When UFC 3 was officially revealed back in November, we learned a little bit about its career mode, but the focus was largely on the retooled striking and animations. Now, EA Vancouver has pulled back the curtain to reveal the full breadth of the overhauled career mode that has you taking your fighter from young prospect to the greatest of all time.
As mentioned in our initial piece on UFC 3, the new career mode is all about bringing your character up the ranks to become the greatest of all time. When the team looked at what it could improve upon from UFC 2, it noted that it provided players with a long-term goal of becoming champion, but in the meantime, players just had to go out and win to climb the ranks to eventually achieve that goal. To make the mode more engaging, players now have short-term goals as they build toward the ultimate goal of becoming the GOAT. This comes in the form of incremental progress made toward your status as GOAT, as well as achieving goals for each contract. This means that regardless of where players are in their career, they can achieve goals set by the game. If you perform well and achieve objectives in your contract, it gives you a better contract next time, earning you more fight money, which can be used to afford to train at better gyms and improve your fighter's attributes. If the term "fight money" has you fearful of microtransactions, worry not; microtransactions are relegated to Ultimate Team mode.
In addition, over the course of each contract, you develop a rivalry with a fighter, which manifests over social media and can even lead to cinematic sequences detailing the bad blood between you and your rival to set the stage for your fight. You have choices to make during the lead-up to your fight. Not only do you choose from eight gyms of varying quality and prices, but also how you spend your time preparing for the fight. As you're selecting your gym, each has a roster of training partners ranging from fictional generic characters to real UFC fighters to prepare alongside. Once in camp, you have some options of how to allocate your time. If you choose to train, the game simulates your training session for you and allows you to gain attributes to improve your fighter. If you choose to learn, you take part in minigames that can lead to you learning new moves and earn new perks. If you spend time sparring, you jump into the Octagon with a sparring partner that emulates your upcoming opponent, and the game coaches you on how to approach that style of fighter. The final way you can allocate time is through promotional activities. While you obviously want to strike a perfect balance between these activities during any given camp, the ideal situation is to not over- or under-train and to make sure your fighter is at peak fitness for his or her fight.
To become the GOAT, you must complete a combination of performance and promotional goals. Performance goals consist of things like setting the UFC records for number of knockouts over the course of your career, number of submissions, number of fights, number of "Fight of the Night" or "Performance of the Night" awards, or consecutive title defenses. Promotional goals consist of things like career earnings, pay-per-view cards you appear on, pay-per-view buys when you're on the card, and social media followers. To become the GOAT, you must accomplish six of the performance goals and two of the promotion goals.
Achieving the performance goals is self-explanatory, but the promotional goals are accomplished by taking time out of your training camp to participate in activities that build hype around you and your upcoming fight. These activities include handing out flyers to your gym, posting to social media, announcing a new nickname, doing a meet-and-greet at a local restaurant, or setting up a video game streaming channel. Several of these promotional activities have arcs that build based on your following and career status. For example, starting a streaming channel can eventually lead to you being invited by EA to a promotional event, while another path can land you on the cover of a new EA Sports UFC video game.
Of course, you can't become the GOAT if you never make it into the UFC. Thankfully, there are now multiple paths into the big show. In UFC 3's career mode, your fighter starts out in the World Fighting Alliance, a smaller fight promotion. Depending on how you perform on this smaller stage, you can either get called right up after a few fights, get invited to appear on a season of the UFC's reality show competition The Ultimate Fighter, or earn a last-minute replacement spot on a card in the UFC. This makes it so that the career mode is reactive to your performance from the get-go, and also removes the jarring "try again" screen from UFC 2's career mode if you lost in an elimination match. Of course, the sooner you get called up, the faster you can get to reaching your first title fight and achieving GOAT goals.
With so many improvements in career mode, UFC 3 looks to satisfy those who want to play offline and enjoy a traditional mode that tells the story of going from an unknown athlete to a legend of the sport. Of course, the game still features single-fight modes, Ultimate Team, and online competitive play, but as someone who always looks at career mode as my destination, I'm excited to see how all these changes work in concert to deliver a different experience from past entries.