Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years, amassing a global fan base in the millions and being broadcast the world over; while there have been UFC games in the past, none has quite had so much to prove as UFC Undisputed 3 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
UFC is a complicated sport, which combines conventional boxing, kick boxing, a range of martial arts and wrestling together to produce matches that can just as easily be won with a right hook as with complicated floor work.
As such, UFC Undisputed 3 takes some getting to grips with - even for those familiar with the sport, as there are many, many control inputs to master - but, thankfully, there is a comprehensive tutorial.
Optional - but highly recommended by us - the tutorial starts the game and covers 17 of the most popular UFC moves, which are talked through and demonstrated before you are encouraged to have a go yourself.
If you chose to skip the tutorials then the game automatically flashes up hints and commands while playing; these commands suggest which button to press to pull off the perfect move; of course,
Being almost completely new to UFC, we spent around an hour working through the various tutorials before creating our character and entering our first fight. As with most games like UFC Undisputed 3, your character can be as personal as you like; height, weight, eyes, hair, shape of head, and shape of facial features can all be adjusted.
UFC Undisputed 3 is absolutely packed with information for those new to the sport - from informative and well-produced interviews and footage from real-life fights to comprehensive stats of all the fighters.
Arenas and fight camps from around the world are accurately recreated and such a level of detail makes the game feel very official - it's the full UFC experience.
Once a fight is scheduled - you can pick from a handful of opponents and we found that choosing the shortest was usually a safe bet when starting out, as they have a shorter reach - you then get the chance to train.
Training ranges from weight lifting to sparring and can be completed manually or automatically.
Along with training to make your character faster and stronger, there are also a number of training camps to attend, where you can learn specific moves in both offence and defence; there's also a section where sponsorship deals with clothing companies can be signed.
Although the gameplay in UFC Undisputed 3 can be as tactical as the real thing, our first few matches were won by laying out punches to our opponent's head, with very little need for 'ground work'.
A feature that may shock those new to the sport is 'finish the fight', which lets you continue to punch and kick at your opponent - even if they are unconscious - until the referee stops the match.
Despite being newcomers to UFC and mixed martial arts in general, we were able to quickly progress through the game after several early wins; although it must be said that these wins were by knock out rather than the more complex submission moves.
A feature that we liked in UFC Undisputed 3 is that there is no user interface during fights; this means no health meter, so you're character's physical appearance and movement are all that you have to judge his condition.
Throw lots of missed punches and you'll get tired quickly, slowing you down and leaving you open for counter attacks. However, if several punches and kicks land on target, your character seems spurred on to be quicker and more aggressive. Tiredness can be stopped by stepping back for a few seconds and blocking, but your condition will slowly deteriorate through each round of the match.
UFC is a tactical game and, put simply, button bashing will get you nowhere. Moves need to be carefully considered at first, before unleashing a more frenzied attack once the first few attacks have hit their target - usually the opponent's head.
While continuous blows to the head will slow your player down, it's only when a major kick or punch lands that you'll start to enter 'feint mode', where everything slows down for a few seconds and becomes blurry. It is a system very similar to the one used by Fight Night and forces you to block, step back and hope for the best - one more hit landed and you'll be history.
As an aside, UFC Undisputed 3 includes Pride, a no-holds-barred mixed martial arts championship that was bought by UFC in 2007.
Where UFC has rules, Pride matches are no holds barred; players can stomp on the face of an opponent and knee them in the head. The first round of a Pride game lasts 10 minutes and the second and third each last five, but we managed to finish every fight in just a couple of minutes.
One disappointing feature is how submissions are play out. When held in a submission, a huge octogon appears, filling the screen; each player has an icon which they can move around the icon and it's the attacker's job to chase the victim's icon. This game of cat and mouse isn't that representative of how the sport works; we found that getting out of a submission move was incredibly difficult, leading to frustration in our first few matches.
Graphically, the game is superb, with all fighters incredibly well presented; movement is smooth and realistic, while the crowd, referee and arenas are also attractively designed.
Finally, UFC Undisputed 3 saves the replays of your 50 most recent fights; these can be viewed and edited together to create a personal showreel of your best moments. It's a fun addition to the game, but saving each fight to the showreel takes several minutes.
UFC Undispited 3 carries a 15+ age certificate in the UK and is available from 17 February for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
- Excellent graphics
- Fun and addictive gameplay
- Huge selection of fighters
- Feels very official
- Full of real life video and information for gamers new to the sport
- Submission system is difficult and could be better
- Steep learning curve to those new to UFC
- Huge number of controls to learn