E3 2011 Preview: UFC Undisputed 3
As the UFC grows in popularity, the game adaptations' developers have an increasingly larger stake in getting the feel and look of the sport of mixed martial arts just right. And it's a tough sport to simulate, too, as so many unexpected things can happen in the Octagon. This year at E3, THQ showed off a little bit of UFC Undisputed 3, and while I was a little disappointed that we didn't get a live demonstration of the game as it stands today, the extended footage we were shown with additional commentary from producer Neven Dravinski still made this fighting follow-up certainly look impressive.
UFC 3 will include a range of new features and the expected increase in variety that the actual fight organization added. Bantamweight (135lb) and Featherweight (145lb) classes have been added along with what looks to be a solid number of the top contender fighters in those weight classes, and the new Pride Mode brings the boxing ring back along with its more brutal rules (soccer kicks, head stomps, kicks and knees to the head on the ground) - and of course, the most important part, Bas Rutten as a commentator. Yes!
The visuals have been updated, too, with more realistic lighting inside the ring and a lower-down camera that simulates UFC broadcasts a little less and makes things feel more like you're in the Octagon with the guys. Our glimpses of footage showed many new moves, along with more natural transitions between them, whether it was in the stand-up striking or down on the ground. A new submission system will be implemented, and the "shine" system of furiously twirling analog sticks has thankfully been thrown out. Now, an Octagon symbol appears on the screen with both fighters' colors appearing around its edge, and each player has a colored band they can move around the edge - the attacker is trying to "cover" the defender's band of color. The size of each player's active area will depend on submission offense/defense skills as well as how tired each fighter is, so now there's a better visual representation, albeit a very abstract one, of why a submission either succeeds or fails. (If my description fails, it's much easier to understand when it's seen on-screen. And if we consider it a given that the submission system has to be video-game-ized in some way - which I'm not necessarily sure I agree with - then the new method does seem like an improvement.)
There's a new focus on accessibility as well as on teaching people how to use each fighter's best skills at the right time, so there'll be an option to have the game interrupt you and suggest particular moves or strategies; this will be helpful when, say, your buddy doesn't understand why he shouldn't be trying to use Brock Lesnar to submit Frank Mir, or why throwing leg kicks all day with Rampage Jackson isn't going to net many wins.
There's also a new ground game control system where simple flicks on the right stick, up or down, will net you minor and major transitions, but the old quarter/half-circle control scheme is still around, too - and it will have a new built-in advantage for advanced players, as you can use the more complicated control scheme to feint a transition, let the opponent get ready to defend that, then bust through his defense with a strike. (The simple control scheme can't perform feints.) I'm not sure that all of this is going to pay off with larger audiences enjoying the game, but I'm glad they're working in these areas.
Already we've seen glimpses of plenty of fighters being added to the roster, although a majority of them will likely be either recent standouts (Jim Miller or Rick Story, for example) or just an effort to fill in the roster for the two new lighter-weight classes. Surely they'll add the champions of those weight classes, Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz, but I'm also pretty sure I saw Miguel Torres, Urijah Faber, and Scott Jorgenson in the gameplay glimpses we were shown as well. We've seen very little on the career modes or whether licensed fighters will be playable through it this year, and there's pretty much no information on what's happening with the online play. And with UFC absorbing Strikeforce, that leaves many other fighters that we'd love to put into the Octagon for simulated superfights. We might not see Cain Velasquez versus Alistair Overeem anytime soon in real life, but getting them together in UFC Undisputed 3 might be enough to satisfy gaming fans. We'll get more information as the January 2012 release date (on PS3 and 360) nears.