The GOAT or just a bit sheepish?
It seems a long time ago since Dana White, UFC president, proclaimed he’d never work with EA. Like the THQ games of old though, the EA offering have looked superb whilst never offering gameplay to match. Is this the game to break with tradition?
Like FIFA and Madden, there’s a career mode to UFC 3, although it’s not got quite the same level of detail to it as those games, as you still get to create your own fighter. As a result, the cut-scenes where you feature are significantly more generic, and you’ll never hear anyone refer to you by name (“the contender” will do).
As a result, it all feels like a bit of a step down in quality from some of EA’s most recent efforts, and more in tune with a racing game’s career mode. EA could certainly do better, especially when they’ve roped in a number of UFC execs, commentators and TV personalities in the first place.
The career mode also struggles when you get up into the world of UFC fighters, as the jump up to the main card causes a huge difficulty spike that had me literally throwing the controller in frustration as there’s nothing you can so about your stats being hugely lower than the competition.
UFC 3 purports to have numerous gameplay changes, and tries to ram all of these down your throat immediately in a title match you play before you get access to any of the menus. Unsurprisingly, you’ll play as current superstar Conor McGregor, who is probably the most well-known UFC star of the moment after his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. It’s here you’ll realise just how fluid the controls are when you’re standing, how good the animation is, and how brutal the combat can feel when you get your timings right. You’ll also realise a couple of other things too.
First is that as a tutorial, this one-time match is useless. When you finally reach the menus, you’ll also see that there’s no sparring mode (with training/ move/ combo lists), and the only additional information is via a few crappy videos which aren’t even full screen. Second, you’ll realise that all the fast-paced combat and excellent animations become a sluggish, incomprehensible mess as soon as you start grappling or trying to use a submission. Everything becomes a mini-game with certain ‘tells’ that I found frankly impossible to read in the heat of the match. Everything transfers from the face buttons to the right stick, and the pace completely deadens as you’re required to hold the stick in directions for seemingly huge periods of time to actually do anything. It’s very hard to work out who’s actually winning.
Whilst you can simplify this into some button mashing via the menus, the pace remains sluggish and the whole system just feels very unsatisfactory compared to the rest of the gameplay.
With the career mode, skill tests, and Ultimate Team, there’s certainly plenty to do in UFC 3, but it never feels quite as busy as some of the other EA offerings. Even Ultimate Team feels a little bit tacked on when you play bouts generally with the one fighter (so why do I need to build a team/ roster EA?). There’s genuinely less modes too, with FIFA additions like Draft Team just not present at all. None of this is a problem, as fighting fans will have plenty to get on with. It’s just not as equally generous with content as I’ve come to expect from EA sports games over the years.
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