swap. It should have been an integrated part of the game instead of a mode in and of itself. Maybe they're saying it for a sequel, maybe they're saving it for DLC, but whatever the reason we're sad to see Pride kept away when it should have been folded into the overall experience.
Above: Watching Tito Ortiz get punched in the face is our favorite thing
Backing away from the yearly model was a good choice for THQ and Yuke's. With the extra time, the developers were able to truly polish the game, bring forth a game that, while flawed, doesn't have any glaring issues. It's more accessible without losing any of the complexity, it's deeper without being isolating, and it's bursting with content, even if we wish the content was implemented better. The neutered (though technically better) career mode is somewhat of a disappointment, but it's something that we're looking forward to seeing expanded in the sequel – as long as that sequel is more than a year away. Take your time, guys, we'll be playing this one for a while.