Ever since THQ a falling out with UFC and went out of business, EA has been working on their own official UFC game. With their initial MMA offering back in 2010 and fans not seeing a new title since UFC Undisputed 3 two years ago, a lot of fans are eager to see if EA Sports UFC has what it takes to bring the sport to next-gen consoles. So does EA Sports UFC live up to the hype and fill the void that fans of MMA have been left with?
As soon as players start the game they are immediately thrown into a tutorial section playing as Jon Jones fighting Alexander Gustafsson. This is a wise choice as players will either be making their first foray into this type of game with EA Sports UFC or returning players might be stuck into the old controls scheme from the Undisputed series and things have changed. The tutorial gives players a basic rundown of stand-up and the ground game but unfortunately does a bad job of actually going in depth with these concepts.
Even when players enter the Career mode and are forced to play through another tutorial, every time I might add, where more of the game’s mechanics and controls are broken down, there are plenty of things left open. Whether this was intentional or not, players who want to learn how to do advanced ground transitions, sweeps, slam takedowns, and other more complex moves will need to explore the game’s Challenge option that goes into detail about the clinch game and everything else.
Once you fully grasp EA Sports UFC’s control scheme then you will be in for one hell of an interesting fighting experience that despite its complexity it lacks substance. Sure there is an extensive list of fighters, ninety seven in total, with numerous fighters in each weight class, including female fighters, but there is a certain lack of unique capabilities for many fighters. Whereas past titles may have had more signature moves, a large number of fighters will have the same move set once they enter the cage, even if their entrance animations are more real to life.
Once the bell rings many things remain the same, as players have an exorbitantly large list of tactics to choose from, made rather complicated by the fact that some attacks require the player to be pressing three buttons at once, some of which have been expanded upon thanks to counter attacks doing an increased level of damage. This means that it is entirely possible to catch your opponent with an uppercut at the right moment to stun them enough for a follow up KO blow, even if they seemed perfectly healthy before then.
Along those same lines however, players can often brutally assault their opponent with knock out blows and they will shrug off moves that would have put any normal fighter on the ground as if they were nothing. It also doesn’t help that the hit detection in EA Sports UFC is rough at best. Multiple KO blows can be seen to miss their target entirely in replays and even at the best of times errant kicks or blows seem to do damage despite hitting nothing but air.
This factor plays into all elements of the striking and takedown game, as attempting a shoot takedown and catching a knee to the face never ends well. Once the player is actually down on the ground however things enter a strange territory. You see, with the way that the ground game has been re-worked it makes transitioning a much easier affair if the player knows what they are doing. Players can attempt a stand-up by simply clicking the left analog stick and unless their opponent blocks, they will be able to stand up with ease. The same can be said for various transitions that require the opposing player to properly counter to keep you where you are meant to be.
It is also worth noting that the whole submission game has been revised and given a mini-game aspect that takes a lot of the realism out of a fight since it makes every submission attempt at least a three stage attempt that can be escaped entirely with one failed advancement. You see, once you attempt a submission by holding the right bumper and moving the right analog stick in a specific direction, you may pull your opponent into a submission. This brings up an octagon where, if you are putting someone in a submission, must use the right stick to block their escape attempts while also keeping an eye out for a prompt to move the left stick in the correct decision to advance the submission. This may make for a more interesting submission system but it really brings the fight to a crawl and seems to favor the attacker more than the defender.
Now while basic exhibition matches are available alongside the aforementioned Challenges, players can also make use of the Career Mode that allows players to create their own fighter through a number of pre-set choices that limit your creativity a bit, and advance through the Ultimate Fighter. This mode is unfortunately as empty as it possibly can get since the Ultimate Fighter aspect is stripped of any complexity and even the fights are packaged deals that give the player zero choice.
Between fights players can perform extremely repetitive training exercises to raise their fighter’s stats and unlock various perks that can be used to specialize your fighter’s plan of attack, but it is a soulless affair made worse by tedium and true customization. Players will also be greeted by recorded videos from various UFC fighters and big names talking about their accomplishments, but these also become very repetitive considering how many fights you end up going through in career mode and you would think that after the fifteenth time seeing him, Forrest Griffin wouldn’t have to tell you his name.
Outside of that there really isn’t much else to do outside of taking the fight online where players can fight in either unranked battles or in Championship modes that allow the fighter to battle other people online in an effort to advance up the rankings. The online code is very smooth and finding an opponent was never an issue as players can select from a list of weight classes to search for.
Visuals & Audio
Without a doubt in my mind is EA Sports UFC an amazing looking game. Every aspect of a fighter’s appearance has been recreated with impressive detail and realism. The entire game is presented with a realistic television feel that helps give every match a big fight feel. While basic matches aren’t given as much hype, championship matches feature extremely detailed entrances with the attitudes of the fighter matching their real life counterpart to the letter.
Once you are fighting in the cage the impact system used in the game makes many of the strikes look as painful as possible. A fighter’s skin will ripple or they will wince in pain as they take a body shot or a cut might open up on their face which will send sweat and blood flying as they are hit again. This makes every fight look as realistic as possible, though the knock out animations almost seem pre-set for certain blows which means despite how you hit an opponent, they might fall an entirely different way from where you struck them.
All of this action is set up against some great commentary from none other than Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, giving every fight a realistic feeling as these two discuss the match as it happens with seemingly flawless accuracy. There is also a decent mixture of background music that plays at the menu screens or loading screens, though as one would expect for a game like this, it is all rock or metal themed.
EA Sports UFC has all of the looks and details to be a great game but it lacks true substance. Outside of the basic exhibition matches, career mode is uninspiring and feels very repetitive, though at least it is supported by substantial online play. With an amazing presentation, tons of ways to take down your opponent, and the way that the fighting has been re-worked is a step in the right direction however EA is still lacking in a few areas that would have made EA Sports UFC a hit, but for now it is still an amazing looking, albeit slimmed down, fighter for fans of the sport.
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