EA Sports have held the UFC video game license for 6 years now. Along the way, they have released their titles every 2 years, putting in extensive work between each iteration. EA Sports UFC 3 is no different, with quite a few changes and improvements from their previous 2016 title.
One of biggest changes in EA Sports UFC 3 is the striking/stamina system. In ‘UFC 2‘, the striking system was less fluid and based around a health system displayed in the corner via a diagram of the body and how red each body part became. ‘UFC 3‘ has broken down this system more specifically into a meter system of each body part. We can now see and judge damage in greater details due to these meters. Greater damage is inflicted if the fighter’s stamina is low or regenerating. This causes most fights to degenerate into a back and forth between two terminators. Just like the previous UFC game, a lot of strikes which should end fights in an instant just simply have no effect to most opponents.
EA Canada have added tones of new animations which makes ‘UFC 3‘ feel more fluid and dynamic than its predecessor within the striking portion of the gameplay. Combinations are more crisp and snappy. The left analog stick influences the strikes in terms of leaning in, retreating back, or stationary snappy attacks. The hit detection is questionable at times. Flying knees, spinning elbows, and roundhouse kicks can sometimes simply not register, even though your eyes witness these attacks landing. This was an issue in the previous EA UFC title, and it has still not been properly addressed.
Sadly, the controls have taken a step back due to EA Canada feeling the need to change the buttons for blocking strikes. They have now made L2+R2 the low block button, instead of the previous single R2 button. This makes the body strikes more difficult to defend against. Overall, this change feels a bit needless. Parrying strikes are no longer a thing in UFC games, as this feature has been removed, and there is a new head movement system with the right analog stick. The animations for some head movements look really awkward, but generally speaking, this function has been improved. Strafing has now become glitchy and borderline redundant. Seeing my fighter make the strafing motion, but not actually move positional-wise was a frequent occurrence.
Another nice addition is TKO’s via leg kicks. In ‘UFC 2‘, it was impossible to win a fight by chopping your opponents legs to the point that they could no longer stand. However, the new leg kicks do seem really overpowered. After 20+ online matches, the overall spamming of leg kicks by most of my opponents was very apparent and frustrating. Hopefully, these issues are addressed in a future patch (which EA Canada have been quite good with in the past).
In terms of the ground game, sadly it is just more of the same as last time. The submission mini-game is back and it is just a carbon copy from 2 years ago. Guard transitions are still frustratingly poor. You have the option of four directions and you have to move the right stick to a direction of your choice until the meter fills up. There were many instances when I had filled up my meter to complete a transition, but the game simply did not register this and all of my efforts were wasted. This issue really makes the ground game really bothersome and frustrating.
Depending on your fighter’s skills, submissions can be completed from almost any position, if the opportunity arises. For example, if you get your timing down to a tee, you can guillotine choke your opponent while they are lunging in for a double-leg take-down. By selecting a fighter such as Tony Ferguson, you can even pull off a heel hook submission from a standing position. This can catch your opponent off guard and help you gain a submission victory.
EA Canada have added some new game modes in ‘UFC 3‘, albeit minimal. “Stand and Bang” is the standing exclusive game mode – no take-downs, no ground game, and no submissions. This will delight the casual gamers, who complain about wrestlers. “Submission Showdown” is the polar opposite. This is where you go Mano-a-Mano on the floor. This mode is more for the purists and is a nice little addition for Jujitsu enthusiasts or people who want to get their practice in. The self explanatory “Tournament Mode” and “Custom Events” are back, along with the popular “Knockout Mode”, which makes a return with a very odd and curious addition of Snoop Dogg on the commentary with Joe Rogan. Snoop’s novelty wears off after around three matches, as he just repeats the same eight or nine lines over and over with little enthusiasm in his delivery. You can tell this was just a goofy side gig for him to pick up a quick paycheck. EA Canada really missed the boat by not employing Joey Diaz to co-commentate alongside his friend Joe Rogan!
Jon Anik makes his UFC video game debut, replacing the now current Bellator commentator Mike Goldberg. Anik’s delivery is his usual vanilla style but in ‘UFC 3‘ you do hear a lot of the same lines delivered by Anik over and over again. Sadly, Joe Rogan could not handle the long recording sessions from the last game, so we have no new Rogan-isms in ‘UFC 3‘. The issue of taking commentary lines from live shows and planting them in the game do still exist. You can still hear the crowd noise in the background of these clips, and is really noticeable and off-putting if the in-game crowd are quiet. Overall, the commentary just feels disjointed as Anik tries to have a one way conversation with Rogan.
Graphically, EA Sports UFC 3 is as good as ever with fantastic lighting, textures, and very detailed character models for each fighter (albeit Stephen Thompson does kind of look like Jake Ellenberger). You can see drops of blood and sweat fly off the fighters from the impact of each punch and kick, which adds to the experience of the slow motion replay of a devastating KO.
One minor gripe I have with the graphical side of ‘UFC 3‘ is the frame rates. During the fight (specifically during rounds), the game runs at 60fps. However, once the round finishes, the drop in frame rate is quite substantial and really noticeable. It can be quite jarring at times, (especially when you do not blink whilst playing sports games).
Career Mode is back and is improved from the last outing, which was extremely bare bones and underwhelming to say the least. The goal of this mode is to now become the “G.O.A.T” (Greatest of all Time) by breaking all types of records, including PPV buys, popularity as well as performance bonuses and consecutive title defenses. This gives the player a nice incentive to perform well, promote fights and gain popularity and money from the use of social media. All of these choices, along with training regiment choices all cost points, so you have to be careful in how you approach your fight camps. Do you do extra work in the gym? Or should you have more presence on Twitter? These decisions are all based around your overall fitness leading up to fight week.
This comes across as a really fresh new feature at first, but eventually it does lose its novelty pretty fast, as you soon realize that you are just selecting the same things in a menu over and over again. These choices include interacting with fans via streaming video games (ala Demetrious Johnson), taking part in autograph signings, or you can appear on talk shows or radio shows. You never actually see these things take place, so eventually it loses its luster pretty fast. EA Canada missed an opportunity by not making loads of fun mini-games to incorporate into the training camp like previous developers have with UFC titles.
In the beginning of Career Mode, you start off in the lower leagues of the World Fighting Alliance, where Dana White will bring along Matt Serra and Din Thomas to scout you for his YouTube show “Dana White: Looking For A Fight“. During your big break fight, you can hear random clips of Dana and Matt commenting on your fight, albeit generic comments. This was a really nice feature to the game and EA Canada deserve a pat on the back for adding that little touch.
Once you are signed to the UFC, you make your standard climb up the rankings until you are champion. The difficulty spike from fighting generic bums to UFC fighters is a bit too steep. Felice Herrig came across as Shao Kahn, purely because my fighter’s stats were so low in comparison. Career Mode is a lot more satisfying this time round. However, it has limited replayability. The problem with Career Mode is that by the time your fighter no longer feels like it is fighting under water, your career is over. Just when your stats are up to a respectable level and you have learned all types of new attacks and submissions, there are no fights left to play with them. Another issue with the mode is the money. You earn money to spend on only training camps. But after a while, you earn enough cash to go to any training camp you want, for as long as you want. The money is no longer a concern so it becomes practically worthless. This does make the mode quite unrewarding in that respect.
One other thing that needs to be pointed out about Career Mode is that there is no way to participate in stare downs, press conferences, and open workouts. This was another case of a game publisher using misleading tactics in its advertising. These clips that you may have seen in the adverts or screenshots are actually just tiny parts of a random “UFC Minute” segment with Megan Olivi. This comes up every time you change camps (which is almost all of the time), and these rendered clips appear as b-roll footage, as Megan generically reports on how you have changed gyms. This feature matches the running theme of many aspects of this game – it loses its novelty very quickly.
EA Sports UFC 3 is an improvement from its predecessor, but as always with MMA video games, there are plenty of little nagging issues that just never seem to go away. Poor ground game mechanics, uninteresting and unengaging Career Modes and lack of pick-up-and-play controls are all still prevalent. EA Sports have had three attempts at making the perfect UFC game (four if you count their generic ‘EA MMA‘ game) and they still cannot crack the mixed martial arts code in a video game setting. Each iteration has been more ‘MM-Meh’ rather than MMA. Much like video games can never translate into good movies, maybe the sport of MMA just simply cannot be replicated for a good video game adaptation.
This review was based on a digital copy of EA Sports UFC 3 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Electronic Arts.