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EA Sports UFC 5 Review

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When stepping into the world of UFC 5, it wasn’t just another gaming experience; it felt like a dive into the heart of mixed martial arts itself. As someone who was a huge UFC fan back in the day, getting to try out the latest cage fighting title from EA was something I approached as almost a newcomer. I shouldn’t have been worried though, I slipped the gloves back on and was throwing bombs within minutes.

Sure, I am aware of current fighters on the UFC roster, but the late night PPVs are something I just cannot stay up to watch anymore (getting old I know). So with my time as a UFC fan starting from when the PRIDE fighters made their way over, to kind of ending with Jon Jones’ sad fall from grace, how would I feel about UFCs latest video game?

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The best looking – and playing – of all UFC games?

What has stood out most to me in UFC 5 is the damage system. The last UFC game I played regularly was EA Sports UFC 2, so a lot has changed in the seven years since. Witnessing fighters sustain visible injuries that visibly affect their performance heightened my immersion to levels I hadn’t expected. The detailed facial animations and evolving injuries throughout the fights made me constantly weigh up my strategic choices between taking more damage or risking a decisive move. The feeling of consequence to each decision added a layer of realism that made each match feel genuinely authentic.

Knockout sequences are an off-your-seat pulse-pounding adrenaline rush. Cinematic slow-mo replays following a successful KO are a visual treat, although some animations could benefit from further refinement. That said, these KOs are miles above the quality found in the UFC titles I previously played. Try out Stand and Bang mode to feel the full effect of these epic highlights; that strips the fight to the bare minimum of moves and can be a blast with a friend over some beers.

The attention to detail in the presentation of EA Sports UFC 5 is fantastic – from the lifelike pre-fight walkouts to the post-fight announcements, it all contributes to make for a true UFC-like feeling. Gameplay mechanics are notably smoother than before – especially in striking and defence, allowing for a more responsive and engaging fight. The revamped grappling and submission system feel intuitive, allowing me to focus on the thrill of the battle.

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A roster that is as varied as you like

Career Mode changes are a welcome addition, while improved training sessions and more engaging challenges add depth. Although there are moments of repetition in dialogue and limitations in customization options. I would much rather see a mode where we played through the career of a fighter similar to 2K’s WWE Showcase mode; here it comes off as more of a tutorial than a meaty story/career worth playing through.

The introduction of the dreaded in-game currency for cosmetics didn’t distract me from the gameplay – unlike in some other EA titles of late (cough, NHL 24). I understand games are more expensive to make, but as the in-game purchases spread throughout each mode over time, they can ruin entire franchises. That said it isn’t in your face in EA Sports UFC 5; we can only hope it remains that way in the future.

AI opponents prove to be a nice challenge, adapting their strategies as I progressed through the game. Frankly, in previous iterations I felt that often the AI was either running ‘punching bag’ or ‘super god’ mode depending on the difficulty mode. That’s not the case here though and it’s helped by a varied roster. This includes both past and present champions along with DLC characters like Bruce Lee and Mike Tyson. UFC president Dana White is even available should you wish to deal out some slaps to the boss.

What has stood out most in EA Sports UFC 5 is the varied gameplay modes found here. Simulation mode, in particular, is a realistic portrayal of fights that truly wrap you up in the moment. Each of the available options have their own set of rules and arenas, providing a varied and well crafted gameplay experience. The layout of the main menu is simple and fights get started extremely fast, making load times shorter make the game stand out as a real Series X title.

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Did we tell you how good UFC 5 looks?

The new combat intricacies are also where the game truly shines. Mastering your controls is key to delivering powerful haymakers and controlling the fight, especially in ground combat. I did not master these controls (ground combat) and would get absolutely annihilated anytime the fight hit the canvas because of this. That said I understood ground combat in UFC 5 better than any other previous UFC game from EA – that’s not to say it’s intuitive for all just yet. A few more tweaks and they will hit the sweet spot that they have been inching towards for the best part of a decade. If I’m being honest, I stand up every single time to get back to punches and kicks as soon as possible.

It must be said, EA Sports UFC 5 is stunning on the Xbox Series X; really, really beautiful with detailed arenas and fighter models. The above-mentioned accumulation of damage during fights adds another fantastic layer of realism, though occasional glitches are a reminder that we aren’t quite at full life-like graphics just yet. It may be next-gen where we start to see games like this be close to indistinguishable from reality. A scary thought indeed.

Series X play has managed to give mostly steady and smooth 60fps gameplay, paired with incredible audio. That means each fight felt like a real main event. Despite the career mode feeling more like a tutorial, it is still a good starting point for newcomers whilst those who have played any of EAs other MMA efforts should find UFC 5 to be second nature. The existence of microtransactions in the store didn’t significantly influence my desire to customise characters, as they are all basic items such as Hawaiian shorts or new haircuts.

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Still the hardest man alive?

EA Sports UFC 5 is a next-gen looking game with a vast fighter roster; from current day fighters to legends of the past like Rampage Jackson. Despite certain career mode shortcomings, it is a vast improvement from that played in earlier UFC games, so much so that EA Sports UFC 5 is probably the best iteration EA have made. It embodies the essence of the sport, which makes it easy to recommend for both seasoned fans and newcomers alike.

This time – if it’s in the game, it’s in the game. EA Sports UFC 5 is a must buy, and given a few tweaks for the next version – and providing they don’t dive headfirst into a pile of microtransactions and filler modes – the UFC franchise from EA could become one of the greatest sports titles of all time.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Looks amazing
  • Combat is far more intricate
  • Those KO sequences get you off your chair
  • Fantastic roster (including Dana White)
Cons:
  • Occasional glitches pull you out the experience
  • Ground game still needs some work
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, EA
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, PC
  • Release date and price - 26 October 2023 | £69.99
Alister Kennedy
Alister Kennedy
A gaming writer for TheXboxHub, Ali loves the finer things in life, like Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Gaming since the '80s on multiple platforms. Podcast host and video editor.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Looks amazing</li> <li>Combat is far more intricate</li> <li>Those KO sequences get you off your chair</li> <li>Fantastic roster (including Dana White)</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Occasional glitches pull you out the experience</li> <li>Ground game still needs some work</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, EA</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, PC <li>Release date and price - 26 October 2023 | £69.99</li> </ul>EA Sports UFC 5 Review
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