Iiiiiiit’s TIME for the newest instalment in the EA UFC series, the delightfully named UFC 3. Not much has changed with this release, aside from an updated roster, HDR and 4K support where applicable and a few gameplay tweaks, but more so than previous entries this seems like a much hollower experience all round. The fight presentation does have a nice shine to it, but this is the first MMA game since the PS2 that has just left me feeling rather unsatisfied.
As with UFC 2, 3 features the inclusion of Ultimate Team, the EA money printing machine that allows you to spend real money to play as characters you can play as in other parts of the game, as well as unlocking moves and perks. Given that MMA is a one on one sport, it’s odd to be so focused about building a team of fighters, given that it’s not really laid out in the way of a training camp or gym. During my time in the lower levels of Ultimate Team though, I only had 4 out of around 15-20 fights that didn’t end up being “mirror fights,” where I was faced up against the fighter I had selected already. I can appreciate this happening the odd time online, but when it’s in the single player portion of the mode, I thought it was slightly lazy. I still disagree with the concept of Ultimate Team, given the fact I feel like it’s technically gambling, but that’s not a topic to discuss further right now.
The career mode seems like it’s more involved between fights, but this seems to be a bit of a smoke screen as the actual training for attributes has been stripped back to entirely simulated, where the only time you’ll get to train between fights is to play increasingly unwinnable mini-games to unlock new moves and perks. They do start nice and easy, but when you’re trying to land 20 knee strikes in 30 seconds against someone who doesn’t want to be stuck in the clinch and will take you down at will, it quickly becomes a button pressing exercise until you can next get into the cage and fight for real. The addition of a more interactive social media portion didn’t do much for me although it was a nice touch to give you something to read during loading screens.
Given the fact it’s maybe the biggest part of the game, we should probably discuss the fights themselves. If you’ve played a UFC game over the last couple of years, then it’ll be familiar enough, with the only big change to remember being a mid-level block. The animations are crisp and the fighter damage looks great, with cuts and bruises appearing on worked over body parts. The damage inflicted absolutely looks the best it ever has, with blood staining the canvas and swollen faces coming from the back of one bad punch. I inadvertently found a nice attention to detail that I’d be lying if I said 100% wasn’t in a UFC game before, but after a few too many checked leg kicks, my character collapsed holding his leg and lost the fight by TKO. I just found things like that to be a nice touch. The stamina management is key to surviving the fight and despite being a little frustrating to get the hang of, it does remind you that if you come out the gates swinging, after 200 punches thrown in the first 2 rounds, by round 3 most fighters would struggle to be able to lift their arms too high either. UFC 3 also adds a health indicator under the stamina bar, which shows damage taken by each body part. I did find that whoever I was playing as was generally a little bit more durable than I was, as on occasion I found myself victim of a flash knockdown or KO having thrown everything but the kitchen sink at my foe.
The submission and ground game is unchanged at it’s core, but there is a “simple submission” mode now that changes the grappling struggle into a quick time event. It’s much better for people who maybe aren’t quite so confident with this part of the game although does feel a little bit cheap if you’re experienced, or are able to lose a fight by submission without feeling cheated. If anything, the cheap knockouts do more to raise the blood pressure, whereas in a submission struggle you feel like you “earned” defeat.
This is another solid entry to the UFC series, however the use of Ultimate Team does seem to be forcing micro-transactions down your throat a lot. This is almost forgivable, as a solid career mode and arguably the best fight presentation yet bring this back up to speed and if you can get around a few balancing issues within the fights themselves, you’ll have a good time with this game, just don’t expect it to change your life. It’s absolutely bringing MMA into the tried and tested EA rinse and repeat cycle of sports games.