A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that EA Sports UFC 3 is the latest installment in the mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting franchise from EA Sports, which tries to accurately simulate the popular Ultimate Fighting Championship league. Male and female fighters of varying weight classes, abilities, and training step into the ring and battle each other with their fists, knees, elbows, and feet to see who will be the first to force a submission or knockout. Action in the real sport is brutal, and that's accurately modeled, as cuts open easily, bruises form quickly, and noses are frequently broken with crushing strikes, which the camera focuses on with zooms and slow-motion highlights. Blood often splatters fighters, flies through the air with each hit, and lands on the mat. Lyrics in the game's soundtrack frequently have drinking and drug references, and aren't censored. Language includes "bitch," "ass," "damn," and "s--t," both in songs and from guest commentator Snoop Dogg. There's also lots of in-game advertising on the rings and the fighters themselves, ranging from Harley Davidson to Toyota to Reebok. Microtransactions are also promoted for new fighters as well as for extra packs for the UFC Ultimate Team mode. Finally, while ring girls wear halter tops and short shorts, and female fighters wear tight athletic wear, these are not overly focused on in the gameplay.
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What's it about?
EA SPORTS UFC 3 is the latest installment in the EA Sports fighting franchise that attempts to bring the strategy and the action of the Ultimate Fighting Championship to players. Dozens of male and female fighters from around the world are represented in eight separate weight classes, from Flyweight to Heavyweight. Players have the option to create their own grapplers from scratch, deciding their appearance, striking style, and fighting moves. Once created, these characters can be brought into multiple modes, such as the Ultimate Team mode, where players act like a GM of sorts, gathering a group of fighters to take on all comers. Success unlocks additional coins that can be used to purchase new fighters, moves, or stat bonuses. Created characters can also be brought into the expanded Career mode, now called G.O.A.T. (it stands for "greatest of all time"). Here, every choice that players make, from the gym they train in to the promotion of fights and interaction with fans, can affect their popularity as well as their chances of being successful in combat. Additional modes also include Knockout mode (where players try to take out opponents as quickly as possible), Submission Showdown (where painful holds are used to force grapplers to tap out), and online play.
Is it any good?
Fans of this brutal, technical sport will find an amazingly accurate simulation of MMA brawling here, but the move complexity and finicky controls can be a steep climb for newcomers. UFC 3 tries to bring newcomers into the octagon with a number of training videos and challenges to introduce concepts of grappling, striking, submission holds, and fight mechanics. These fundamentals are somewhat reinforced in the main career mode, where players spend time between fights sparring with training partners, learning new moves from coaches, and promoting their upcoming fights. In fact, promoting fights and making appearances are vital if you want to headline fights or be recognized as a legitimate contender; failing to do so cuts into your popularity and your paycheck. Striking the balance between being loved by fans and prepping for fights can be tricky, because while you can be incredibly popular, there's always the possibility that your opponent is faster, better, stronger, or more skilled than you. This adds an interesting bit of tension in your training camps: Will the clues you receive during sparring be that edge you need to beat your opponent, or will it be meaningless when the bell has rung and the fight is on?
In some ways, the better opponent issue is one of the bigger problems of UFC 3. Regardless of what difficulty level you set or how good a fighter you are, there's an opponent that will suddenly step up whose stats are vastly more powerful than your athlete, whether that's in a game mode or in online play. That not only turns surviving a fight into a battle governed by luck instead of skill, it makes the ranking and contender system seem fickle and at times even malicious, as if it's trying to humble the player. Another issue that pops up is that some controls can seem to not work in the midst of battle. You can time a block perfectly and have full stamina, but the block won't work at all. You can try to focus on indicators of where a fighter may try to move to escape a grapple hold, but these indicators don't always pop up, resulting in you flailing on the thumbstick to maintain an advantage. It's a double-edged sword -- it forces players to become more adjusted to and comfortable with various moves and counters, and more strategic in their fights, but it could frustrate newcomers who are just getting used to the game and can't understand why things aren't working as expected. That's unfortunate, because UFC 3 is an incredibly deep game, probably the best version of the sport yet released. But if you're not willing to put in the hours to understand its mechanics, or unwilling to climb its steep learning curve (which will dismiss some players), you won't enjoy this round in the octagon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the violence in this game worse than that in other games because it's so realistic and plausible, instead of against fantasy monsters or aliens? Do you think it will make players more interested in trying these moves in real life because they're realistic?
Talk about competition. Does this competition embody good sporting behavior, or is the aggressive nature of the fighters too intense for fair play?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.