More than a year ago, EA Sports released MMA, a mixed martial arts game that lacked the stars of Ultimate Fighting Championship but proved scrappy.
The lack of UFC stars was MMA's only major flaw. The game offered the best virtual mixed martial arts experience. That was until the release of THQ's UFC Undisputed 3.
THQ took its time with Undisputed 3, the sequel to UFC Undisputed 2010, and made it a realistic experience.
Let's look back for a moment at THQ's past UFC games. Undisputed 2009 gave fans what they wanted: a mixed martial arts video game for a sport that was growing by leaps and bounds. Undisputed 2010 did an even better job showcasing the sport, presenting it in a way that captured the feel of UFC. But both games lacked depth in terms of a realistic fight experience.
Undisputed 3 is a complete game and a solid reflection of the UFC — from presentation to gameplay.
Developer Yuke's channeled some of the spirit it uses to make its past WWE professional wrestling games so successful, the main ingredients being a large array of depth and features.
Gameplay is fluid and pulls you into every match. Before you even hop into the action, Undisputed 3 requires you to make a choice in controls: amateur or pro grappling.
Pro controls are the same as in previous titles, using rolls of the right thumbstick to pull off major or minor transitions. The new amateur controls simplify things by allowing you to simply push up or down for transitions. That's a nice feature, because there is definitely a learning curve with pro grappling.
It's easy enough to move around the ring, although there are times when it seems as if your fighter's too slow moving in or backing away from an opponent. But the fighting is good, and that's what makes the game so much fun. Much as in real life, you must be disciplined and have a plan to pull off a victory.
As for presentation, lighting is stunning and the level of detail is worth noting. In fact, that's what makes the game great — from the announcer's introductions to the crowd cheering you on if you start to gain a bit of momentum.
Madison Square Garden was missing in Undisputed 2010, but it's back in Undisputed 3, along with past UFC sites including Montreal's Bell Centre, London's O2, and Las Vegas sites including Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand and the Red Rock Resort & Casino.
The game modes — Title Mode, Title Defense and Ultimate Fights — have returned, with even more features. But the career mode, which allows you to make a fighter, puts some of Undisputed 3's best features on display.
Although it's detailed in many areas, it lacks a lot of choices for faces. There just aren't enough options to really make your fighter look like you, but there are enough choices to get close and still create the hulking guy with 3 percent body fat.
You start out on the small stage and have to work your way up and gain the attention of the UFC to step into the Octagon. Your notoriety increases as you pummel your opponents, and eventually you will get a shot at the championship. Every match has the feel of a real UFC pay-per-view event, and your fighter will either be on the undercard or, eventually, in the main event. Videos are woven into the fabric of the game, giving you direction and advice throughout your career — and providing the feeling that you are about to watch a real UFC fight.
But the game shines between fights, too. That's when you sign contracts with various sponsors, can buy apparel and even design it, and most importantly, can train and devise plans. Eventually, you can join a camp, such as Greg Jackson's Gym or The Wolfslair MMA. As you progress in your career, you unlock more features — you get better sponsors, better training and more exposure. Your fighter becomes more popular, creating a storied career that could come to an end with you being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
It's further proof that although EA's MMA established what a good mixed martial arts game should be, THQ's Undisputed 3 has set the standard for greatness.
Delano R. Massey: (859) 231-1455. Twitter: @heraldleader.com