How times have changed when it is money that ultimately does the talking. In the late 2000s, Electronic Arts obnoxiously turned down UFC president Dana White’s proposal for an EA Sports UFC video game, even going as far telling White it’s not a real sport. Which is somewhat ironic considering that EA made a couple of awful WCW wrestling games and the Toughman Contest games a few years back.
After turning down the UFC’s proposal the series landed with THQ resulting in the well-received UFC Undisputed series. With the meteoric rise in MMA and the decent reviews, the games sold well enough that EA decided that they wanted a piece of the MMA pie for themselves releasing EA Sports MMA but without the brand name it failed to sell.
Unfortunately for THQ, the company ran into major financial difficulties that resulted in bankruptcy in 2012 and the UFC license was up for grabs. Meaning that EA was fortunate enough to pick the rights to make the EA UFC series.
The new UFC games were a clear step up from EA MMA, but neither games were without their flaws and debatable whether or not it's better than the Undisputed series. UFC 3 is definitely an improvement over the previous EA efforts but there are several drawbacks holding the game back delivering that crucial knockout blow.
20 Good: The Striking Game Is Better Than Ever
The EA MMA games have always had a fantastic striking system, and in UFC 3 it’s better than ever. It’s probably the best seen in sports combat game since EA’s own Fight Night series, and coming from the same development team, that experience has translated beautifully to the octagon.
The punches and kicks feel like they have real weight behind them and it’s incredibly satisfying when every punch and kick connects.
Whether it’s chopping someone down with leg kicks or throwing a fluid four-hit combination it's a joy to play. There are few things more satisfying than landing a devastating uppercut for the KO after you've slipped your opponents jab.
The fights feel tactical as you target specific body parts and whilst watching your own stamina and damage. In addition, there’s a real risk and reward system where going to the well once too often can cost you. An example of this is if you keep going for leg kicks as your opponents keep checking them you run the risk of damaging your own legs and even losing via TKO Anderson Silva style.
19 Bad: The Ground is Still The Worst Part Of The Game
EA’s UFC series has always had one big problem, and rather than listen to complaints the developers have done very little to improve the ground game. The submission system involves entering a frustrating mini-game that seems like it would be more at home on a tablet game.
It is so at odds with the excellent striking system that it feels completely divorced from the rest of the action.
The ground and pound controls aren’t much better either. On the plus side, the developers have offered up more ways to escape and transition on the ground supposedly giving those who are used to striking a bit more of a chance to escape.
In addition, the animations on the ground look awkward and stiff to the point of silliness, which is a huge contrast to the near-perfect motion capture when the fighters are on their feet.
The bottom line is, if you despised the ground game in EA’s previous outings then you’ll be disappointed to find out that they’ve done very little to remedy the series biggest flaw. There's an option to mash the buttons instead of the minigame but it is absolutely useless and you're completely at the mercy of the game.
The minor improvements won’t be enough to win you over this time around. In this regard, the game is still inferior to THQ's UFC Undisputed series.
18 Good: UFC 3’s Motion Capture Is Some Of The Best You’ll Ever See
As mentioned the stand-up gameplay in UFC 3 is absolutely fantastic and much of this is down to EA’s Real Player Motion Technology. Fighter movement is more fluid than ever and it has captured the actual movements of real-life fighters. As a result, each fighter from Stipe Moicic to Conor McGregor feels unique.
UFC 3 is closer than ever to make you feel like you’re watching an actual UFC broadcast.
In the build-up to the game’s promotion, EA has promised a lot with its motion capture technology and it has certainly delivered one of the most visually stunning and accurate sports games ever released.
17 Bad: There's A Heavy Learning Curve
To be fair to EA’s UFC 3 the developers have catered for the casual players that just want to get in the cage throwdown without worrying too much about the technicalities. For the kind of gamers that just want to sit around the TV with a few friends and beers, there’s Stand and Bang and the Knockout modes.
However, serious players will want to get to grips with the game’s real combat system and progress through the meat and potatoes of the game’s career, and online modes.
The game does a terrible job at teaching how to play.
It’s a good thing that UFC 3 is deep and technical, it’s not good that the game does such a poor job with its tutorials beyond a few unhelpful videos in the menu system and random prompts during the fights.
16 Good: The Presentation Is Fantastic
UFC 3 really is one of the best looking games this generation, but the game’s presentation really goes beyond its visuals to present you with a great MMA video game.
Aside from the obvious, like the facial mapping, the much talked about Real Player Motion Tech, and the fact that the game is running on the DICE engine UFC 3 feels like you’re watching a live broadcast.
From the audio, the fights, and the menu system everything just comes together nicely.
The fighter’s walkouts, Bruce Buffer’s introductions, and Joe Rogan’s rundown of a fighter's strengths as the referee checks out each fighter. The career mode offers a McGregor era-like experience by taking the WWE 2K route and added trash talking and social media skills as a way of advancing the up the ladder.
15 Bad: The Commentary Is A Step Backwards And It's Joe Rogan's Fault
Let’s get this out of the way first the commentary in UFC 3 isn’t bad in fact its quite good and is a million times better than WWE 2K18. However, it’s quite frustrating to know that it could have been better especially when compared to the likes of the FIFA and NFL games.
Regular UFC commentator Joe Rogan refused to record any more voice work for the game because he absolutely hated doing it for the first two UFC games.
Rogan made no secret about this and was quite vocal on his podcasts. So the development time had to take WWE 2K route by mining in-game broadcasts and scouring hours of live pay-per-views in the hopes of finding clean samples that match up to the action in the cage.
Considering the difficulty the team had, the commentary is very good, but there are times where it just doesn’t flow naturally between Rogan and his commentary partner.
14 Good: Snoop Dogg's Commentary In Knockout Mode Is Exactly What You'd Expect
This inclusion may be a love it or hate it feature, but one person who did record a load of new voice work for the game is Snoop Dogg. Not in a million years did we ever think that the rapper would upstage Joe Rogan in a UFC game but it’s happened.
While not everyone will be thrilled at the prospect of the rap star providing commentary, his style is a perfect fit for the game’s Knockout Mode.
The development team reached out to Snoop after hearing his commentary with UFC fighter Urijah Faber for Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series that aired last year. No stranger to providing his voice work to games with Call of Duty: Ghosts, Snoop enthusiastically said yes and it’s probably the freshest commentary in the game.
13 Bad: Create A Fighter Is Lacking Options
To get into UFC 3’s career mode you need to create your own fighter and work your way up the roster to become the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T). However, the limited options in a create-a-fighter can prove problematic for those who like accuracy if they either want recreate themselves or an MMA fighter that’s not on the roster.
There’s a very limited amount of hairstyles, beards, and importing your face can be a frustrating game of trial and error.
Depending on the photo's lighting you’ll either end up with a face that looks jaundice or have a ridiculous orange tan that wouldn’t look out of place on Jersey Shore (or Geordie Shore if you’re from the UK).
There’s a serious lack of locations to choose from too. In 2016 the UFC signed the Welsh fighter Jack Marshman who is undefeated in eight of his last ten bouts. So it’s rather disappointing that EA seems quite content with pretending that Wales doesn’t exist (again) despite having a capital city from every other part of the UK. There are other notable omissions too so it's either ignorance or an oversight that not every country is represented fairly in the game.
The plus side is you can create hideous looking monstrosities if you want to.
12 Good: Career Mode is An Improvement
One of the most notable improvements in the game is the career mode also known as G.O.A.T or Greatest Of All Time for the uninitiated. In this mode, you have to complete the majority of career achievements in order for your fledgling rookie fighter to become the G.O.A.T.
UFC 3's career mode is a step in the right direction.
You get meaningful choices of what to do between fights in order to get your fighter trained up and noticed. Depending on what fight discipline you want to follow or improve your fighter in, be it boxing, Brazilian Ju Jitsu, wrestling, and other martial arts.
Your resources are limited, however, and you’ll need to balance what you need to do to get the job done. Better gyms cost more money but rewards you with more accomplishments in a shorter space of time, but smaller gyms cost less and take more time reach the desired goal. The risk and reward system extends well beyond the cage.
11 Bad: Career Mode Also Lacks A Soul
There is a good amount of variety in the career mode, interacting with fighters via social media, playing video games with fans to raise your status, the presentation keeps things interesting.
However, as promising as UFC 3’s career mode is almost everything happens in a boring menu system.
Much of the game's promotion relied on the rivalry system, seeing two fighters square off at press conferences will no doubt attract a lot of fans who love the McGregor era of trash talking and the war of words between fighter before bouts.
The system doesn’t really amount to much though, it’s a massive improvement in so many ways on UFC 2, but there’s also a ton of untapped potential there.
10 Good: The New Fight Modes Are Great
In UFC 2 there wasn’t a great deal of gameplay variety on offer. With little else to do beyond just a Fight Now option, Knockout Mode and a career mode, it offered a pretty bare-bones experience. UFC 3, however, has quite a bit more on offer its players even for those who aren’t interested in competing online and the Ultimate Team.
This time there’s a lot of single player, and local multiplayer modes to choose from.
There’s a Bellator style tournament mode, stand and bang mode for those who hate the ground game and takedowns, and a submission mode if you want to practice the game’s most difficult area.
9 Bad: The New Fight Modes Are Great, But It's Lacking Pride
UFC 3’s new fighting modes go a long way to improving the experience and adding some longevity to the game. However, UFC fans that enjoyed THQ’s UFC Undisputed 3 on the last generation systems of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 will notice one glaring omission, the lack of a PRIDE mode.
It would have been a fantastic piece of nostalgia for MMA fans to include some sort of tribute to PRIDE.
Long-time mixed martial arts fans loved the option to play in Japan’s now-defunct Pride organization and since the UFC still owns everything PRIDE related it seems like a huge waste not to include it. Just the simple option being able to fight in the squared circle as opposed to the Octagon gives a surprisingly fresh experience. Especially as there doesn’t feel like there’s much of a difference from arena to the next.
8 Good: The A.I Is Surprisingly Clever
The artificial intelligence in man fighting games can often be lackluster and predictable but that isn’t the case with EA’s UFC 3. in this game the A.I is very capable of keeping you guessing and figuring out your style to counter and hit you from every angle.
So this time don’t even think about spamming leg kicks, overhand rights or the one-two combos because it will be a short fight for you.
The game’s A.I forces you to constantly change your strategy going into rounds. It’s so easy to punch yourself out and blow your stamina looking for that big KO victory or damage your own leg when the A.I keeps checking them. The A.I is good at keeping you on your toes and capitalizing on your mistakes.
7 Bad: The A.I Can Be A Nightmare On The Ground
UFC 3’s artificial intelligence is certainly a step up from the previous two games. However, the drawback of this accompanies the series’ biggest problem and that is on the ground.
It’s safe to say that defending transitions on the ground is an absolute nightmare.
It’s the ground where you will often find yourself at a huge disadvantage. This is especially true going up against ground and pound fighter like Khabib Nurmagomedov or submission specialist like Demian Maia
The game’s career mode is where this becomes ever more apparent. As soon as you get your up and coming fighter into the top ten rankings, the difficulty suddenly spikes. Therefore, if you’re going up against a fighter that’s a beast on the ground you better prepare yourself for frustration.
6 Good: Good Stable Online Experience
Finding an online match in UFC 3 so far has been good and the experience has been relatively lag free during matches. So those looking to have a good combat experience in a game where timing and strategy are absolutely vital to success should have a battle free of excuses.
So losing will usually come down to who is better at the game as opposed to your punches being delayed a few milliseconds because of lag.
The online suite consists of the usual modes you’d expect to find in an EA sports game. This includes ranked and unranked matches and going for championship belts. The biggest part of the game’s online aspect is the Ultimate Team Mode which allows you to build a stable of three male and one female fighter from different weight classes to advance to online success.
5 Bad: A Conor McGregor Lovefest
Whatever you think about Conor McGregor, his brash personality and ability to sell a fight have created a new legion of fans.
In 2017 McGregor had a huge year going up against boxing great Floyd Mayweather in a much-hyped "super fight" which saw him get schooled for 10 rounds. Nevertheless, with a potential rematch happening inside the cage, McGregor is still the UFC’s biggest, most recognizable, and bankable athlete today. Yes, he's near invincible in the game whether facing the A.I or online matches.
Longtime MMA fans may resent the fact that the UFC has chosen a man who has never defended a title and held up a division so he could get a bigger paycheck as their cover star.
One could argue that there are more deserving fighters that should have graced the cover even alongside him such as reigning and defending champions Demetrius Johnson – arguably the best pound for pound fighter ever – and current heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic.
4 Good: Game Support Is Already Off To A Great Start
Although it wasn’t perfect UFC 2 received a ton of support from the developer's post-launch. They listened to the fans and addressed several complaints even adding nice little touches such as the ability to touch gloves at the start of every round and adjustments to stats depending on a fighter’s real-life success.
Perhaps most notably, the developers supported the game by adding several new fighters through free updates.
At the time of writing, UFC 3 has only been out a week and the developers have already added at least three new fighters.
In addition, they have made improvements to the gameplay, added move sets and made adjustments to fighters ratings and record updates.
3 Bad: It Still Isn't As Good As The Fight Night Series
When THQ went into liquidation, EA was quick to jump in and pick up the UFC license due to the sport’s rising popularity.
The Fight Night boxing series was eventually dropped in favor of the UFC games.
Sadly, this happened despite promises that the team would develop both the combat sports series on a bi-yearly basis. It’s understandable that EA would prefer to put all their efforts into a more bankable modern sport, but it’s a shame because the Fight Night series was a near complete boxing game – online fights where your opponent would spam low blows notwithstanding.
So while the Fight Night series felt almost a complete combat sporting experience the newer EA UFC series feels only halfway there as a result of the terrible ground game. In fairness to the developers, boxing is only one discipline, whereas the MMA covers several.
2 Good: The Women's Roster Raises The Bar
Women are just as important as the men in the world of mixed martial arts with the likes of Ronda Rousey doing for women’s combat that Conor McGregor did for the men’s. So it’s good news then that the developers raised the bar for women in sports and video games in general.
Rather than feeling like an afterthought of copy and pasted fighters – WWE 2K we’re looking at you.
The female UFC fighters have received the exact same treatment as the men and feel just as unique due to the Real Player Motion Tech.
The game also features two female divisions the strawweight and bantamweight divisions and fans can finally create their own dream match pitting Ronda Rousey against Cris “Cyborg” Justino. It would have been nice if the newer featherweight division was added but folding the divisions was a good workaround for now.
1 Bad: EA Wants To Make It Rain With Your Cash In Ultimate Team
After the Battlefront II, loot box fallout of 2017 EA has been careful to make sure that there’s enough content in the game for players to completely bypass the Ultimate Team mode. There’s enough single player content in UFC 3 to make sure that fans are actually getting value for money without ever setting foot in Ultimate Team.
Nevertheless, Ultimate Team is there to stay and it is just as manipulative and as cynical as Battlefront 2 or any other EA Sports title.
This will frustrate Trophy and Achievement completionists because there’s no getting around the fact that without spending real money the game makes it an absolute chore to grind through earning loot boxes just to unlock a few random fighters for your team or basic and simplistic moves. Even if you did want to spend real money Ultimate Team mode is still a drag to play and is best avoided.