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Thursday, 31 July 2014

UFC Undisputed 3

UFC Undisputed 3.

I think I actually found this in a bargain bin ages ago and just bought it on a 'I need something to play' whim, before playing it consistently for about eight hours, leaving it completely alone for a year, and then playing it consistently again for another eight hours. I think it was nearly new when I found it in that bargain bin. I think Blockbuster may have just put it straight there instead of stocking it on their shelves.

(R.I.P. Blockbuster.)

It's an interesting case study, though, and I say that because sometimes, when I'm browsing Tumblr, people I follow will reblog gifs of MMA fighters. Sometimes, when I see these gifs, I'm genuinely not sure if they're real or from a video game, and it's interesting, in a way, that these two pastimes, both touted as being bastions of masculinity (although I'm not sure why, when one involves sweaty men in tight, scanty clothing rolling about on the floor while moaning with exertion and delight before one forces the other to submit to him, and the other involves nothing more strenuous than pressing buttons) have combined to essentially create the most loving, artistic renderings of the oiled, shimmering male form in three dimensions that the world have ever seen, so lifelike that it's difficult for me, someone who plays video games frequently, to tell that they're video game graphics.

Okay, bad example.

So. UFC Undisputed 3 was part of the then-yearly UFC Undisputed series, each iteration of which was roughly indistinguishable from the last. It's essentially a fighting game that insists it's a sports game, as you make your character, select their fighting style, thus giving them a few special moves, and then are dropped into a campaign to work your way up from a small scale league to a larger one, and up your way to champion, by fighting a series of fictional and – in the higher echelons – real UFC fighters with your array of punches, kicks and wrestling moves.

Not that you're likely to be champion unless you master the incredibly awkward wrestling minigame, in which you chase a rapidly shrinking bar around an octagon with your joystick. The AI will nearly always win when it has to play that minigame, equipped as it is with supernatural bar-chasing abilities, and it will continually force you to play it when you start entering championship fights, even if you've literally never had to do so before. No, I'm not bitter. That exact situation didn't happen to me.

Between fights, you have training minigames, but after a certain amount of increase, the development of your stats will grind to a halt, leaving you essentially unable to grow any stronger. This happened very early for me both times I played, and I wasn't sure how on earth I was meant to fix this problem. If you could, the game wasn't telling on how.

If the game had introduced wrestling earlier, then I would have been ecstatic. Without it, the gameplay gets very repetitive: Depending on what stance you're in, you're either using the same buttons to punch someone in the face, guard your face, kick them in the torso and head, or drag them into clinches; or punch someone in the sides, guard your torso, kick them in the legs, or try to tackle them to the ground – and if you're both on the ground, then you're just either throwing punches or knees with those buttons, or wiggling your stick to try to get into a better position.

(Please send puns on 'wiggling your stick to try to get into a better position' to

What a charming minigame.

So, it's not exactly deep gameplay. Deeper gameplay has been created, both in gaming in general and, for that matter, in fighting games: BlazBlue it ain't, although BlazBlue has a lot more freedom for wacky antics and fighter differences.

Possibly the most obnoxious aspect of the game, though, is the documentary element.

I want to be completely clear here: When I buy a video game, it is for two things. Number one, fun gameplay. Number two, an immersive story that the medium allows me some ability to explore.

Number three, men with questionable style sense?

Here's something I don't buy video games for: Self-aggrandising mini-documentaries that come after every major milestone. You start the game, and a bunch of MMA fighters appear giving interviews on the starts of their careers. Okay, fine. You have your first fight, and another set of interviews starts. Your first training, another mini-documentary. You change leagues, another mini-documentary. Over and over, the game subjects you to snippets of interviews strung together into four minute long cutscenes.

Had I wanted to watch a set of interviews about the formation of various MMA fighter careers, I would have found a set of interviews about the formation of various MMA fighter careers, and I would have watched them. I did not do this, and it was a bit offputting to see them put into a video game.

They're luckily skippable, although the game hastens to remind you that you can totally view them at any time, if you're – I don't know, incredibly bored and literally the only thing you have is an Xbox, a television, this game, and one finger, thus making it impossible for you to actually play the game and leaving you with the documentaries as your only source of entertainment.

(Then again, maybe this game's main audience are interested. Maybe every time they see another torturous mashing together of interview snippets, they sigh wistfully about how dreamy the fighters are and sit with their chin on the hand, staring longingly at their television screens – but I don't see why, because I assume those people have Youtube and would have just found either this or similar material (celebrities talking about their origins is never a difficult thing to find online) without dropping forty quid on a video game to go with it.)

This is one of the few games where product placement makes
perfect sense.

I've spent a lot of time talking about everything wrong with this game, primarily because it's not very good. What it is, though, is better than its competitors – I'm sorry EA Sports MMA fans, I played that too and it made me want to die, same with Supremacy MMA – and surprisingly addictive. If you have about half a day to spare and you need to sink it into the entertainment equivalent of junk food, then this is a definite contender for your time, and will only leave you with a mild sense of gut-wrenching regret at the end of it all.

If your hobby is watching men sweatily running their hands over each other's bodies for the satisfaction of audience of breathlessly screaming people, then you might not even get that sense of regret at all. Different people, different needs. Different ways of grieving. 


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