The previous two games in the UFC Undisputed franchise did a great job of representing the sport: its impressive amount of depth, tons of licensed fighters, and a presentation that successfully mirrored the look of actual Pay Per View events. However, there were definitely some issues to be had, as many decried the franchise's high learning curve and daunting control schemes, which made the overall experience pretty tough to get into. Smartly, the developers took a break to focus on the issues that people had and like a seasoned fighter, UFC Undisputed 3 took some time off, trained up, and returned to the Octagon hungry to fight and ready for action.
UFC Undisputed 3 feels better and more accurate than any other mixed martial arts game before it. Great modes like Title Mode, Title Defense, and Ultimate Fights have returned, along with a ton of new features. There are the big features like Pride mode, the addition of Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions, and a streamlined career, but also a host of little things, like "finishing the fight" by attacking your opponent until the ref pulls you off for a TKO, ring entrances, leg TKOs and a variety of new submissions, that give the whole package an extremely polished feel. The unprecedented amount of depth in UFC Undisputed 3 and its newfound accessibility make it a great return to form for the franchise.
Upon booting up the game for the first time, you're prompted to choose between Amateur and Pro grappling controls; the first taste of Undisputed 3's adaptability. The Pro controls function the way grappling worked in the past, with rolls on the right thumbstick required to pull off major and minor transitions. The new Amateur controls however allow you to simply push up or down for minor and major transitions, respectively. This makes these ground transitions a lot easier to pull off for newcomers, and show a move towards accessibility on the part of the developers. You'll also get some tutorial hints that explain how to perform actions in real-time during fights (series vets can turn this off). Considering that the uninviting complexity from the was a chief concern in previous Undisputed games, seeing it addressed is heartening.
Even though the game has taken great strides to be easier to get into than other games in the Undisputed franchise, the sheer amount of depth and features in this iteration is staggering. Of the changes implemented in Undisputed 3, the inclusion of Pride FC is quite possibly the biggest. The game captures the look and feel of the now-defunct Pride league perfectly, from the crazy ring announcers and blaring techno introductions for fighters to the roster of Pride superstars (as they appeared when the league was still around five years ago).
The Pride rule set has also been implemented. You can perform head stomps and kicks on a downed opponent, something that is definitely not allowed in the UFC, with fights going for three rounds, with the first round lasting a whopping 10 minutes and five for the remaining two. In the actual Pride league, these 10 minute long first rounds were grueling endurance matches, a feeling that the game captures extremely well. It would've been nice to see this fleshed out even more with its own Career and Title Defense modes, but this is a great first step.
Performing submissions in UFC Undisputed 3 has gotten one of the biggest overhauls. There is now an Octagon-shaped gauge that appears on the sides of the screen when you or your opponent initiates a submission, and you must line up your line with your opponent's in order to successfully submit them. Depending on your fighter's ground game skill-level, you'll get a longer or shorter bar, which will degrade and get shorter as they get fatigued. Keep your gauge lined up with your opponent's long enough and you'll submit them and force them to tap out. However, if you're gauge runs out before you can, you'll lose the upper hand. The new submission system feels great and intuitive, and having an actual visual metric for pulling one off is a great addition. Submitting your opponent can still be difficult and requires some skill and finesse, and doing it correctly feels more rewarding than ever.
Undisputed 3's career mode has also gotten a pretty big once-over. You can now play through the career mode with an existing roster fighter, meaning that you can take anyone from either the UFC or Pride roster and move them up the ranks to MMA stardom. You aren't limited to their real-world fighting styles, however, and there is some degree of adaptability when using them in the career mode.
However, aside from using roster fighters, the general feel of the career mode has been cleaned up a lot. The setting up your career is a lot leaner than in previous games, requiring you to juggle less stats and navigate less menus than before, and focusing on what really matters: the fights. Your set number of actions leading up to a fight after scheduling one is much shorter, opting to give you more upgrades and stat boosts per each training exercise you perform and getting you into fights faster. Upgrading your character's stats and level caps by joining camps and earning cred, which can be used towards building your fighter up. The end result feels a lot more streamlined and focused than in previous years, and more action goes a long way.
Online, the game handles itself very well, and features a few key additions to the formula. Fight Camps are back, allowing you to team up with a group of like fighters, joining them under a created banner with unlocked emblems, and earning rankings and victories as a group.
Additionally, UFC Undisputed allows for some extensive community features, like sharing highlight reels that you've recorded of your victories, as well as your custom content. Matchmaking in exhibition matches has also gotten an overhaul, and players will be paired up based on their settings and parameters in ranked matches. Exhibition matches now include a point system, letting you see where you rank against other players in the world based on skill metrics.
Graphically, UFC Undisputed 3 looks great. The character models are accurately rendered from their real-world counterparts, and the damage system ensures accurate bruising and facial damage, as well as smaller details like sweat and authentic mouth guards giving the game an striking level of accuracy. There are also some fantastic new animations that make the game look even better in motion. As far as the audio presentation is concerned, the new commentary is great, although it can get a little repetitious at times. Fight Professor Stephen Quadros and MMA legend Bas Rutten lend their voices to the Pride commentary tracks, and are teeming with personality and sound awesome.