The BETA released for EA UFC 3 on Monday and it features 12 lightweight fighters to use in Exhibition, Ultimate Team, Online and in Practice Modes.
I have some observations after playing 20 or so matches throughout the day. Let’s start with the positives.
The previous versions had the most realistic player models I’d ever seen and they look almost even better in the BETA, for the most part. Playing in 4K on the Xbox One X, the visuals jump off the screen. If I have a gripe with the models it’s their elongated torsos. Fighters like Paul Felder look almost insect-like in the torso, and that’s less than ideal.
That won’t drive most fans crazy and it certainly doesn’t ruin an otherwise stellarly set of virtual fighters.
Animations and Flow
As good as the fighters look standing still, you don’t really gain a full appreciation for Real Player Motion and the overall excellence in animation until you see the fighter movements. This is perhaps the freest I’ve ever felt controlling combatants in any combat sports video game and their movements are superb.
The gliding, bouncing, swaying, pivoting and spins are as smooth as butter. It looks and feels so good to control your fighters that the action can be quite addictive.
The stand-up game is where EA UFC 3 shines brightest. The variety of kicks, punches, elbows, and knees combined with the various sizes, arm lengths and styles of each fighter makes for a unique experience with each guy or girl.
It is so fun setting up opponents for hard counter shots after using the right stick to utilize head movement while creating new angles to strike. There’s tons of strategy and timing involved in mastering this important aspect of the game. It’s an area where you desperately need to put in the time and effort to craft an approach with your favorite fighters.
The fighters in the BETA have signature skills that align well with their real-life weapons. Edson Barboza’s leg kicks are lethal. Nate Diaz’s length and boxing skills are major and Conor McGregor’s one-strike KO power–especially with his left hand–is serious.
There are some things that could be improved, but we’ll get into those shortly.
The commentary in EA UFC 3 isn’t groundbreaking, but I’m surprised how much more I like Jon Anik in the game than I did Mike Goldberg. Anik’s lines sound official–except for the glitch that has him referring to Barboza as the Soldier of God–that would be Yoel Romero.
Hopefully, his word output increases for the retail version of the game.
SUGGESTIONS FOR RETAIL
Balancing the Impact of Stand-Up And Ground Dominance
Barboza’s leg kicks are one of the nastiest weapons I discovered in the BETA, but most of the other fighters in the demo with strong stand-up skills aren’t quite as dangerous or a threat to end the fight at any moment as they should be. That’s unfortunate because guys like Khabib Nurmagomedov, who are known for their prowess fighting on the ground, seem to almost impossible to escape if they’re in top position.
I don’t have a problem with that per se because Nurmagomedov has proven himself to be one of the most dominant top fighters in the sport. However, the margin of error for an opponent facing Nurmagomedov seems to be drastically smaller than it is for players controlling opponents facing a fighter like McGregor whose biggest weapon is his stand-up game.
EA UFC 3 still allows fighters to take an unrealistic amount of action before being stopped via head strikes–though you will see the occasional one-hitter quitter. This dynamic seems to give players who excel at the ground game an advantage over those who are outstanding at the stand-up.
If one area of the game is less than realistic, so too should be its opposite. In this case, the answer might be tweaking the settings in the stand-up game to make players with bad stand-up defense pay a more severe and quicker price for taking clean shots.
Allow Knockout Mode Online
KO mode isn’t in the BETA and per an EA rep I spoke to, it won’t be online in the retail version of the game. EA has added a few things to KO mode, but the most impacting addition would be online availability.
It Appears More Still Needs To Be Added to Ultimate Team
I spent some time in Ultimate Team, and while it looks to have a little more depth than last year’s version, my hopes aren’t especially high for the mode in EA UFC 3. I’m still missing the star power and feeling underwhelmed by pack openings that give you moves and energy boost over new fighters.
Hopefully, it’s not too late to make this Ultimate Team more like Madden, FIFA, and NHL.
Eliminate the Simplified Submission System
I’m not a big fan of the submission system from EA UFC 2 and unfortunately, it’s returning for EA UFC 3. I admit I’ve got to dedicate some real time to get better acquainted with it, but I still believe it’s a little too challenging of a task for something so essential to the title’s gameplay.
The level of skill that it takes to become adequate on the ground is a little too high. Players who are good on the ground–especially fighting with guys like Nurmagomedov–will completely destroy anyone who is not adept at the grappling and reversal system.
I tried using the simplified submission system, which is just insane and nearly impossible button mashing, and I liked it even less than the original structure. I can’t imagine anyone using it, so it should probably just be removed from the game.
It doesn’t appear as though the development team has found a real sweet spot with submissions, but it might be as good as it’s going to get.
Beyond the areas I pointed out in the suggestions area, EA UFC 3‘s BETA is excellent and a blast to play. I highly recommend anyone that loves sports/fighting games to check it out if they can find a code. It might just make you add this game to your must-buy list when it releases on February 2.
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