UFC Undisputed 3 represents more than just THQ's abandonment of the mixed martial arts simulation series as an annualised franchise, it's the game designed to welcome more virtual fighters into the fold. It's a game kinder to new players, but more brutal on its in-game MMA stars.
Some of that increased brutality comes from the adoption of Pride rules, which THQ announced yesterday, bringing the flavour of Japan's mixed martial arts league into the UFC. That means knees to the head and soccer kicks to the skull are fair game, if you're using the optional Pride rule set.
Kotaku got a chance to see some of UFC Undisputed 3's new tricks at a recent pre-E3 2011 event, so let's break it down for you.
As already announced, UFC Undisputed 3 introduces new weight classes, bantamweight and featherweight, meaning faster, leaner action. It also introduces new game rules, like a Competition setting that eliminates random knockouts and an equalised stats option, which gives both fighters the same baseline stats, seemingly to see who can win on sheer talent and knowledge, not physical advantage.
There's also a new energy setting that aims for more accurate simulation, meaning the game is more judicious in terms of how often you attack, affecting your fighter's stamina, and the impact of head shots.
UFC Undisputed 3's submission system looks vaguely like the one introduced by EA Sports' attempt at an MMA game, with submission holds spawning a mini-game played on an octagonal graphic interface. That submission game is a cat and mouse-style chase, with the dominant fighter attempting to chase down the submissive fighter. They're represented on the edges of that octagon with a small dot for the submissive one, a larger, but ever-shrinking line for the dominant one. Catch the dot with your line and your opponent will tap out.
For UFC Undisputed newbies who find the sport intimidating, THQ is making some concessions, at least in the form of Amateur Control, which makes grappling much easier. The game will also offer an improved tutorial system that will interrupt fights with informative prompts, should players choose to use them.
We got a chance to see some of this in action with a Wanderlei Silva vs. Rampage Jackson match - two of the more than 150 UFC fighters planned - that was brutal as promised. Fighters feigned attacks naturally and the game appeared to telegraph movement in more obvious ways, but it was the nasty kicks to the noggin and the resulting effects - muted sound, screen blur - that helped sell the presentation.
There's still a long way to go with UFC Undisputed 3, as the game isn't due for release until January 2012, when THQ says it will hit the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. We'll have more from the game soon.