UFC Undisputed 3: Serious license, serious fighter

By Brenna Hillier
23 February 2012 06:50 GMT

A couple of weeks ago it was a non-entity; now everyone’s buying, playing and talking about UFC Undisputed 3. What’s caused this strange outbreak of passion among the fickle consumer base?

Who the heck is playing UFC Undisputed 3? I wasn’t planning on it. Just look at all these amazing arguments against it, presented by that most eloquent of master debaters, Mr Internet:

  • It’s a fighter, but doesn’t have specials and fireballs, therefore it must be a button masher.
  • It’s a licensed tie-in, which is a kiss of death.
  • THQ published it and everyone knows what that means; there is a curse.

I don’t actually agree with any of these points, but in my message board haunting, I concluded that these opinions are more widespread than they have turned out to be. Even after years of practice, it’s not always easy to guess which games are going to go big and which are going to fade away – but I was pretty sure UFC Undisputed 3 was in the latter category.

So wrong. UFC Undisputed 3 was top of the charts in the UK this week; it’s all over my Twitter feed at all hours; it’s one of the most-searched titles in several territories. What on earth is going on?

Some of it is timing of course; for those not interested in smacking fairies in Reckoning, it’s been a bit of a dry spell release-wise, ahead of the avalanche at the end of the month – but a lot more of it is the growing power of the UFC license.

Founded in 1993, UFC is the largest mixed martial arts name in the world, and in late 2010, it really took off. Cable TV deals have turned this most brutal of sports into spectacle events best enjoyed on the huge screen of your local sports bar, or late at night, hunched over a livestream. Merchandising is mega. Local tournaments have to be slapped with lawsuits to keep them from quietly appropriating the brand. Our favourite Texan Nathan Grayson turns his Twitter feed into an incomprehensible lists of names and moves whenever a fight goes down. UFC has grown from something you can safely to ignore to a cultural force you should know at least a little bit about, and then will probably sign up to for life if you have interest in watching astonishingly powerful men hurt and or cuddle each other.

That’s all well and good, of course, but what’s really wonderful about the increased clout of the property it is that THQ used it properly, leaving out the cheap tie-ins to make something decent. Although the name isn’t familiar outside of sports and fighter-loving circles, Japanese developer Yuke’s has built up a sterling reputation for its serious treatment of realistic, modern fighters.

Both of its latest licensed efforts, WWE 12 and WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2011, were solid efforts – plain good fun and decent sellers – and the studio takes every game very, very seriously. None of their games are button mashers. Dipping into discussions of what has changed between the last UFC Undisputed game back in 2010 and the much-talked about sequel, you enter a world of jargon and terminology akin to reading a Street Fighter patch log – despite the lack of projectiles and other marks of a “serious” fighter.

The critics are in agreement with the fans: UFC Undisputed 3 holds an 87 Metacritic average on PlayStation 3, and an 85 on Xbox 360. On Xbox 360, 43 of the 45 reviews score 75 or more, as do all of those on PlayStation 3. While it’s up to you how seriously you take reviews, that’s not a result THQ can be disappointed in. The publisher may be backing away from it’s kids’ licenses but as long as it continues its commitment to genuinely honouring the top sporting properties it holds, there seems to be no obstacle to the rise of a new breed of “serious fighters” wearing a delightful real-world skin.

UFC Undisputed 3 is available now on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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