One of the most fundamental issues facing most fighting games is accessibility. If you've played a series for years, you have a grasp of the controls and can more or less dominate any new opposition that comes your way. With nearly two years between games, the guys at Yuke's and THQ have taken that time to make the upcoming UFC Undisputed 3 accessible to a wider audience. While veterans of the series will be able to grab a controller and fight as they always have, a number of new additions allow for newcomers to grasp the controls and still be competitive.
For starters, Undisputed 3 looks at teaching you in-game rather than having you jump into a tutorial and learn from a very static lesson set. When you're beginning a fight, small pop-ups will appear during key situations to explain what you should do at that particular moment. The first set of notifications will explain the face button attacks, how grappling and clinching work with the right analog stick, and the differences between quick hits and more-focused ones.
This gradual learning of the controls and basics of the game let you jump into a fight and have fun. Since these notifications occur at specific moments, you learn what you need to know at the relevant moment rather than learning it elsewhere and then trying to remember it when that scenario occurs later in the octagon. These notifications can be easily turned off so that seasoned players aren't bothered by bits of information they already know.
Onscreen notifications are not the only way the game teaches you. Audio notifications will also assist you in learning what you are doing right and wrong, through the commentary between longtime UFC commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg and from your corner-team. Rogan and Goldberg do a fine job of pointing out key situations that are happening in the match; the same goes in regards to directions coming from your corner. If you so choose, you can turn off all outside noises and be able to hear the guys in your corner yell suggestions and point out things. If you're not blocking your face and getting countered too often, they will make sure you're aware of your faults.
Feeding you with information also happens between rounds, with a nice text comment telling you what you're doing right and wrong. To go one step further, when you're being informed of the aspect of your fight that is weak or lacking, a simple click of a button reveals a more in-depth hint detailing what needs to be done to address this fault.
Another way the fighting is being made more user-friendly is through the inclusion of two different ways of handling transitions. In the past, to perform major and minor transitions, especially when trying to get up from the ground or putting someone down, you had to do specific movements with the right analog stick. While this more advanced system is still in place, the introduction of a simple transition system lets less experienced players remain dominant on the ground without worrying about more technical motions. Rather than having to flick the analog stick in specific rotations, you flick up to perform a minor transition and flick down to perform a major transition.
Of course, there are limitations in place to prevent this use from being too one-sided or easy. Those who stick with the advanced transition system will be able to cancel their moves midway through an animation if they see something they don't like; those who use the simple system will be stuck in a particular animation and will not be able to prevent their opposition from performing an action.
Grappling and clinching are not the only aspects being addressed; a new submission system is in place that not only is easy to grasp, but is even more reliant on the fighter's skill in determining success. This time around, when you're pressing the right analog stick and attempting a submission, a 2D octagon appears on the screen along with two markers signifying each fighter. Here, the fighter trying to perform the submission needs to move their cursor to be on top of the cursor of the other fighter and keep it there long enough for the submission to take place. The length of this cat-and-mouse-like minigame is determined by the type of submission taking place and the skill of the two fighters.
This system won't be exploitive. Over time, not only will the ability to perform a submission become more difficult, but the length of time given to perform the minigame will also be drastically cut. Depending on the fighter, though, in some situations, if you are unsuccessful with one type of submission, you may be able to quickly transition to another one, have a fresh bar, and finish off the fight. Also, the person performing the submission has a slight edge and can move their marker closer to or on top of their opponent's bar before they have the opportunity to move. This window of opportunity is very short, but it could very well be the difference between success and failure.
UFC Undisputed 3's launch in January is still a ways off, and the fact that so much focus is being put on delivering a strong product that can be appreciated by a wider audience is very promising. There is still a lot more to be seen, especially in regard to the inclusion of fighters from Pride and new weight classes, but so far the time between Undisputed 2010 and this upcoming release is being used wisely. Expect that as we move closer to launch we will get more details on all the additional features.