EA Sports has put out a public beta test for UFC 3 (full game out February 2 for PS4 and Xbox One), giving everyone a first look at the title’s new gameplay for stamina, combos, strike interruptions and more. As a first-time UFC player, I jumped into the beta and tried to make sense of it all.
Having played EA Sports’ Fight Night franchise, as well as other traditional sports games from the company, I was curious how I’d adapt to the title’s gameplay, which is more like a fighter than anything else. UFC 3 is in a tough spot requiring a control scheme that’s more complex than Fight Night’s analog-stick punching, with situational flexibility as well as accommodating the ground game and submissions.
There’s no way around it: UFC 3’s controls are complex. There are three modifier buttons, four kinds of defense, commands where you hit two face buttons simultaneously, and some button inputs that aren’t used depending on which fighter you’re controlling (a duplicate move is performed instead). Luckily there’s a practice mode that’s more than just a sparring session. Here you can not only try out commands, but also record input strings which your fighter than performs on cue. You can also set it up so the A.I. only fights back during the ground game, for instance, or does or does not use his/her special strikes. Or they can be rendered totally inert if you simply want to focus on what you’re doing.
The controls can be a handful, but they are well within anyone’s grasp to master. In my time with the beta, the more intriguing puzzle was the mental side of things. Having to account for the numerous ways an opponent could come at me – including lunging grapples leading to me being thrown to the mat – was mentally exhausting in and of itself, but fun. Due to the game’s new strike cancellation and counter system, even going on the offensive with a flurry of attacks could lead to my opponent breaking my combos with a well-timed and smart counter.
Depending on how open you may leave yourself during an attack, your stamina and health status (the latter is different for the body, head, and legs), and what your opponent is doing, strikes can be effectively cancelled and countered, which makes for an ever-changing chess game. I think the beta did a good job of balancing the various risk/reward factors, and making it possible to both end a fight quickly with a devastating blow as well as survive for a multi-round marathon.
On the critical side, there were times when I wasn’t sure if my inputs were registering with the game, and the animation system produced some awkward moments during simultaneous hits. That being said, it also produced some cool moments such as when my roundhouse kick was perfectly interrupted by a strike in the back as I was winding up.
I was less enamored with the ground/submission section of gameplay. Initiating takedowns with the right analog didn’t always happen when I expected it to, and I felt that transitioning between various ground positions and into submissions didn’t have the subtlety of the stand-up combat and gameplay-wise simply wasn’t as interesting. Granted, I’m a UFC novice, but I wasn’t always sure why I should or shouldn’t be using some of my fighter’s ground positions, and there are pauses in gameplay where it doesn’t seem like much is happening. Overall, the right-analog gameplay here doesn’t convey what is an intense and crucial part of the sport.
Regardless if you’re a fan of MMA or the UFC franchise or not, the beta shows qualities of the game that could make it worth a look in 2018.
For more on the game’s revamped career mode, as well as the hands-on impressions from MMA fan Brian Shea, check out his previous preview. You can also read his UFC 3 career mode wishlist – some of which is thankfully being addressed.
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NASCAR Heat 2
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (shown)
NBA Live 18
Project Cars 2
Forza Motorsport 7
NBA 2K18 (Switch)
FIFA 18 (Switch)
Mutant Football League
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