The balance between realism and fun is always tough for any video game designer.  This ideology doubles when it comes to sports franchise games.  Gamers who play various sports games are often criticizing the game, for all sorts of various reasons, while they’re holding their controllers.

More often than not, the more true to real life a game is, the less fun it generally is when it is being played on a console.  The inverse of that is true as well, as video games such as NFL Blitz, featuring many differences to the real game of football, is typically a blast to play.  The UFC’s third chance at a game in its Undisputed series is definitely one of those games where the designers found the appropriate balance and got it right.

The first UFC Undisputed was a ton of fun, however the game had its limitations.  The styles of fighting were severely limited and did not have certain aspects of the game such as Greco-Roman wrestling and very limited standing clinch capabilities.  Meanwhile, in UFC Undisputed 2010, Sambo, Karate and Greco-Roman wrestling were added to the game, making the standing clinch became a major focus of things. However, at times it felt like all you did while playing was stand with your opponent and try to achieve double underhooks.  While more realism was added to the second installment, it provided a lot of gameplay that ultimately was not nearly as much fun.

The virtual version of Jose Aldo throws a kick (Heavy MMA)

Even though the latest version game has only been released to the public for a short period of time, it appears as though the creators have found the balance between the fun that was had during the first game and the more realistic experience  featured the second time around.  While fights still have a tendency from time to time to end up in the standing clinch, it is not nearly as much as was found to occur in the previous installment of the game.

For the most part, the fighters look like their human counterparts, and also act like themselves inside the cage.  A fighter like Chael Sonnen does not try to stand in the pocket and pick his opponent apart, but rather he takes his opponent down and works the ground game.  While it is nearly impossible to put what bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz does into a video game, the people at THQ made him very fast and very quick, which translated well into the game.  Touches like this give the title a true-to-life feeling that will make any fan happy.

One of the more popular features that the game has to offer comes from the career mode, where you can create a fighter and ride him up the ranks all the way from the former World Fighting Alliance promotion, fighting fictional characters, and into the UFC, where you will not only see yourself squaring off with virtual equivalents of real UFC fighters, but some of those fictional characters that have climbed the ladder alongside your own created fighter.

In career mode, the team at THQ has added a bunch of new mini-games to improve your fighter’s statistics, as well as other ways to improve your fighter, along with new features such as being able to take a fight outside of your fighter’s normal weight class.  These new features have definitely improved the enjoyment of the game mode.

But probably the biggest and most talked about new addition to this year’s game has to be “Pride Mode.”  Just as it sounds, it features Pride Fighting Championship and puts the fighters inside the Pride ring with a rule set that follows that of the former promotion.  Feel like soccer kicking your opponent?  No problem.  Want to foot stomp the head of a fighter you recently put on his back?  Go nuts!  It truly is a fun experience to take to the Pride ring rather than the UFC cage, and it is probably the best way that the game has improved from the previous rendition.

But unfortunately, it isn’t all peaches and cream.  Typically, with the good comes the bad, and while UFC Undisputed 3 doesn’t have very bad things that come along with it, there are some things that could have been implemented.

For example, the only promotion that you fight in leading into your UFC career is the aforementioned WFA, which is an organization that Zuffa purchased long ago.  Why not also include World Extreme Cagefighting?  Why not make up a couple of fictitious promotions that feature combat in circular cages or ones shaped like a pentagon? It would have been cool to have more options for the fighter as they lead into their career with the UFC, such as a Japanese promotion which happens to have a rule set similar to that of Pride.

The virtual showdown between Dominick Cruz (R) and Urijah Faber (Heavy MMA)

And to me, the biggest thing that they missed out on here was the opportunity to bring The Ultimate Fighter into the game.  Perhaps if you performed well early in your career, it would be great to then be invited to the show and have a chance to become the next TUF champion, and maybe even coach the show later in your career in the game.

There are also several little things that pop up in the game which left me scratching my head.

I understand that this is a video game after all, but for some reason one of the venues that you can fight in is Madison Square Garden in New York City, yet the sport of Mixed Martial Arts is currently illegal in the state of New York.

Fighters like heavyweight Sean McCorkle and middleweight Nate Marquardt are featured in the game despite being cut from the promotion in March and June of last year, respectively.

When fighting in Pride mode, it is possible to execute a wall walk up while your back is up against the ropes, which isn’t exactly possible to do.  While these things that are in the game ultimately don’t take anything away from the game itself, it makes for some unrealistic moments.

But in the long run, the game is great.  It runs smooth and maintains the same level of fun when taken online to battle against fellow players across the globe.  UFC Undisputed 3 has definitely hit its stride as far as keeping things true to real life, but at the same time maintaining a level of fun which gamers across the board will be able to enjoy.

Interested in locking horns with Brian in UFC Undisputed 3?  Feel free to send him a friend request or a message on XBox Live!  While he cannot guarantee that he will be the best competition you have ever faced online, he can assure you that he will try his best, chat the world of Mixed Martial Arts over the headset, and definitely not leave it in the hands of the judges!  His gamertag is “i3rian 87″

Top photo: The virtual version of Jon Jones (R) throws an elbow strike against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in “UFC Undisputed 3″ (THQ)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.