EA Sports' third UFC title comes out next week, and you're likely seeing some reviews across the internet. I've put a ton of time into UFC 3 – particularly career mode – but we're not ready to publish our review just yet. We decided to hold off to see how the game behaves in a live environment. However, with tens of hours under my belt, I have plenty of thoughts about the game, which I can now share with you. Here are my five biggest takeaways from EA Sports UFC 3.
1. The Overhauled Stand-up Game Is Largely Successful
UFC 3 tosses the animations from past UFC games aside and starts anew using EA Sports' Real Player Motion technology. The result is more realistic transitions from move to move, and better-looking locomotion around the Octagon. Strikes look more natural when thrown, and the transitions in the clinch look good. On the ground, some of the transitions still look slightly choreographed, but do a good job of capturing the grapple struggle.
The revamped striking controls take some getting used to, but their intuitive nature means I was competently striking after just a few matches. However, fighters sometimes take an absurd amount of damage, meaning that even my career-mode fighter that reached a power rating of 100 sometimes had trouble putting opponents away. Sure, an overhand right could stun the opposing fighter fairly consistently, but the hooks, uppercuts, and Superman punches felt underwhelming in their power at times.
One thing I absolutely love that UFC 3 brings to the table is its new vulnerability windows. These windows open you up for more damage if you're hit during certain points in your strike, and the window size varies based on the move you're throwing. For example, a jab has a very small vulnerability window, so if you're caught while throwing a jab, it's not nearly as severe as if you take a hook to the chin while throwing a wild haymaker.
2. The New GOAT Career Mode Is A Huge Improvement
One of the biggest focuses of UFC 3 is the new GOAT Career Mode. In this single-player, offline mode, you try to develop a new fighter all the way from fighting in the local circuits to becoming the greatest combatant to ever set foot in the UFC Octagon. However, the road to becoming the greatest of all time is a long, difficult one. In order to become the GOAT, you need to set six performance records, and two promotional records by the time your career ends. These are all long-term goals that you slowly build to as your career progresses. Because of that, UFC 3 adds short-term goals for each contract you sign, as well as a rival to look forward to facing at the conclusion of your contract. You go back and forth with your rival on social media over the course of your contract, building hype for your fight. I enjoyed these back and forths, even though I wish it had more interactivity.
Each fight lets you select where you want to set up your training camp. You can do everything from train in your parents' basement for free to join an elite gym for thousands of dollars per week. I like the balancing act of not only deciding between the splurging on the best gyms and saving money for the future, but also choosing how to spend your time while in camp. With the need to complete both performance and promotional milestones, you need to build up hype for your fight through activities like making an appearance at a local business or streaming video games for fans. Each activity, whether it's training or promoting, takes time from your week, and when you reach zero in your time bank, you advance to the next week.
The presentation of the GOAT Career Mode is a massive upgrade. Whether you're talking the usage of Dana White's Looking for a Fight, The Ultimate Fighter, or the UFC Minute starring Megan Olivi, the career mode does a great job of building up the drama surrounding your fights before the fight even happens.
That's not to say the mode is perfect, however. One small detail that irritated me through my three playthroughs of the mode is that while the rankings change throughout the many simulations, the champion never does. It's strange to see Michael Bisping still the champ of the middleweight division in the year 2022, four years after he's likely retired (and five years after he lost the belt in real life). On a similar note, I appreciate that big-name fighters never retire from career mode, but I found it pretty funny that I was so easily dominated by a 47-year-old Anderson Silva; I get that he's one of the greatest to ever fight, but I don't know if he's going to still be that great as he rapidly approaches the 50-year mark.
3. The Commentary Needs Some Work
Longtime play-by-play commentator Mike Goldberg left the UFC last year for Bellator, meaning that they had to replace him in-game with new commentator Jon Anik. Anik does an exemplary job with his lines, even adding several new custom tags for some of the more high-profile fighters in the UFC (such as talking about how the road to the heavyweight belt still goes through Cleveland, Ohio when Stipe Miocic wins), but color commentator Joe Rogan adds very little in way of new voiceover. The biggest problems with the commentary, however, are in its accuracy and consistency. My second career reached its final fight, and the UFC Minute did a nice little video on how it was my fighter's final time in the Octagon. However, once my fighter reached the cage, Anik and Rogan excitedly went back and forth about how my fighter had a bright future and would one day in the future challenge for a belt, completely taking me out of the big moment in my fighter's career.
On other occasions, the commentators would incorrectly call the action. One such occurrence saw Anik and Rogan talking about the brutal roundhouse kick my fighter just threw to knockout her opponent. One problem exists: I knocked my opponent out with an uppercut. During another sequence, my fighter was knocked out with a single strike and the winning combatant walked away without throwing a follow-up. In this case, Anik and Rogan exchanged admiration for the awesome combination the fighter threw. These are all small problems with contextual awareness, but they amount to more pressing issues when it's taking me out of the immersion so regularly.
However, it's absolutely hilarious that EA Sports got Snoop Dogg to commentate Knockout Mode this time around, an homage to his gig with Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series. He's funny and surprisingly uncensored as he gives you the play-by-play in the hard-hitting mode.
4. Ultimate Team Adds A Lot More Customization
If you played the UFC 3 beta, you noticed that each fighter has more customization options. This allows you to further customize your team beyond what you could do in UFC 2. However, it also means that you have a lot more slots to fill, which can be done by earning packs in-game, or by buying them with real money. Like all card-collection modes in modern sports games, Ultimate Team is designed with microtransactions in mind. However, while they will give you a boost, they're not required to enjoy the mode. The addition of the single-player challenges that let you compete offline is welcome, and I like the team-chemistry boost.
5. The Short-Term Fight Modes Are Bolstered
If you're just looking to jump into a fight or two without the long-game structure of career or Ultimate Team, you have plenty of options that offer you single-sitting experiences. Of course, you can jump right into a standard UFC fight with any fighter and custom rules/presentation, but if you want to mix it up, the thrilling Knockout Mode, where you essentially have a set number of hit points before you're knocked out, returns with Snoop Dogg commentary in tow. Also, for those who want to focus on stand-up or ground games, Stand and Bang lets you go into a fight where no grappling, groundwork, or ground and pound is permitted, while Submission Showdown puts your chokes, armbars, and locks to the test.
Those modes are all fun to mess around with either by yourself or with a friend, but I love the returning Custom Event, and the new Tournament Mode. Custom Events lets you set your own UFC fight card, all the way down to the arena you want it to take place in and who you want refereeing. Tournament Mode allows you to set up a bracket with 8 or 16 fighters and customize the rules to a ridiculous extent. If you want 8 fighters to compete in stand-up-only matches with damage that carries over from match to match, or if you want 16 fighters with equalized skills and attributes to compete in standard MMA fights, you can do that. The standard online suite outside of Ultimate Team also returns in the form of Ranked Championships and Online Quick Fight.