The Ultimate Fighting Championship has been around since 1993, providing hard-hitting mixed-martial-arts action inside an eight-side structure known as the Octagon. Business was slow and steady until the mid-2000s, but as popularity increased with the introduction of their reality TV venture, The Ultimate Fighter, eventually the allure of the UFC drew huge stars like WWE’s Brock Lesnar to give it a go and the rise to household name status for several competitors followed too; so much so that the likes of ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Ronda Rousey filtered into the mainstream media with ease.
Despite already having a relatively decent video game series ongoing with THQ, the sports game behemoths Electronic Arts came knocking, THQ sold the license to them in 2012 and closed up the studio behind it. Given that EA had already tried to rival the UFC Undisputed series, stoking the proverbial fire between them and UFC President Dana White, many wondered how the partnership would work out.
Prior to the release of EA Sports UFC, EA attempted to create hype for the game by unveiling batches of the playable fighters. Not only would we see Jon Jones, Georges St. Pierre, Ronda Rousey etc. but also witness the inclusion of legendary martial artist, Bruce Lee, as an unlockable character. Being a relatively new fan of the UFC myself, the excitement levels were high and the launch of EA Sports UFC could not come soon enough. When it arrived on 17th June, 2014 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 though, did it match the adrenaline-fuelled brutality and technicality that this combat sport is known for?
The short answer is… sort of. And while it satisfied a need and delivered enjoyment at the time, looking back now, I can see there was certainly plenty of room for improvement.
EA Sports UFC does nail the most important aspect though and that’s the simplifying of an immensely complex array of manoeuvres to ensure the average player can pull the majority off. Sure, some of the fighting styles – like Jiu Jitsu, Greco Roman and Muay Thai – are more advanced than others, but as long as the tutorials/challenges are completed, anyone can be competitive inside the Octagon; clinches, takedowns and transitions become second nature. Whilst many people appear more than happy to go toe-to-toe, trading strikes stood up, the game trains you to be competent enough to not panic when it comes to a bit of ground and pound.
At the very heart of the experience is the career mode, climbing up from the depths of the sport as a created fighter in the hope of one day becoming a champion in your chosen weight and potentially entering the Hall of Fame. That’s if your career isn’t cut short through taking on too much damage and causing a real strain on your body. And it’s easy to receive a beating as even the best of fighters can hit the canvas in a heartbeat, so there’s a tactical element to fights in the way that you want to win without leaving too many openings.
It’s rather exciting knowing that against the flow of a bout, a well-placed kick to the temple or a flying Superman punch could result in an instant TKO. Or at least sometimes that’s the case, when the reality of proceedings in EA Sports UFC sees knockouts coming from the most innocuous of strikes. The striking mechanics are really hit and miss, with the purest of hits having less effect than a jab on occasions. That disappointment is confounded further by the lack of blood during matches in which you’ve absolutely pummelled the opponent. To be fair, EA have gotten the depiction of bruising spot on, but is it too much to ask for more blood to splurge from my victims?
Not that I can recall too many victims from my online escapades, which often end in begging for mercy against a submission specialist. There’s fun to be had in taking your perceived skills and seeing how they fare when matched up with other players from around the globe. Especially with such a large roster of UFC’s finest men and women at your fingertips from the start, and even more added post-launch for free.
There’s no doubt that the strategic and realistic looking EA Sports UFC lay down a foundation for future titles to build on. And in fact it has spawned two sequels – the creatively named EA Sports UFC 2 (2016) and EA Sports UFC 3 (2018) – that have definitely improved upon the inaugural offering. The inclusion of more multiplayer options, the integration of EA’s patented Ultimate Team mode, being able to boast massive rosters, and improved career offerings, have all ensured that the series has gone from strength to strength.
You don’t have to simply take my word for it though, because if you’re an EA Access subscriber, the trio are currently in the Vault. This enables you to play all three games as much as you want and I’d highly recommend giving the latest incarnation a go if you haven’t already done so. Granted, not everyone finds EA Sports UFC to be a worthwhile game, but you can’t argue that the end didn’t justify the means as the sequels have brought more well-received experiences to market.
What are your memories of EA Sports UFC? Did it pack the punch you had hoped for? Would you like to see a fourth instalment hitting the video game scene in the future? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts for all to see!