UFC 3 is the latest title by EA Games in their famous EA SPORTS range, with none other than ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor making another cover appearance.
Being a big fan of these titles (and previous true-to-life combat sports games that haven’t been seen for many years) and giving that it’s been some time since it’s release, I was eager to go toe-to-toe with EA’s latest offering and see what all the fuss was about. I wasn’t (hugely) disappointed.
The newest installment sees vast improvements over the previous 2 titles, the biggest change being the newly overhauled striking system. I’d heard about this being one of the biggest selling points so naturally wanted to take a look. Gone are the days where we would parry then counter the opponent’s sometimes unstoppable barrage of jabs and uppercuts, ending our highly anticipated title fight in mere seconds. These have been removed completely, Instead of being replaced with the life-like, slick swaying motion just by moving the right analog stick to the desired direction. This means that you are able to dodge and parry incoming strikes with ease and counter strike while moving. Personally I feel that this is an incredible improvement as it removes the need to press a combination of buttons at the same time when you are trying to defend, making the movements more life-like and natural than the previous counterparts, you can concentrate more on what your next move is going to be without worrying about taking an undeserved hit. This change to the game makes everything feel so much smoother in the stand-up game and definitely takes a weight off.
One thing that I did find disappointing was at times when your opponent would hit you with a beautiful strike you would naturally hit the mat like a tonne of bricks. Fine. However, sometimes a jab may hit you in a non-threatening place and it would register as if they’d hit you with a freight train. This is only a minor flaw and has only happened a handful of times during my playthrough and definitely doesn’t take away from the overall experience, just me being picky. I can’t help but feel this may have something to do with the stamina bar but more on that later.
Being a ground game kind of guy I would have preferred EA to have done something new for this game. The groundwork in UFC 3 is pretty much exactly the same as in the previous installments, which isn’t a massive issue but it still has the same flaws as before. For example how clunky it feels to transition between different positions. The same goes for the stamina bar in the corner of the screen (which I haven’t been a fan of since the very first game), I still feel that I lost more stamina than my opponent even though I have had more strikes on target. Again this doesn’t take away from the UFC experience, you can still sprawl with the best of them!
One major downfall of the game that I have to get out of the way, however, are the dreaded ‘Micro-Transactions’. This is becoming more and more common in mainstream games and I can’t help but feel disappointed. These can be found in the game’s ‘Ultimate Team’ mode.
You start off with a team of four fighters that you can select in the relevant divisions the problem is that your fighters, along with the techniques and boosts that you can equip them with, come from cards that are only obtainable through random packs (think loot boxes in other titles) using both earned in-game currency and UFC Points that unfortunately you have to buy with real, hard earned cash. I’ve always held the sentiment that if you purchase a game at the full retail price you shouldn’t have to pay to progress. I understand that you don’t HAVE to play that mode but in reality, it’s still part of a game you have purchased.
I can’t really comment further on this mode as I couldn’t bring myself to persist with it other than, to me, it feels like a pay-to-play mobile app. Of course, other players may see differently but this is my honest opinion. This isn’t a dig at EA as much as it is at other mainstream companies who use this tactic to increase profit (but that’s not for here).
On to a lighter and much more promising note for the series, we have the game’s ‘Career’ mode. This is my favourite mode of them all.
Like the previous titles, you start at the very bottom and work your way up through the ranks from Ultimate Fighter to get to the UFC and then attempt to become the champ. The big change this time though is how your created fighter can spend his or her time between each bout. You can even choose which gym you would like to hone your skills in. Each with its own membership fee of course (have you tried getting into a gym for free? Hint, it does not work).
Each gym also has its own focus on a martial art. So pick the one that you feel will match your style of fighter. Be it the sprawling and grappling art of Jiu Jitsu or the devastating striking art of kickboxing.
Don’t think for one second it will be easy street. Resources don’t grow on trees and the better quality gym demands more cash. The cheaper the gym, the fewer skills your fighter will develop.
You can also choose how to ‘Promote’ your next fight, ‘Spar’ so you can learn the weakness of your upcoming adversary or even ‘Learn’ from an actual UFC fighter through mini-games that also reward you in how well you do.
Everything else in this mode, in my opinion, is more of the same but in no way is that a bad thing, the additional changes, however, breathe a much needed breath of fresh air into the series, making this career mode the best one yet. I have played through many times trying to become the undisputed UFC Champion. Alas, I fail every time. I’m no Dillashaw as of yet!
Graphically this game looks the same as the previous titles but with the overhaul on striking we see a more fluid movement with each fighter. It still has its flaws and what do you expect? To model a computer character on a real-life human being is very difficult. It’s not perfect but EA has done a great job capturing the animations. Sweat drips from your character in buckets more and more progressively as the fight goes on. Skin tears in the blink of an eye when a beautiful head kick is landed. The octagon floor looks more and more bloody as the fight continues. You get the point. It’s brutally gorgeous.
The team has also done a superb job of capturing the atmosphere of a genuine UFC fight. The crowd responds accordingly to the action in the octagon as do the commentators, although the latter does tend to get a bit repetitive after you’ve played the game for quite a while. The striking sounds are also what you would expect from a real fight. Gloves make contact the way they should as do the fighters when their faces collide nicely with the mat.
In closing, I feel that EA SPORTS UFC 3 delivers a striking blow to the series. Despite falling short with the stale and clunky groundwork, some minor hit detection issues and the dreaded ‘Ultimate Team’ Micro transactions (which truthfully the career mode more than makes up for this) I feel that this is a standout game for anyone who likes the combat sport genre, however there is still major room for improvement.