The G.O.A.T. Edition of EA SPORTS UFC 3 is now out in the wild and after having some time to dive back into the world of simulated MMA, here are my initial impressions of the gameplay from EA’s latest Octagon brawler.
- Having touted the Real Player Motion Technology, EA had set up expectations for a much improved stand up experience in UFC 3 and they have largely delivered. As opposed to the now-sluggish movement of its predecessor, fighters in UFC 3 move very fluidly. Now instead of staying toe to toe no matter where I am in the octagon, I can get in and out of range and maintain distance or close the gap and mount a pressure-oriented offensive.
- Fighting styles are well represented. In EA Sports UFC 2, the differences between fighters was minimal. Most fighters fought a very similar style despite having different strengths, weaknesses, and movesets. This was largely because of the limitations in the movement system. Now Conor McGregor unleashes left hands with bad intentions and Nate Diaz will dish out Stockton slaps at will. In fact, the fighter that caught me the most off guard was Khabib Nurmagomedov. He used his boxing to get into range to take me down over and over again so that he could try to pound me out on the ground. Fighter size and weight also affected the styles of fights I was having, and it’s a welcome feeling to fear Demetrious Johnson’s speed in a similar way I fear a Francis Ngannou uppercut.
- The move list and control scheme is the most dense it has ever been. New system means new controls and, at first, I was still in the habit of holding down R1 to try and high block. I got knocked out a couple of times before I finally committed it to memory. Uppercuts have also been remapped so that it is now a two-button input to get an uppercut. It’s accessible enough for new players to pick up and brawl but nuanced enough to take a good amount of practice to become good at.
- Being able to punch or kick while moving in a certain direction is a very welcome addition. Stepping into a leg kick looks devastating, and being able to move the left stick away from my opponent and throw a straight while moving back is really cool. There are finally strikes that can be done as a way of getting the opponent out of your space and resetting cage position. There is also a difference in power as strikes going towards an opponent are more powerful than strikes thrown while moving away.
- While movement has been overhauled, some of the punch and kick animations have not. This leads to weird moments where players are right next to each other throwing stubby punches. While the controls are there to input elbows, I might have preferred that EA made strikes contextual by distance. The same goes with strikes on a wobbled opponent. When knocking down an opposing fighter, high strikes don’t track the head so in many instances your fighter will punch at the air. This does remove some of the shine from the striking system as it looks odd.
- Rag doll physics need to be addressed. In a lot of instances, knockouts look really impactful and add to the immersion of the striking system. In other instances during my play time, the way bodies went limp was laughably bad and left me wondering how injured a fighter would be if they really fell like that. It’s a small gripe but one that, if fixed, would add a lot to the experience.
- The ground game is largely the same and I’m still not a fan. Having a huge octagon gate on screen for submissions and having to do the mini-game five times to secure something as common as an armbar just isn’t very fun to me. It might be a functional system but I can’t help feel that EA could implement a better way to represent a huge aspect of MMA. Wrestling is merely fine, ground and pound is still too far slanted in favor of the person on top, and sweeps from bottom into top mount are far too common. I wish there were some way to incorporate more of the scrambles we actually see in the UFC.
- One big change to the ground fighting that I love is the stamina loss for the fighter in top position that happens when their transitions are blocked. In UFC 2 it seemed like no matter how many transitions the bottom fighter blocked, the top fighter still had stamina to spare. By making the cost of a blocked transition so high, it creates a bit more nuance to the cat and mouse ground game.
- A.I. ranges from complete punching bags on easy to almost too psychic at the highest difficulty. Going ham against a legendary difficulty opponent will get you knocked out quick, and unless you want your fighter pulling a Silva/Weidman 2, I would avoid throwing leg kicks without some setup strikes first. Like most games, the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle and once I got there, I found the game challenging and very rewarding. Fighters fought to their strengths and strategy was needed in order to win fights.
Final Thoughts (So Far)
Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time with EA Sports UFC 3 a great deal. Striking is where it is at in this game and it’s better than ever despite a few polish issues. While I’m not the biggest fan of the largely unchanged grapple system, I do know players that love it. There’s nothing here that is game breaking so far and the overall gameplay will have players coming back for more for a long time to come. Stay tuned for more on UFC 3 gameplay as I get more time with the game, and a review of Career Mode will be coming as well this week.
And lastly, look for my full review sometime over the weekend into early next week!