MMA is one of the most electrifying combat sports televised in this age and has generated a cult following around the world, pitting kickboxers, Jujitsu specialists, boxers, wrestlers and all-around fighters in an octagon to prove who has what it takes to become the next UFC champion.
The atmosphere in pre-fight presentation instantly creates this bit of doubt as Joe Rogan mouths off about your opponent’s abilities and how height, reach and age might be to your advantage or disadvantage. After the charismatic ring entrances you inevitably square off on the mat, staring each other down and notice the look of hate in the face of your opponent, the bell rings and you immediately get the feeling that you’re in for a damn good exchange of fists, elbows, knees and legs.
UFC 3 is a visual spectacle with character models of the highest order, which would be expected as it was built by the same team that brought us the iconic Fight Night series. Did other areas of the game land some high point scoring punches though? Let’s leave that up to the judge’s decision.
Looking for a fight
The first thing you’ll notice going from UFC 2 to UFC 3 is that the latter has improved facial expressions and reactions in every moment. Each fight has it’s level hype to it, with crowds in the background being the orchestra and the fight commentators being the conductor. Each punch, kick, and throw to the mat sounds and looks more connected. With your stamina playing the biggest role in any fight, you’re bound to how much you can let out in a flurry of strikes and kicks and attempted submissions. This may sound like a hindrance, but it actually helps you to learn quick combinations and control the fight along with reading your opponent and practising patience. UFC 3 tries to emulate the real thing as much as possible to capture the atmosphere and hype around each fight, and it has achieved this over its previous instalment. Character models seem more animated and have their own personalities with facial expressions to match, and you’ll get to experience it in the single player G.O.A.T. and Ultimate Team modes.
Each fight has it’s level hype to it, with crowds in the background being the orchestra and the fight commentators being the conductor. Each punch, kick, and throw to the mat sounds and looks more connected.
G.O.A.T is your rise through your weight class where you can either choose an existing or randomly generated fighter or go all out and create a detailed digital version of yourself. You’ll choose everything from weight class, fighting style and difficulty of the opponents you face. Figuring out your own fighting style might take a few rounds of getting destroyed in the Fight Now mode which lets you just jump into the ring and run through the moves and traits of the fighter you chose. This is what makes the G.O.A.T mode more for the serious MMA enthusiasts who want to obtain specific move sets based on the profile of the fighter they’ve created. Although it is a bit short, I figure it gives you the chance to try it again with a new fighter in a different weight class or attributes. This mode has also received a lot more attention and has become more immersive with absolute focus required to mould your ultimate fighter.
During your career, you have the opportunity to train at various gyms that offer unique training and challenges to unlock moves and tactics (no loot boxes, yay!) With it comes a social aspect where you engage with your fans on social media by utilising the set interactions you’ll come across which differ for each gym you attend, linked to your popularity as a fighter. Doing the challenges can be equal amounts satisfying and frustrating as you tend to go up against masters of their craft and really need to focus on the task at hand, including sparring sessions with a fighter who will mimic your next opponent, but to a more aggravated and intense degree which rewards you with a hint of what to expect from them in the ring.
Ultimate Team essentially forces you to learn the moves for the real world fighters you’ve added to your team of bruise buddies. It’s quite a learning curve when you switch from a brawler to a technical submission artist which in turn will see you get knocked out if you don’t play to their strengths. Multiplayer requires a level of confidence in your own ability and understanding your fighter and your opponent. If you come up against someone playing with McGregor, just know you’re in for a brawl and a couple of pin-point left hooks to drill your head down onto the mat. There is a slight delay in bashing the button and watching your fighter throw a punch or kick, but your opponent experiences the same which becomes evident in some wayward strikes thrown from across the ring, but it’s something you can quickly adapt to.
It’s satisfying hitting those hard strikes using the additional modifiers with the X, Y, B and A buttons. It also depends on whether the opponent doesn’t play ultra defensive or is looking for you to run out of steam. This is Mixed Martial Arts though, so you should expect a few fighters trying to pin or smash you onto the mat and pummel you to sleep or twist your joints into submission. This is where the familiar glitches plague the game.
Is this what a pretzel feels like?
Getting to understand how the ground game works and how best to approach it in the real world is tough enough, so I can understand why it’s not an easy task for EA Vancouver to get this element of the game running smoothly. In this set of close wrestling, Thai and submission sections involving standing clinches, grapples and ground holds, not much has changed since UFC 2. These two phases of MMA are largely the same in UFC 3. Players are encouraged to push in a direction on the right stick to defend a takedown from a standing position, but it seems the visual cues either tend to show up in a millisecond blip on the screen or are non-existent. I understand that it could be due to my fighters lack of defence capability against these phases, but if you see a right stick icon doing nothing except just sitting there and not giving you any option to defend yourself, makes you dread ever being in a clinch with any player. Frantically wiggling does not help either, you’re bound to go to the mat.
Multiplayer requires a level of confidence in your own ability and understanding your fighter and your opponent. If you come up against someone playing with McGregor, just know you’re in for a brawl and a couple of pin-point left hooks to drill your head down onto the mat.
It’s at this point that I wished the fight stick mechanics of Fight Night were used here and a simpler way of defending against grapples and clinches were introduced. But, I have no idea what other means of defence could be introduced, so I guess it’s more time in the training area to fine tune my fighter’s abilities to thwart such advances.
Head, head, leg, body, head, head…
What I’ve learned about the multiplayer and Ultimate Team modes of this game is that rush attacks are common when facing a human opponent. The best way to combat this is to carefully and tactically select your team of fighters and learning their unique moves to a point where your combinations are impossible to defend against. Doling out modified hooks and uppercuts and foregoing the essential jab in between can easily drain your stamina to a point where your punches are rendered akin to that of throwing marshmallows at your competitor in the ring. The same goes for online multiplayer as the majority of the people you’ll face-off with are looking for the quick knockdown and ground pound.
Ultimate Team, however, can be stacked against you when you end up in the octagon against someone who’s pre-ordered the game and unlocked some premium meat tenderizers. It’s all up to your knowledge of your fighter’s abilities then and hoping you don’t eat a roundhouse kick.
Within the Ultimate Team mode, you’ll also find Ultimate Championships, which is a ranked mode. Here your opponents and their fighters are random and also incorporates all the focus on your fighter and unlocking new abilities, but with that, your opponent may have changed their fighter’s abilities just to throw you off, especially when someone rocks up with Silva and you expect to smell their sweaty feet constantly, but get surprised by being on the mat tapping out from an arm lock.
The Greatest of All Time
Even with simplified grappling and submission controls, UFC 3 is still an enthusiast’s game in the genre. The detailed character models, movement, atmosphere, invigorating commentary which can get a bit stale (granted that these moments happen during ground game sessions) and meatier sound effects than its predecessor, EA has succeeded in creating a close-to-real representation of what the MMA encompasses and offers as the ultimate martial arts championship. In the absence of Fight Night, this is becoming the real deal in realistic fighting games.
UFC 3 is intense and requires in-depth knowledge of the sport, otherwise, you’re just running around the octagon pressing buttons in hope that your land a devastating blow or magically land a submission move. You’ll need to become intimately familiar with your fighter’s strengths and weaknesses and introduce skills and moves to create your ultimate champion. Unless you’re playing on the easiest difficulty setting, you will be defeated and learn from every experience in the ring. There’s no shame in admitting that you haven’t taken the necessary precautions going into a fight with an opponent you know little about. But, if you want to be crowned a champion, you’re gonna have to put in the roadwork and time at the gym, because talent does not out-weigh training and hard work.