When it comes to sports games, fans may often seem overly critical. However, when it’s all said and done they are really just hoping for an experience that’s not only enjoyable to play, but does a good job of representing the realism of the sport they’re invested in.

The first two titles in the EA Sports UFC series provided nice foundations for the future, but never felt like the best effort was put forward in development. EA Sports UFC 3 does a nice job of taking that foundation set in place, and building on it in ways that are sure to impress fans both new and old.

A More Refined Fight

EA Sports invested quite a bit of time and money into the game’s    new striking mechanics, and it’s paid off in a big way. The new system places a strong emphasis on timing and movement; a player’s range and angle goes a long way towards determining the power of a punch or kick.

With the changes to the striking system, the controls have changed a bit. It will still take players some time to become a master due to the various combinations required to pull off certain moves, but it’s nowhere near as strenuous as one may assume going in. Most of the various attacks utilize the shoulder and face buttons to pull off, allowing the right stick to handle the bobbing of a fighter. While moving around the octagon with the left stick, players are free to dodge and duck to set up a strike at the same time.

Just one simple jab attempt while falling away can open up the door to a potential knockout, or leave you open to seeing yourself hit the canvas.

It’s a change that opens up a fight to much more than standing toe-to-toe throwing punches. Just one simple jab attempt while falling away can open up the door to a potential knockout, or leave you open to seeing yourself hit the canvas. This leads directly into another crucial in-game aspect with UFC 3: Stamina.

From repeated strikes to constant takedown attempts, overindulging in attacks will see your fighter’s meter drain quickly. If you are one of those players that fight overly aggressive all of the time, you’re likely to find yourself in the loss column more often than not. The management system requires you to be smarter in the octagon. Throwing a punch just for the hell of it isn’t going to win you any fights. Reading an opponent’s movement and going for the proper strike will.

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The submission system remains the same and unfortunately does not add much enjoyment to the fights.

It’s not all sunshine in the cage, though, as there are some dark clouds lingering that dampen the in-fight experience at times.

The game’s grappling system remains unchanged from the previous installment. Players still have to use the right stick to transition into various positions, which will be viewed as a disappointment to many. Even the submission system remains the same, right stick-based mini-game that often feels like a completely separate entity from the fight that’s actually taking place in the octagon. Sure, there may be two different submission systems — the quadrant-based game and the timed button pressing game — but neither of them add any enjoyment to the fights as opposed to feeling like tedious chores. It also doesn’t help that it feels like the AI is far too overpowered with submissions on any skill level above rookie.

A Feature-Rich Experience

For the first time since the series jumped from THQ to EA Sports, a UFC game really appears to have something for everyone. And that’s not just marketing talking, it’s actually true.

UFC 3 offers a nearly limitless amount of fights to create within Fight Now thanks to an enormous roster, but there’s much more to than game than just stepping into the octagon for a quick bout.

Of course, the stars of the game are Ultimate Team and the G.O.A.T. Career Mode.

Ultimate Team debuted in UFC 2, but was a very barebones experience that didn’t lend itself much in the way of replay value. This time around, it actually feels like a real Ultimate Team mode as opposed to a concept.

Rather than just having a team built with created fighters, UFC 3’s Ultimate Team finally let’s players collect real-life fighters in addition to move and power-up cards. Each fighter starts with a very basic moveset that is built with cards you collect from purchased packs.

It still feels a bit weird having an Ultimate Team mode in a solo-centric game like this as you don’t necessarily build a true “team” rather than what really equates to a camp. There’s nothing that really brings the assembled group of fighters together other than the fact you selected them for a lineup.

Mircotransactions do play a role in the mode, but fans shouldn’t worry about them taking over the game as Ultimate Team is the only place where they have an impact. Still, despite the fact that there seems to be enough in-game currency to earn via challenges, you could very well find yourself in a pay-to-win scenario depending on the fighters you face. Luckily, there are enough single-player challenges available in Ultimate Team should you not want to deal with the potential hassle of facing real players online.

Elsewhere, the newly overhauled career mode wants to see players become the Greatest of All-Time. This time, however, it involves much more than just being successful inside the octagon.

Kicking off by choosing an existing fighter or creating one of your own, your career begins in the World Fighting Alliance (WFA) where you’ll get your first handful of fights. Eventually, Dana White brings his “Lookin for a Fight” series to the WFA. Should you impress White enough when the cameras are around, you could find yourself heading to the UFC right away. Should that not happen, a stint on The Ultimate Fighter or a nice winning streak could get you that first big contract.

After making it to the UFC, balance becomes a major factor in your success. In addition to finding time to train for fights, players have to learn new fighting techniques, go on promotional events, and more. It’s all part of the path towards becoming the biggest star the UFC has ever seen, and make people ask, “Conor who?”

Everything feels like it matters in UFC 3’s career mode, something that most single-player sports modes fail to accomplish. While improvements can certainly be made – like adding promotional and training options – G.O.A.T. Career is a complete 180 from the completely dull experience UFC 2 offered.

Mini-modes like Knockout Mode, Submission Showdown and Stand and Bang provide different experiences for a quick fix with each providing unique experiences. Even if they aren’t your cup of tea, it’s worth trying KO mode at least once just for the humor of Snoop Dogg’s commentary.

Lastly, players can create custom fights and even multi-round tournaments. There really are hours of fun to be had no matter what your interests are.

Closer to Real Life

UFC 3 looks just as stunning as expected. While it’s a game that would be better served making the jump to the Frostbite engine, it isn’t hurt by sticking with the older Ignite engine.

Fighter likenesses are near dead ringers for their real-life counterparts. From Amanda Nunes to Cynthia Calvillo, it’s still incredible what today’s technology can produce. The one flaw that stands out with fighter design is that proper size isn’t always well represented as some fighters appear smaller in the game than what they should be. It’s not a major offense, but it’s certainly noticeable.

There are more arenas to choose from, but you only really notice them before the fights begin. That being said, what you do get to see looks incredible.

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Fighters are amazingly modeled and look just like their real life counterparts in and out of the ring.

Unfortunately, the game’s broadcast presentation still leaves a great deal to be desired. Fights lack on-screen statistics such as significant strikes and takedowns. There also seems to be no differentiation between watching a major fight card like a PPV compared to a low-profile event headlined by two lower-tier fighters.

From an audio standpoint, Jon Anik and Joe Rogan don’t really provide a broadcast-like experience. Yes, there are limitations to what can be done with pre-recorded lines of commentary, but lines often lack any emotion. To make matters worse, Rogan’s lines become repetitive quite quickly.

The continuing lack of a full replay suite remains a headscratcher. After a great round or even just a significant combo, it would be nice to go back and rewatch what just happened. The only replay available is the finish after a fight ends.

Verdict

UFC 3 is a game that does its best to showcase both the realism and excitement that comes from within the world of Mixed Martial Arts.

From a career mode that has you coming as close to living the life of a fighter as ever before to gameplay changes that add newfound strategy to fights, UFC 3 gives players a fun experience from start to finish.

Even with the shortcomings in the grappling and submission systems, UFC 3 has so many positives that it’s hard to deny the fact that it’s the best MMA game ever created.


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EA Sports UFC 3

EA Sports UFC 3
88.75

Game Modes

9/10

    Gameplay

    9/10

      Presentation

      9/10

        Replay Value

        10/10

          Pros

          • Deep Career Mode
          • Game Modes Galore
          • New Striking System
          • Visually Stunning

          Cons

          • Unchanged Grappling And Submission
          • Broadcast Becomes Dull
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          Michael Straw
          Michael Straw is a gamer who just happens to be an experienced journalist. In his near decade-long career, Mike has traveled across the United States to cover some of the biggest events in gaming and sports, including E3, PAX, as well as the NFL and NHL Drafts. His work covering gaming and sports led his content being featured on Fox Sports 1, SI.com and others. He was once the second-ranked player in the world in NHL 09 on Xbox Live, and is a huge pro wrestling junkie.