UFC Undisputed 3 Review (PS3)

THQ decided to spend two years working on UFC Undisputed 3. For a sport like MMA, the subtle things are key, so the extra time is very much needed to get things right. Although Undisputed 2010 improved on its predecessor, the nudge forward was minimal. By slowing the development process down, THQ has managed to implement a number of critical tweaks, making the series even more of a technical affair. Fans of the sport rejoice, everyone else, you've got a lot to learn.

After a much needed transition period, the Undisputed series finally takes note of cage-fighting's minor details. Land excessive blows to your opponent's gut, and his ribs will bruise under the pressure. Knockouts can now occur from leg kicks, and a fighter's momentum can be stopped mid-move if the timing is right. The expansion of intricate details like this significantly changes the game, producing an intense drama that echoes the sport's unpredictability like never before.

Catch an opponent at the right time and you can reverse their momentum

In previous Undisputed titles, each motion was pretty much set in stone. You either connected or missed when throwing a punch. Offence is now a calculated risk. Unleash a strike at the wrong time, and enemies can feint out the way whilst counter-punching your effort. Legs can be caught in mid-air, promoting quick submissions as powerful tools that only the most hardened players will be able to utilise. Strategy and timing are now as useful as having rippling man-cannons, indicating THQ have finally understood that brains match brawn. The premise is simple: mistime an attack and prepare to pay the consequence.

On the mat, proceedings have changed ever further. You can now pop out of guard and land devastating blows at the risk of giving up your position. The most pivotal alteration is the complete overhaul of the submission system. Previously, this system wanted to cause you pain. Endless amounts of twirling of the right stick ended up in severe cramp that made the stand-up route an easier one to take. At last THQ saw the light and have done away with it. In its place stands a simplistic but highly effective submission mini-game.

Once a hold has been initiated, an octagon appears around the two fighters. Both players have a coloured bar to control in a game of cat and mouse. Those going for the win must cover an opponent's bar with their own, keeping it in position until the colour disappears. Quite obviously, those defending must move the right stick away from the opposition's block, rendering the attempt useless. For such a basic mechanic it works extremely well, giving advantage to fighters who specialise in those positions, without the need for an ice-cold hand bath afterwards.

After each round, your coach also plays a huge part in success. He'll analyse your performance, telling you what you've done well and what you can improve on. Can't remember how to execute the action he speaks of? The game provides it for you. It can't be understated just how useful this is. If you've spent a round covering up on the floor, expect your tutor to offer a solution. Listen carefully and he'll even shout helpful advice during rounds.

Transitions and the submission game are easier to understand this time round

While fans will be salivating at the aforementioned tweaks, there's plenty of other nuggets to arouse interest. A roster of over 150 fighters has been included from 7 different weight classes. The now defunct Pride organisation also makes an appearance with its notorious tournament rules in tact. For die-hard MMA fans, this addition couldn't be more welcome. Pride paved the way for the superstars and style of fighting we see in the UFC, so its inclusion in the game is a heart-warming nod back to the face-splitting days of old.

After spending so much time getting the basics right, it's a shame THQ never muster the same vigour in career mode. Greater emphasis has been placed on training and building your fighter, but there's still a spark missing. The mini-games, magazine covers snd sponsor deals mean very little when the action is broken up by menus..

Mike Goldberg's overly happy face does a decent job of introducing players to the basics, something newcomers will find useful. Although it doesn't do anything particularly wrong, Undispute 3's career mode falls into the same trap as Fight Night before Champion arrived. It would be nice to have an Ultimate Fighter storyline alongside the usual stat-building. The developers need to find something to break-up the monotony of slowly moving up the rankings, as right now, it becomes tedious. Perhaps THQ's WWE series should act as inspiration, adding a customisable Universe mode to the usual line-up.

Away from the career mode, plenty of other gripping content has been packed in. Title and Title Defence Modes have you battling it out in an arcade-ladder format. The latter pits you against 100 fighters back-to-back, with no save option. Only a smidgen of health is replenished between rounds, meaning this is a serious task to overcome. Throw in the fact it'll take many hours to complete, these extra portions will only grip the hardcore fans after a couple of attempts.

The scarily high-pitched Anderson Silva doing what he does best

Ultimate Fights mode has also returned, and this year, it's more focused than ever. Specific objectives need to be carried out in order to receive maximum points. Both fighters can be selected, meaning each conflict promotes two challenges. Add this to the online mode, which allows you to build and join fight camps, and Undisputed 3 becomes a weighty package indeed.

THQ really have produced a game for the fans. So much content has been included, it's hard not to be impressed by Undisputed 3. Improvements to the details of octagon action make this a must have for those who follow the vastly popular organisation. The solid base THQ built themselves two years ago has progressed massively, making this game the most complete experience yet. Undisputed 3 isn't only an excellent MMA title, it challenges the best of the fighting genre with increasing confidence. Can we have Street Fighter x UFC next year?

Top Gaming Moment: Consistent drama makes this an enthralling title.

Platform Played: Xbox 360