EA Sports UFC 3
EA’s first two UFC games were giant successes. The franchise’s development team had their work cut out for them with EA’s first MMA game in EA MMA being a mixed bag – but having the best career mode of any MMA game ever. Yuke’s UFC games were incredible, and the first effort from EA definitely didn’t come close to offering what Yuke’s games did. The second finally felt like a finished product and remedied a lot of what didn’t work before. The third entry revamps a lot of the game’s core controls while still keeping them familiar enough to jump right in and do well.
The right stick has gone from just activating clinches to being your head-heaving stick. This is very much like the Fight Night series and feels pretty natural. If you see a big kick coming, you can avoid it and then land either a huge kick of your own, an elbow strike, or even a devastating hook to knock someone out. Hard shots feel even more violent thanks to the effective use of force feedback for every strike. Light strikes elicit a minor rumble, while big ones rock the controller.
The right triggers block high, while the left triggers block low and the bumpers are your hit modifiers for more damaging blows. They take longer to set up – especially the ones that require both buttons to be pressed at one time, but can yield one-hit KOs or at least shots that rock your foe quickly. It’s tempting to just rely on those, but you’ll get worn out far too quickly doing that. Your best plan of attack is to lay in some jabs, go for some haymakers, and then mix in some uppercuts if you’re a standup-focused fighter. For a more varied attack, taking folks down and landing a few strikes before moving around and landing more or even going for a fast tapout is smart.
The franchise’s long-running gate-based submission system has always been a tricky one, and now, you can opt out of it in favor of a “simple” timing-based button press system that is a million times more intuitive. This makes locking on submissions in a reliable manner possible for the first time in franchise history. Given that EA MMA’s submission systems worked far better than the EA UFC games, it’s great to see changes made that help players out and make everything more intuitive.
The career mode is one of the modes that has been a staple of the genre, and EA’s efforts have been great at teaching you skills while also making you feel like you’re going from the bottom of the ranks to the top. The mode itself really gets across the level of skill it takes to excel in MMA at a high level, and the dedication it takes to even be in MMA as a sport. EA is finally making use of UFC-owned companies by having you start in the World Fighting Alliance and work your way up to the UFC. The core of the mode still has you fight, train, spar, and build your fanbase up – but it nixes a lot of the parts that simply didn’t work before.
The bland promos with the roster putting your created character over are done, thank God, given how bad the acting was. The concept of fighting at different style-centric gyms always worked well – even dating back to EA MMA, and continues to be the case now. The idea of building up your fighter as more of a well-rounded person has never really been done, but is done now. You can choose to have your character be humble and clean mats or just stick to boasting on social media to make him seem cocky.
Each gym, beyond having its own skillset, also has different talent levels. Lower-level gyms allow you to do more training – but your ceiling with this training is much lower. You could opt to go for a week of high-end training and hope for the best, but it could bite you in the butt easily if you wind up only having enough cash to do basic training and can’t actually spar. Dana White’s Looking For a Fight show on Fight Pass is used as a way to frame your advance through the world of MMA and it’s a fine way to integrate the current-day UFC product in a way that wasn’t around before.
Usually, you would just go to The Ultimate Fighter and win that – but this is newer and doesn’t feel like a relic of a bygone era, so it feels a bit fresher. The usage of things like game streaming as a means to gain new fans also helps update the premise a bit – especially in this era of fighters like Jessamyn Duke using Twitch to boost a fanbase. Carefully managing all of your different training methods is a big key to success because you have to peak things at a very specific time. Peaking too early means you could be run down or have no hype for the big fight.
There’s a risk/reward system to the gym setup as well. You can do more training at a low-end gym early on, but may not see the gains that going to a higher-end gym for less time would net you. Like prior games, you have passive exercises you can do to earn a bit of an upgrade or get in-fight perks and learn new moves by sparring. Sparring training is always your best option and you can do sparring with someone simulating your next fight to avoid being put in situations that will catch you off-guard. The career mode is a huge hit in the game, and a welcome improvement over past entries.
Visually, UFC 3 features beefed-up character models and much smoother animations than before. The usual launch window issues of animations looking odd or people just teleporting into strange positions also isn’t present – showing off a level of polish early on that the franchise has needed. Move animations are slick and transitions on the ground look better than ever before. The redone head-swaying is a huge improvement visually as well.
Jon Anik replaces Mike Goldberg on commentary, and he does a better job with his chemistry with Joe Rogan and the hype videos throughout the career mode. Otherwise, the sound effect work for attacks is about as good as it’s ever been – but some of the sillier callouts from the crowd are still there in the third entry.
Overall, EA Sports UFC 3 is the best entry in the franchise yet – but falls a bit short of being the best MMA game ever. The roster is lean on legends, which hurts the ability to do dream matches compared to games like UFC Undisputed 3. The career mode is a huge improvement over past games and the revamped bobbing and weaving system makes combat more enjoyable and intuitive. Anyone who has enjoyed past entries can safely pick up this incarnation and jump right in, while newcomers would be best served trying out prior versions to avoid being in over their head.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Electronic Arts
This review is based on a digital copy of EA Sports UFC 3 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Electronic Arts.