Wednesday 23 May 2018

UFC 3 punching below its weight

UFC 3 (XO/PS4/PC) ★★★ Age: 15+

Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

It took me several games of EA's latest attempt at capturing the essence of MMA to realise that UFC is just a real-life version of Tekken or Street Fighter (without the fireballs, obviously). It comes with brutal moves, outrageous showboating, plus copious splatterings of blood and sweat.

As ever with regularly updated sports games, this third instalment constitutes no reinvention of established principles, but it's the failure to tackle the moribund ground grappling that grates the most. As with UFC 2, as long as the fighters stay upright, it proves an entertaining proposition.

The crunching blows, the feints, the dances and the flying blood look suitably realistic as fighters circle each other seeking a killer opening or a weak point. Sure, the replays look rubbish - with limbs failing to connect and opponents moving like zombies - but there's a real heft and impact to the blows, with bouts ebbing and flowing.

That more or less evaporates when the battle shifts to the floor. Grappling relies on a series of abstract stick movements that bear little relation to the action on-screen. It's the polar opposite of the adrenaline-fuelled standing game.

UFC 3 is unlikely to win over the MMA doubters unconvinced it's just chip-shop fighting dressed up. It replicates the pantomime of a typical bout, complete with camera lasciviously following the ring girls and the theatrical peacock-strutting. But if you think of it as more a fantasy brawler in the mould of Street Fighter, it becomes easier to swallow. At least until the fighting hits the floor anyway.

Secret of Mana

(PS4/PC) ★★★ Age: 7+

Now regarded as something of a gaming touchstone, Secret of Mana has been remade for the 25th anniversary of its release on the SNES. But where most remakes handle the source material with reverence, this HD reboot of a revered action RPG takes many liberties.

The update revamps not only the graphics but also the cut scenes and music, with varying results, but mostly negative. Sure, it's fully 3D with lots of voice acting and a more upbeat soundtrack. But the cutesy original still looks better, the new actors are almost uniformly terrible and the music didn't need tampering.

Nonetheless, Mana's charm still shines beneath its pointless layer of modernism. If nothing else, the ability to easily team up with two other players online adds an engaging dimension that was much harder to achieve in the pre-internet days of 1993.

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