Much like cover star Conor McGregor, EA’s UFC games have built a big reputation as the best in the business and, with each new iteration, they have a new point to prove. Like all EA Sports games, UFC 3 has a multitude of modes, with particular attention paid to Ultimate Team, which is back for a second time, and picks up, combines and polishes to a high sheen the best parts of the Ultimate Team modes in FIFA and Madden. The main chunk of this game is the revamped GOAT (that stands for Greatest Of All Time if you’re not up on your US sports acronyms) career mode, a status that the game basically gives to Conor McGregor (personally I’m a Chuck Liddell fan but it’s not really that shocking that UFC chose the biggest draw in the sport’s history).
GOAT starts with you creating your own fighter either from the very extensive character creator or by uploading a photo using the EA Game Face app (although the results of this vary wildly). You then start off in rural MMA organisations, and fight your way up to the undercard and then the main show of a UFC card, eventually getting title fights and building a win streak that truly puts you in contention to be the GOAT. Career mode, like the rest of the game, benefits hugely from stunning presentation, with EA having taken the flair from their other sports games and applied it here to produce what is probably their best-looking game to date. The career mode is enlivened by great touches like being able to take part in your own UFC Minute promo segment and having a rival fighter at each stage of your journey to GOAT status. The way you train your fighter however is a little trivial, you just get the choice of spending your pre-fight points on training with pre-set drills, sparring with another fighter or promoting your fighter on various forms of social media. Throughout, the career mode is superb, hardly ever feeling boring or repetitive and, in my opinion, ending up as the best career mode in any EA Sports game.
Those just wanting a bit of arcade fun should head for knockout mode, it basically turns the game into a standard beat em up, with each hit wearing down your opponent’s health bar until a satisfying, visceral knockout. This time though, EA have added commentary from Snoop Dogg, and his great lines really add to the straightforward fun that this mode provides. Vitally, Snoop has done far more than just record a few throw-away lines of dialogue, it sounds more like the devs just left him in a room with the game and recorded every word he said.
Also benefiting from a revamp is Ultimate Team, which returns after making its debut in UFC 2 and has you build a team of UFC fighters in each weight class and compete for single or multiplayer championships. Like all Ultimate Team modes, you open packs (bought with either in-game currency or real money) filled with bonus cards that improve things like the number of coins you earn from fights and the stats of your fighters and slowly upgrade your team in an effort to reach the upper echelons of UFC 3’s online championships.
All of UFC 3’s modes are utter perfection, and the reason they work is the incredible graphics and detail that’s on show during every fight, with blood splattering, knees buckling and vicious elbows opening up deep cuts on the faces of the virtual combatants. This diligence is present throughout the game and it feels like every part has been playtested to death to iron out any real glitches. In the octagon, the action is beautifully balanced and there’s no one move that’s too strong and deals a ridiculous amount of damage to a certain appendage of your opponent. Consequently, you feel like you earn every single win and don’t feel cheated when you lose (something that’s always bothered me in FIFA in particular).
A nice little touch is that if you owned any of the previous UFC titles, then you are given the martial arts legend Bruce Lee to use in the game’s offline modes. Clad in his iconic yellow, Lee is recreated perfectly and he’s a great choice for a fun scrap with a few mates.
The only real negative is that the stamina bar goes down way too quickly for my liking. When you’re in the flow of the fight, and really nailing your punches and kicks, the bar is empty before you know it and you have to step back and let the opposition fighter get their health back. This is a shame, but not a deal-breaker.
Overall, UFC 3 is the GOAT plain and simple and there’s no other realistic fighting game that can even touch it. This is the best UFC game in nearly a decade, which truly shows the quality on show here. Like Conor McGregor, UFC 3 sits atop the MMA pyramid and it will take something special to knock it off its perch. The fighting is so realistic, it feels like you’re truly in the octagon and pummelling your opponent to within an inch of their life. It’s a must-buy for any fighting/MMA game enthusiast, and really shines with the added power of the Xbox One X or PS4 Pro. In short, it’s a modern great which shouldn’t be overlooked because of EA’s recent AAA release record.
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4
Release Date: 2nd February 2018