The UFC games have been some of my all-time favourite time eaters. I adored the THQ Undisputed series, I may be one of the select few who did. Recently, EA Sports UFC 2 has been a go-to games. Quick and easy to get into, it’s the game I play when I have little energy or lack inclination to micromanage stats or compete with 63 other players on Verdun Heights. So, of course, I was giddy when the EA Sports UFC 3 beta was announced. Unfortunately, this giddiness turned to disappointment very quickly.

To be clear, I hold no resentment towards EA for their loot crate shenanigans business practices. In fairness, EA makes some of my favourite games/series and the microtransactions will stick around for as long as we – gamers – are willing to financially support them.

After spending a few hours in the EA Sports UFC 3 beta, we’re seriously hoping EA are holding back for the full release on February 2, 2018. Here’s the good we pulled from the EA Sports UFC 3 beta… and unfortunately, a long list of the bad.
 

 

What’s Good:

Visually the game has improved, but only marginally so. Mercifully, the U.I. is much more user-friendly than in previous titles and the fighters themselves look pretty true to their real-life counterparts. However, the visual improvements in this beta are minimal when looking at the 2016 release and looking further back, the improvements from the first EA Sports UFC title the second (2014 to 2016) were minimal too. At least they’re consistent, I guess?

The striking system has received a major overhaul, adding some fantastic features, while removing some that are absolutely essential to a UFC game. After getting past the initial confusion, the reworked controls are actually quite a bit of fun. By removing the left stick input as a punch modifier, fighters can now strike and move at the same time, making for much more mobile contests. This also means no more throwing uppercuts, instead of a jab and moving away.

Strikes carry some weight now, not in feel or animation, but in the damage they deal. Wonderfully, leg kicks, even naked ones, are devastating. Gone are the days of being required to throw combinations to build up a multiplier, in order to deal any real damage. Now a single, well-timed strike can sit a fighter on their arse, forcing them to perform a gorgeously animated Gracie get up/technical standup. Take a look at some of the highlights that were submitted to EA and judge for yourself.

The U.I. improvements were most apparent in Ultimate Team mode, which in EA UFC 2 was a bit of a maze to navigate. If you spent some time in Ultimate Team in EA Sports UFC 2, you’ll be pretty comfortable with Ultimate Team in EA Sports UFC 3. There are a few new layers of complexity to keep you occupied but, in essence, it’s the same game mode. In Ultimate Team manage multiple fighters and compete online or in a single player mode against the AI, which seems to have regressed from the last title. Other major game modes were locked for the beta but hopefully, the career mode has been improved from the last release.
 

What’s Bad:

I don’t like to dwell on negatives, particularly when relating to something a hell of a lot of people put a huge amount of effort into. Hell, I’m more than willing to put up with broken games, if some aspect of it is worth it…But god damn, you’re not making that an easy stance to take, EA.
For the sake of brevity, here are 6 lesser concerns:

  • There’s too much McGregor, he’s plastered over everything in game – there’s an old adage, something about eggs and one basket…
  • As an unabashed fan of Joe Rogan, his commentary is horrid in this game, as it was in games past.
  • EA + microtransactions, of course.
  • Copy and pasted animations straight from UFC 2, particularly takedowns and grappling.
  • When creating my first fighter, I spent ten minutes trying to find a body that didn’t look deformed. Doesn’t exist.*
  • There are whispers of the game running at 30 fps on PS4/Xbone and 60 fps on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. huge
    disadvantage for those with the older console, in a game based almost entirely around timing.

 
Wanna delve deeper? ‘Cause It doesn’t get much better. Let’s start with striking.

Parrying has been removed from the beta altogether. Perhaps this is because of the potential to parry spam online (which was eventually patched in EA UFC 2) and deliver power counters. How parries were not included in a mixed martial arts game is perplexing. Check out the efficacy parrying, exemplified by RDA parrying Pettis’ jab in real life, below. It also seems as though another mechanic has been removed in the new game again, the ability to throw feints. And unfortunately, striking on the ground is ineffective, slow, and lacks any of the intensity seen in real MMA contests. It’s genuinely unexciting.
 

 
One of the more noticeable aspects of this game is that there’s huge input lag (on the old PS4). Some online suggest it’s due the 30 fps frame rate but by all accounts, EA Sports UFC 1 and 2 were running 30 fps with much less input lag. I had check my sanity and load up the previous game to compare. The difference was shocking and surely this can’t be put down to a design choice.

Increasing fighter mobility is a step in the right direction but they may have overshot the mark a little. Fighters can move in any direction, even when throwing the heaviest of shots, removing the necessity, excitement and danger of planting your feet and throwing bombs. The more dynamic stand up game also serves to emphasises how static and one dimensional the grappling is, really breaks my heart.

It looks and feels as though the team over at EA copy and pasted the grappling mechanics and animations straight from EA Sports UFC 2 right into the new game. Unfortunately for the bros who boo at ‘boring’ grappling exchanges, grappling is, and will remain, an integral part of mixed martial arts. Even more unfortunate, is that this game was a perfect opportunity for the bros, casual UFC fans, and even just gamers to be exposed to, and learn about, the complexity and beauty of grappling.
 

 
EA Sports UFC 3 delivers none of the nuances of grappling. No battle for angles and not a single aspect of the strategic nature of grappling exchanges shines through. Instead, we get a few techniques for each positional change and a frightfully dull and frustrating mini-game for pulling off submissions. In the real world, submitting another human is a difficult feat. In EA UFC games, grappling online oft leads to your opponent rage-quitting as soon as they’re put in a bad position. Given that there are no improvements from last time around, this trend will probably continue.

Simply put the beta was extremely disappointing. As much as it pains me to type this, if the full release is anything like the beta, I’ll be sticking with EA Sports UFC 2 and wait until EA Sports UFC 3 hits the discount bin . By then there should be a few patches out, hopefully remedying some the above issues and the money saved on the price of admission may go towards loot crates…bills.

Don’t pay for loot crates! Grind it out, people.
 
*Hint: torsos aren’t that long. Now, try to unsee that!