I've always felt slightly disconnected to EA Sports' take on the UFC games. I don't know if I just loved THQ's UFC Undisputed so much for its feel compared to the more serious approach that EA has taken, or if I just had a better appreciation for its easier grapple game. That's not to say I hated the EA Sports UFC series – in fact, they're pretty good – but it almost feels like they've come up second best to what THQ could do.
But UFC 3, the latest game in the series, shows the right kind of improvement. This is probably the closest in rhythm that the team has gotten to Undisputed's level of play, while at the same time representing the realistic set-up that it's strived for over the years. It's nearly the best of both worlds. It's still not quite championship caliber, but we definitely have a contender here – and it's one UFC fans will be more than content with.
Let's start first with the game's visual appearance. The developers have gone all out to make UFC look more realistic than ever before. The fighter animation is truly impressive, especially when you see the high-flying kicks most of these combatants make, connecting with a face as the sweat (and sometimes blood) goes flying to the mat. I also like the way the presentation centers more on the match, as it resembles something straight out of a telecast. I'm also a fan of the replay system, as you can see the action from multiple perspectives, just in case you miss something.
That said, there are slight issues. First off, I'm a little surprised by the size of certain fighters, either being bigger or smaller than their real counterparts. They're not that big a deal, but die-hard fans may notice certain issues with favorites. Also, there are minor glitches. They're not "a referee's hand wraps around their body before miraculously snapping back into place" hilarious, but they are noticeable. Chances are, though, that EA will clean these up by the time the game launches later this week. So no big worries there.
Looking (and Sounding) Like a Winner
I was hoping for a little more variety in arena choices, but they're cool, right down to the MGM Grand and other venues. Besides, it's all about the octagon here, right? And that looks just like the real deal.
Now, let's get to the sound. This is somewhat a mixed package, though still very true to the nature of what UFC is all about. The music selections are superb, sure to get you in a fighting mood as you strut out to the ring and get ready to knock someone on their butt. Usually, EA Sports' music selections feel a bit off, or go with the popular choices. But here, you can tell someone did their homework. I just wish I could find a way to blare these tunes during matches.
The sound effects are impressive as well, featuring plenty of punches, kicks, crowd noise and ref calls, just like an actual UFC match. They don't go overboard, but, then again, they don't really need to.
Now, let's talk commentary. Joe Rogan once again returns for play-by-play, alongside Urijah Faber, and while they have great chemistry, I can't help but things get a little too repetitive for their own good. Rogan, especially, says the same thing a couple of times during matches. This could've used a little better sound mixing. That said, it is fun to hear these guys get into match-ups, especially after a knock-out. "OHHHHH!"prevnext
Getting Into the Fight
I think some fans may feel better listening to Snoop Dogg. Yep, the rap superstar is actually on hand to provide commentary with KO mode, which we'll get to in a second. He's more relaxed, as if he's sitting in the living room with you, watching the same match as you. It's a unique choice, and some fans won't get enough of it. (We're looking at you, fans that bought the Snoop Dogg voice pack for Call of Duty.)
Now let's talk gameplay. EA Sports UFC 2 was technically set, but the grappling system didn't quite mesh as well as it could have with me, although the striking was on the money. Here, though, we see a better balance between the two, and it's very good.
For instance, offensive and defensive players can now work to either get out of the grapple or strengthen it, or even move around in a new position to try and change up the strategy. There's a little of a learning curve here, but after a few matches, you'll feel how well things come together and either improve at grappling, or work more getting back into general striking. Stick with it, though – there are some great submissions that can earn you a satisfying win.
The striking is still awesome. Watching a foe's face get turned to mush (well, not literally) with a few hits is really something, and landing a key uppercut or powerful kick sends a rush of satisfaction down my spine. In fact, one of the game's modes, KO Mode, actually does away with grappling entirely in favor of a straight up fight. And that helps the game get closer in rhythm to what Undisputed offered. But why isn't it online, though? That would make this such an ideal choice for brawls.prevnext
Options, Options, Options
The two work together to create an experience that's a lot like an actual UFC face-off. There is a very mild disconnect trying to make them blend together at times (like a second), but nothing that will throw you off from strategies and trying to dominate your opponent. Fans of the league will absolutely like how well the game plays overall.
Aside from KO Mode, EA Sports UFC 3 also has a splendid amount of modes, both offline and on. The Ultimate Team is a great way to stack up your hand with some of the league's best, while Career mode lets you build a superstar from scratch and work your way up the ranks.
It can take a little bit of time to earn some of the better benefits within the game, but Ultimate Team is virtually rewarding when it comes to progress. It's a huge step forward from UFC 2 had to offer, and I hope the team keeps pushing forward. Career mode is excellent as well, even if the opening rounds take some getting used to as you become accustomed to your fighter. (Baby steps, though, right?) Just make sure you use your time wisely with training and stuff, and don't start slacking over your own self-promotion. Balance, folks, balance.
Also, the create-a-fighter system is stacked, with a ton of options. Want to create yourself? Go for it. Want to create a freakish super-fighter and give them the name of Bork Laser? Hey, more power to you. You'll love the options available here, and then take your fighter online to dominate the world.prevnext
It'll Hit You Hard
Speaking of online, there is a wealth of options available when it comes to matching up with others. It took me a little time to connect to some matches over the weekend, but EA Sports will have servers ready to go with the game's launch. If anything critical comes up, we'll let you know. But from what I played, it's pretty solid.
On top of that, you can select certain custom rules, or even set up your own pay-per-view if you want to see how fights end up. Again, I do wish KO mode was available online, as that would be a, ahem, big hit with fighting fans. Maybe EA will fix that in the future, fingers crossed.
There are some slight areas where UFC 3 comes up short. There aren't nearly enough stats like in the actual league; the collision detection can be weird (like how I knocked a female opponent down and she went flipping like a cheerleader, which was weird); the judges can make weird decisions if you don't score a knockout or tap-out victory (not that often, but still); and, again, Rogan's repetitiveness. It sets the stage for EA Sports to clean up some stuff for whenever UFC 4 rolls around.
But I digress. Progress has still been made here in spades, and EA Sports UFC 3 has a surprising amount of content both online and off. Better yet, the gameplay feels a lot more natural here, finding that near-perfect balance between the submission game and pounding someone senseless. The presentation is top notch (mind them commentary issues), and there are modes that will keep you busy for months. I still have a mild preference to Undisputed 3, but UFC 3 knocked me for a loop – in a good way.0comments
WWG's Score: 4 out of 5.
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.prev