I have a PlayStation 3, but I am not a gamer – well, I do sometimes spend a few hours a month when I can’t sleep on GT5, but in the main, I use Sony’s masterpiece as a media server more than anything else. So when UFC Undisputed 3 arrived through the letterbox, I was curious to see if it could appeal to someone who actually trains and knows how to fight, but not with a joy pad.
First impressions of Undisputed are good – once you get past the initial slow loading phase of a first install, but after that it is very slick, with strong imagery, UFC branding, and very good character definitions that provide the backbone of your experience.
The ideal way to start your Undisputed experience is by going into the gym and training the basics: drilling takedowns, power strikes, blocks, and movement, as well as working on more complex controls like submissions and escapes. For someone who has a passing interest in the sport, it will provide a useful insight into the actual real work training, but to someone who actively burns their toes on jigsaw mats, there is a welcome familiarity to the way the game is laid out and you can really tell that the research work has been extensive for this release.
Once you have grasped the basic controls you can thrust yourself into the actual challenge of the game – beating opponents in a career timeline or dropping in and out for matches that really appeal in an arcade or exhibition format against the PS3 itself or a willing second player.
Cajoling the wife into being the second player, we set about battling our way through the ranks of the UFC’s weight divisions, each picking our favorite characters of the current roster, but disappointingly, unable to chose some of our heroes from days gone by (i.e., Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and so on). Things improved when we switched over to Pride mode and were able to give San Luis Obispo’s finest a whirl in a totally different environment, as well as a long list of other retired heroes such as Gary Goodridge, Don Frye, and the like.
In fact, we found in arcade mode at least, we preferred the Pride environment, as the character choices were better, the addition of Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten on the commentary, and the referee cam all made the experience more nostalgic and something special – like re-watching your old Pride DVDs.
Moving back to the UFC career mode side of the game, this is where the real longevity in the product comes to the fore. The basic premise being that you can build and customize your own fighter, compete at various events to build experience and skill, as well as building your ranking in a particular category.
The eventual aim is of course to tackle a champion, be it Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, or another standout at the top of the food chain. To do this you will need a healthy training camp and a comprehensive set of skills. Thankfully, you can develop this by training at various camps around the world and honing particular areas of your fighting style that feel may be lacking.
There are times when the process of getting to grips with the game controls can become exasperating, remembering a predefined set of button controls in order to control your character, but that in turn is a process of discovery and provides its own unique learning curve.
Where you might look at a fight in the flesh or training in the gym and identify immediately what it is you or the fighter you are rooting for would need to do, it’s harder when you feel the buttons aren’t responding to your fingers. The thing is, if your competitive streak kicks in, you aren’t going to want the game to beat you, but you really have to put your ego to the side and focus on learning things in a thorough manner and drilling them to perfection.
Visually, the game is stunning and very fluid in its delivery, from ring entrances to action specific commentary, but I somehow found the renders of fighters in Pride mode to be a better likeness to actual fighters – check out Vitor Belfort or Dan Henderson to see what I mean.
UFC Undisputed 3 has a strong appeal if you are a hardcore gamer or, like myself, are a connoisseur of the sport, but not a gamer per se. The career mode is the real meat of the product and has more than enough depth to really draw you in and make it a formidable killer of social life, but the exhibition mode is, in my eyes, the real fun part of the game and something that will no doubt find its way into reception rooms in dojos all over the world.