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UFC 3 Preview: Hands-On With Career Mode

It’s been close to two years since the last installment of EA’s UFC series. Now, as the release of UFC 3 rapidly approaches, I had a chance to sit down with the upcoming title and dive deep into the new features in the game’s G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) career mode and get a look at a few other new surprises while I was at it.

One of the biggest changes coming to the gameplay of UFC 3 is that several facets of the striking, stand-up gameplay have been completely revamped. The left thumbstick is no longer used to modify punches and kicks like in the last version. Move modifiers have now been assigned to the shoulder buttons, but punch and kick buttons still function the same as they did in UFC 2.

Career mode has been given a serious overhaul as well and has several new systems and mini-games that have been integrated to give it a new level of depth. Players will now have to sign contracts, meet performance goals and win fights in order to make their way up from the minor leagues to be a pro-UFC fighter. Quality of performance and how fast a fighter can rise up through the ranks will affect contract paydays.

Contract goals will vary from doing social media promotions to get followers to breaking the top 15 fighters list. Money from contracts and fights will be used to train for bigger and tougher matches. Players will get 1 to several weeks of training depending on how much money there is to spend and will have multiple gyms available to choose from. Each gym looks to offer up training for different fighting styles and has their own perks that will affect the cost of training there. The more expensive a gym is, the more it will decrease the likelihood of a fighter getting injured while working out there.

Each week leading up to a fight players will get 100 points to spend on their custom character through a handful of options. General training will have various stats boosts for purchase to improve things like your overall stamina or power. Learn will offer up opportunities to train one-on-one with famous UFC fighters and gain access to more advanced moves, like say a spinning roundhouse kick or new grappling techniques.

The spar option will let players spend points to train with an AI partner with the exact same stats as an upcoming opponent. Sparring gives players a chance to discover clues on how to take down the real challenger come fight day.

If there’s a need to increase social presence the promotion option will allow fighters to spend points on doing things like livestreaming for fans, promoting gyms in order to get membership discounts, and hype up the fight by predicting the outcome. There will even be opportunities to do mo-capping for UFC games. While promotion may not seem like the most important stat to boost, having a large following and creating some controversy can up overall viewership of a match and bring bigger paydays down the line.

As custom fighters become bigger names in the circuit, more features will unlock. Live action UFC vids will start playing before bigger fights to add some fanfare and give a touch of reality to the experience.

One of the major complaints about UFC 2’s career mode is it seemed to have no real endgame, to help rectify that omission there are now real life G.O.A.T. goals that will need to broken to retire on top. At least 6 performance records (most knockouts, most wins, most fights…) and 2 promotion records (most money made, most social media followers of all time…) must be beaten in order to ascend to true greatness.

As an overall package, I feel like UFC 3 has made some real strides in making the combat approachable. The controls definitely felt more reactive than UFC 2. I got my butt kicked every single fight that I participated in during my hands-on time, but when I went back and looked at the replays afterward I was able to see my mistakes and how I could improve upon not getting myself punched in the face so much each time. Removing the clunky left analog control tweaks made the deeper combat feel more accessible to me as a more novice player.

UFC 3 and its new and improved G.O.A.T. career mode will launch on February 2nd for Xbox One and PS4 consoles.

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