Anderson Silva's violent and unflinching soccer kick to the side of his opponent's head has left both the virtual combatant and the guy controlling him (me) stunned.
The shocking depiction of a move outlawed by the UFC but featured in the new "UFC Undisputed 3" video game, thanks to the inclusion of old-school Pride rules and performers, has juiced every brawler with a new arsenal of wig-splitting kicks and elbows, and I love every minute of it.
In fact, I'm actually playing the game against real-life UFC badass Urijah Faber as we experiment with various button presses and attempt to unleash as much bodily harm as we can to each other's characters before the end of Round 1.
At one point in our sparring session, Faber resets the game and asks me to play as the cyber "California Kid" so he could see his virtual self kick some ass.
"I don't want to be me because you're going to bloody me up too much," he says with a laugh. "You be me so I can watch my character beat somebody down."
Five fights later, neither one of us wanted to leave.
"This game is addictive," Faber says. "Much better than the last one."
And Faber's right, as the advancements made to "UFC Undisputed 3" have really taken the franchise to new heights, and the improved controls and blood-thirsty strikes are noticeable from the first time you press "X."
After fighting Faber a few more times, I'm able to sit down with the game's producer, Neven Dravinski, to find out more of what fans can expect to see once his game hits stores Feb. 14, 2012.
Jon Robinson: I just stomped somebody in the head in Pride mode.
Neven Dravinski: It feels good, doesn't it? That first time you hit one of the head stomps or soccer kicks, everyone is like, "Wow, that really looks like it hurts." [Laughs.]
Robinson: Do you think the addition of Pride rules will help attract not only the MMA audience, but maybe fans of other fighting games looking to unleash a little pain?
Dravinski: The hard-core people know Pride, and I think even a lot of casual fans know what Pride is ... it's Japanese, it's cool. So I think this game might bring a resurgence to the Pride brand in terms of releasing DVDs. I love rocking my Pride hat out and seeing the reactions from people. So the fact that this year we were given more time for development and we were able to get it in along with the WEC weight classes is a big thing. It's funny because as I've been showing the game to a bunch of UFC fighters, I'm like, "So Pride rules, would you want them in UFC?" And most of them say, "Hey, if you get kicked in the head, it's your fault. You shouldn't have been in that position." But it's cool that it's in a video game so we can expose them to this really cool brand.
Robinson: You guys have tried to create this game for two very different types of users, simplifying the controls for the average gamer while at the same time delivering an option for competition rules and controls for the hardest of the hardcore. How much of a challenge is that to develop for everybody?
Dravinski: When we had the great success in 2009 and then we came back immediately in 2010, the game still sold a couple million units, but there was this perception that because it wasn't an out-of-the-park hit that it wasn't as good of a game. But when you look at it, the game was better and we got more stuff in there, but there was this expectation that there was going to be more. But when you're stuck in yearly development, you're just limited to what you can do. So now that we had more time, we were able to put more features in. And the thing is the game is always in development. Sure, it goes into a box every now and then, but it's always being worked on. Now that we've had more time and we've been able to continue to tune the systems we've been tuning since 2007, this is the best one we've done. I'm just so happy with where we've gotten to. It's very satisfying to see where the game is at.
Robinson: What is it specifically about "UFC Undisputed 3" that you're most proud of?
Dravinski: I think having the different control schemes in there is huge. I didn't really do a good job of answering your last question, but we recognized that people want to be able to play the game how they want to play it, so we have guys who want this hard-core simulation when they play, and we now have that option available, and we also have an option where the game plays more like an arcade fighter. We have competition specs for fighting game tournaments where we equalize the stats and ratings ... these are all things people have been begging us for, so they're all in the game this year. Adding different control schemes like these really just comes down to time, but thankfully, our executive staff saw that we needed extra time to make the game we wanted, to get Pride, to get all of the new animations, and they gave us that time to deliver. We have a new submission system, Pride rules, new controls, new weight classes. Like I said, I couldn't be happier.
Robinson: Can you break down the new controls for someone who has heard about the changes but doesn't understand how they actually work?
Dravinski: No problem, and I'm glad you asked because even if you just see a video about the controls, it really doesn't do them justice. The thing is we recognized that in the last two games, it was confusing when someone was locked in a submission hold. Nobody ever knew how close they were to making somebody tap because we were locked in this broadcast presentation in terms of visuals. So for this game, we wanted to address this issue with a new graphic, so now when a submission is initiated, these two bars pop up around an octagon. The attacker is on the outside of the octagon while the defender is on the inside. The attacker is moving his right analog stick in order to cover the bar of his opponent while the defender is moving his stick away in order to escape. Being on top of your opponent's bar, fills your bucket with points, and the more time you spend on top of that bar, the more points in your bucket. Once your points are locked in, you've locked in your submission. Guys who are really good at submissions are going to have these huge bars, giving you more surface area to cover their opponent. People really seem to like this new system because it gives you this cat and mouse game, and now when you're playing online or against really difficult AI [artificial intelligence], you'll know why you won or lost because you'll actually see the graphic play out in front of your eyes.
Robinson: There are a lot of new characters in the game. Who do you think is the most fun new fighter to play as in "UFC Undisputed 3"?ne
Dravinski: Man, how are you going to make me pick among my children. [Laughs.] I think the coolest thing is playing the Pride guys against the UFC guys. It gives you that A versus B comparison. I actually got to show Wanderlei Silva the game and we had him fight Pride Wanderlei versus UFC Wanderlei, and he thought that was really cool. We're also going to do a ton of DLC [downloadable content] this year, which is different, so there will be a lot of options coming your way. It's funny, because we've been taking some flak ever since we announced the roster, but what people don't realize is we need to lock this in a year and a half before the game ships. Each of these models takes eight weeks to build, and each model costs the price of a midsized sedan to create. It's a legitimate production nightmare for us, so as a result we work with Joe Silva from the UFC to get the roster completed. And this year, we'll just keep doing more and more DLC to get more people in as time goes on.