Immediately upon starting up UFC Undisputed 3 it becomes clear that the producers have improved immesurably upon the previous game, be that by the upgraded roster of more than 150 fighters including the addition of the new featherweight and bantam weight divisions, the addition of Pride mode, improved create a fighter and career mode that also allows you to play as an existing UFC fighter, fighter walk-ins or the rehashed submission system. Frankly its just a much better game.
Most important I believe is the introduction of the new submission system that replaces the old blister inducing process of simply rotating the direction stick as fast as you can with what is essentially a mini game which brings up an octogon shape and two bars with the attacking player required to cover the defending players bar for a sufficiant amount of time to complete the submission. The size of your bar depends upon the fighters level of submission attack or defence, his stamina level and whether he is rocked or not, the result of this being a submission system that is much more intuitive and tactical than before and removes the requirement to wear down an opponant with three rounds of bodyshots before you even have a remote chance of tapping him out.
Another nice addition to the submission system is that highly skilled submission fighters such as Damien Maia can also do submission transitions, linking one submission into another and back again - so an armbar attempt can be transitioned into a triangle choke and back again. In the previous game whilst sub-transitions existed they were little more than window dressing however in this version they serve a definitive purpose in so far that when attempting to chase down your opponants bar in the submission mini-game, if your opponant gets away from you a highly skilled submission fighter will complete a transition which immediately centres your bar over the defending players providing a distinct advantage.
As well as the improved submission system striking has also been improved and requires players to be much more strategic in their approach to the fight and less able to success by simple button bashing or repeating the same heavy strike. Use of jabs and quick strikes are essential to create distance between you and your opponant and set up heavier shots, likewise use of your guard is also more important as is the need to create combinations in order to inflict the most damage. It is also now possible to TKO your opponant by disabling his legs with low kicks and the new 'finish the fight' feature allows you to keep hammering a downed opponant until the ref physically drags you off.
Additionally more attention has been paid to making each fighters repetoir of strikes, takedowns and submission distinctive and individual. Jon Jones therefore can use his siginature Judo style leg sweeps, spinning back fists/elbows or bone jarring suplexes.
As for criticisms, there are some.
First of all I dislike the manner in which the game as with the previous games continues to scale up your opponant in career mode. So face a top fighter like George St Pierre in your first rung up the championship ladder and he will be a pushover but even if your final title fight is against a much lesser fighter such as, say, Dan Hardy he will be incredibly difficult to beat despite being statistically poorer in every skill catagory.
Whilst the additon of fighter walk-ins is welcome they are somewhat generic and have none of the p-zazz that make the real thing so exciting to see. Some effort has been put in - Donald Cerrone will walk in wearing his trademark cowboy hat for example - but what would have been really great would be to see Tito Ortiz with his American Flag, Heath Herring wearing his duster coat or Jason Mayhem Millar entering the ring alongside a team of dancing girls.
Pride mode is another welcome addition but is somewhat superficial in my opinion with a relatively limited roster. Certainly there are legal reasons why certain ex-Pride fighters couldnt appear in the game - Fedor for example - but there are dozens of ex-Pride fighters who should be in this game but arent and for no particular reason. Where are Sakuraba, Enson Inoue, Tom Eriksson, Igor Vovchachin, Renzo Gracie, Semmy Schilt and so many others?
One final complaint would be that whilst the roster of fighters is certainly impressive there are some puzzling ommisions - Stephan Bonnar for example who has been a mainstay of the light heavyweight division since 2004 doesnt appear in he game. There are a number of others beside him, most of which are not scheduled to appear in future dlc.
Overall however Undisputed 3 is an excellent game but not quite as perfect as it could and should be.