It always seemed the intentions of EA Sports, when they picked up the UFC video game franchise was to create the ultimate fighting experience. This is even more apparent with the tagline of EA Sports UFC – “Feel the Fight”. Being able to start from scratch on the next generation of console gaming opened up a realm of opportunities, so have they delivered a knockout title or will it be more of a swing and a miss?
One of the key areas of these UFC/MMA fighting games are the controls and fitting all the technical manoeuvres as well as the striking onto a controller layout. There have always been buttons that modify what others do, which can be difficult to remember and a bit fiddly and it’s no different here, however they’ve prepared a set of Challenges to help drill them into your mind. Kudos to EA it does work, although the Challenges comprise of repeating button commands against a trainer (which is rather monotonous) if you see it through then it’ll soon become second nature. Certainly worth it in the long run as you’ll be more competitive whichever game modes you play.
Once you know your ground transitions from your clinch takedowns, the logical step is to begin your career as a UFC fighter. Create-a-fighter with a style that suits your general play as he’ll (yes he, there’s no female option) start off with pretty poor stats overall but slightly better in their chosen area. From the outset it seems brilliantly set up with The Ultimate Fighter style real scenes between the earlier fights, whilst having Dana White giving speeches is a truly immersive technique. You mustn’t lose here; you’re fighting to become an official UFC competitor against other characters you’ve never heard of but soon everyone will know your name if you keep winning.
The typical climbing through the ranks from an underdog to the top dog is the main goal of your career. Before each fight you’ll attempt a set of training games to gain experience points and to improve whichever attributes you wish to from stand-up, ground, submissions or just general health. Sadly these are plucked straight out of those Challenges you’ve already hammered, hence once I reached an acceptable overall rating I’d just skip these as you can gain the majority of XP by winning bouts.
Whilst it’s possible to buy new moves like Superman punches or Capoeira kicks there’s not much else to do or look at between fights. The menus are very simplistic. There are interjecting videos from other Pros, both current and retired, to offer encouragement but after the fourth time Forrest Griffin tells me I am better than him it’s like “yeah whatever dude just get me to my next match-up”. It’s worth noting too that the career can end prematurely if you take too much damage over time, which encourages being ruthless inside the Octagon.
After being inducted to the Hall of Fame or being cut early for your own health benefits there’s only really one place to go, Online. Here you can begin to really appreciate the dynamic nature of being inside the Octagon because of the unpredictable opponents. If you put aside the ones who spam the same button, dragging both players to a level of boring, then it’s great to try and outwit a real person. It seems like more have taken the time to add the ground game to their arsenal meaning not every fight is a stand-up slogfest. Although it wasn’t the most technical bout in UFC history you can check out one of the online matches I experienced below, when clones attack… Rousey vs Rousey.
For the Online side you have Championships, Tournaments, unranked matches and Rivals matches against friends. All the eggs are in the Championship mode basket though, aiming to rise through five divisions named after different coloured belts from White to Black. Depending how the fight finishes you can earn 1, 2 or 3 points towards promotion to the next divisions; it’s quite similar to divisions in EA’s FIFA game franchise.
I can’t with a clear conscience say I always felt “the Fight” as I do believe the collision mechanics are hit and miss where some knockouts feel like you’ve hardly touched them. Does it look the part though? By far the best looking sports game to date and that’s not only because of the scanned fighters with their real tattoos or birth marks present but also the presentation. In the rare occasions you make it to a title fight offline you’ll be treated to the full works, brilliant lighting, entrances and pre-fight announcing by Bruce Buffer. You can be forgiven for thinking it’s a PPV that you’re watching.
The fighters look spot on and it’s good to see they’ve managed to transfer the torso damage which has been decent in previous incarnations and improve of the bruising sustained hits can cause during a fight. Blood work is a bit disappointing though; having played over fifty fights already I think I’ve only seen the crimson mask a couple of times. This could be to get a lower age rating but if I go the distance with Roy Nelson who has tired dramatically and I’ve pummelled him in the face, I expect blood to flow. Maybe this says more about me than the game though!
As for the Roster itself (if you want the full list, see here) I cannot complain at those chosen to be a part of it. Every fighter I know and support can be used, whether it’s that arrogantly entertaining sod Anderson Silva or the seemingly indestructible Ronda Rousey or even the now retired Chuck Liddell. The addition of female fighters offers a new dimension to the fights and hopefully gives another boost of interest to the Women’s Bantamweight division which is constantly on the rise.
It’s hard to criticise EA Sports UFC for the way it looks that’s for sure, but having enough things to do is a main drawback. It doesn’t always hit the sweet spot in the fun stakes when fights end with a fizzle, however technically it is sound and becoming a master of the ground game is easier than ever before meaning no one should get beat without having a fair chance to defend themselves (especially with the blocking and parry ability). It is a much more strategic version of UFC, more realistic on the whole and a very good foundation to build on for future titles.
Are you ready to fight?