Punch, kick and wrestle your way to greatness in the latest UFC game from EA Sports. UFC 3 builds on the successes of UFC 2 and adds more to its arsenal to give gamers more reasons to keep playing. Different UFC games have come and gone over the years, changing developers and publishers, but since EA secured the rights for 2014’s UFC game, we’ve seen the franchise steadily build itself up again. Now with UFC 3, we find out whether the Ultimate Fighting Championship as a whole can sustain itself as a video game franchise.
Straight off the bat, UFC 3 presents you with an abundance of gameplay options via the main menu. It’s all very neatly presented, looking fairly similar to a Windows 10 / Xbox One menu. You can jump into the Fight Modes menu where you’ll find the quick fights if you’re wanting to practice or play with a friend. Inside Fight Modes you’ll find normal fights, knockout fights, and the ability to customise your fight to however you really want it to be.
The next two options are where you’ll find the meat of UFC 3: Career mode and UFC Ultimate Team. Beginning a career, you’ll create your own character. You can import your own face by using the EA Sports Game Face Web, or you can pick from some presets and then customise from there. You can always change the way you look throughout your career, but you can’t change other key features such as your last name. UFC 3 actually gets you to pick from a list of last names, which the developers have covered for commentary and interview features. Once you choose your style of fighting and your outfit, you’ll begin your career at the bottom of the barrel in your basement gym.
Career mode works in phases, with each phase ending in a fight. The phases last anywhere up to six weeks and give you a chance to train, spar, learn new moves, or be active with your social media. There are two main tickers that slowly build as you work your way through your career: cash flow, and social media followers. The career mode actually has a very heavy social media aspect which sometimes gets a bit over the top. There’s a constant array of messages from fans and trolls alike, egging you on as you make a name for yourself.
In typical UFC style, you may spend 5-10 minutes training and preparing for your fight and then knock your opponent out in less than 30 seconds. We found this was pretty common in UFC 3, although we built a fighter that likes to hit hard and had pretty ordinary ground skills, so keeping the fighter on their feet was a must.
It’s important to figure out all aspects of career mode pretty early on, and don’t stay in your basement gym for very long. It may look like it’s expensive to join gyms and pay their weekly fees, but the training you get, particularly the moves you can learn, are well worth the money. There’s also an abundance of money towards the end of career mode and literally nothing to spend it on. Unlike other sports games that offer you cosmetic items to blow your cash on, UFC 3 has nothing of the sort. Perhaps a feature we might see in UFC 4 would be the ability to buy a pad, upgrade your home gym, buy some cool new attire to stand out from the crowd, and more. It seems like a bit of a missed opportunity given you’re getting all this money (3-4 million a fight once you’re defending titles) and the only thing you can spend it on is gym membership and ice baths.
UFC Ultimate Team mode is where the true customisation is. Building a team of five fighters, in this mode you fight your way to team success. With new features such as Fighter Chemistry, you can add your own fighter and customise them as well as existing fighters far more than in career mode. Give them new tattoos, hairstyles and some colourful gear to make them stand out as you build the greatest team of all time (G.T.O.A.T.?).
The mode basically works like a trading card game, with fighting gameplay as well. You’re awarded items which you use to upgrade your team and then you choose which challenges or fights you wish to complete to get more items. There’s a lot of trading and upgrading in this mode so if you’re wanting more fighting you’re not going to find it here. The upgrades in UFC 3 do provide more depth to this mode however, and while it obviously appeals to some, it’s probably not what casual fans would expect to find when purchasing a UFC game.
UFC 3 also provides a thorough tutorial mode, offering extensive training for both standing and groundwork fighting. For a sport where a match can last mere seconds, and the basic premise of fighting, there’s a surprisingly large amount of moves and combinations to master. Each fighter has different movesets and different reaches with their arms and legs too, making the game quite difficult to master.
The second page of the UFC 3 menu covers modes such as Tournament Mode, custom events, live events, and of course online fighting. You can compete in quick online fights and you can also compete in ranked championships to work your way up the leaderboard to claim ultimate glory. Every UFC weight class is featured online, meaning there are lots of paths to take to work your way up the ratings and divisions.
Finally, UFC 3 includes practice mode and an array of skill challenges that are different to the tutorial mode. Using all three of these practice areas will help you master your skills and become a force to be reckoned with. As a complete package, UFC 3 never really feels like you’re being thrown into the deep end. There are some seemingly inescapable situations, particularly when you’re getting smothered on the mat, but persistence and perseverance seem to be the keys to success.
Offline, our biggest gripe with the combat was the submission system. The way it’s supposed to work is that you build up four gates by pushing up, down, left and right on the right analog stick. If you can’t build them as fast as your submissor then you’re going to tap out. The problem plaguing UFC 3 is that there’s about a 90% chance you’re going to lose against the AI, even on easy. In UFC 2 you only had to use two or maybe three gates to survive a submission, but in UFC 3 all four gates must be used and it is nearly impossible. We found that in career mode as soon as a submission was entered, it was easier to just press pause and restart the match. There’s more chance of getting a knock out in the first 30 seconds than there is of getting out of a submission in round 4, so it was pointless trying.
The social media aspect, as mentioned before, is quite loud in the career mode and definitely needs some fine tuning. After each match, there would be a post showing a gif of the final part of the match. Unfortunately too often this would be the final two seconds of the opponent hitting the floor, not actually showing any impact between the two fighters. Also, a lot of the social media posts repeated week after week, so it would be nice to see a bit more originality here. If the commentators and the host of UFC Minute can go to a bit of effort, then surely the developers in charge of random social media messages can spend more than an hour typing a few more out. Hey, they can even use the same handles!
UFC 3 looks absolutely stunning. If there’s one thing we can’t fault, it’s playing UFC 3 on a big screen in 4K on the PlayStation 4 Pro. You can tell some of the fighters have had a bit more effort put in to making them look photo-realistic, and the Bruce Lee character actually looks pretty much how we remember him from his movies, but the real attention to detail comes down to the cuts, bruises, sweat, and body animations. The amount of accuracy put in to muscle movements in legs for example is amazing, and it’s great to see how far EA Sports has come since the previous generation of video game consoles.
EA Sports have a long history of defining genres in sport. Two decades ago we were playing FIFA 98 and Madden NFL 98. Never could we have imagined where EA Sports would be in 2018. With a huge portfolio of gaming franchises, UFC may not be the most senior amongst its ranks, but what we’re seeing is a developing franchise that will compete with the best sports games in the years to come. UFC 3 is not perfect, and as the sport itself changes the game will need to adapt, but as ideas get tossed around the table at EA Sports, we can see future UFC games being amongst the must-have sports games of the year.
- Realistic UFC fighting experience
- Lots of different modes to extend the life of the game
- Photo-realistic graphics bring your favourite UFC stars to life.
- Submission system versus AI is frustratingly irrational
- Career mode still needs some polishing