It’s been a few years since we’ve seen a UFC game, with UFC Undisputed 3 being the last of the series from THQ, which released in 2012. With EA having picked up the license after the demise of THQ, (and the subpar EA Sports MMA), there has been considerable anticipation for EA’s first UFC title, with their licensing agreement including multiple products.
Now with fight after fight under our belts, it’s safe to say that while EA Sports UFC isn’t a flawless game, the company’s foray into the octagon shows promise. Truth be told that compared to boxing, MMA seems a bit more challenging to interpret in a video game, with so many nuances to consider such as submissions, knockouts, the breakdown of body parts, grappling and more. Surely it’s not an easy task but EA has done a pretty good job of giving us a respectable game though it’s still somewhat of a mixed bag. For starters, there’s the game’s graphics and animation. Without question, EA Sports UFC looks amazing, with every single fighter in the game having licensed their likeness so that they have all been recreated with 3D head and body scans, while their facial animations are very lifelike, providing obvious emotions.
Moving around the octagon with a variety of fighters, they all feel different, as one would hope with some of them moving around a little heavier, while others are quicker and lighter on their feet; bouncing around as they look for their opening to strike. I do however have a bit of an issue with how a fighter jumps on an opponent (or doesn’t) when there is a knockout or when going for a finish. When you hurt an opponent and they go down, you can mount them to try and finish them off but you can only do so once in a great while and there is only one attack. Also when you appear to score a knockout, the game renders an animation that shows you or your opponent on the way down, but in a UFC fight, if someone appears to have been KO’d, the offensive fighter usually continues the attack and the referee will have to jump in to wave it off – that’s not the case here as you just watch the other fighter collapse.
As for the grappling game, which is equally as important if not more, to striking, you use the analog stick to engage your opponent, either to start a grapple or to try a takedown. And while you can also counter those grapples, I feel like it was too often that you’d see some form of body slam, which realistically takes some pretty intense strength to pull off in an MMA fight. On the other hand, I do like that there is a good amount of strategy to be had, especially when playing against a human opponent and reversals ensure that a fight doesn’t necessarily end once someone is in a bad position. On the flip side, reversals also occur a little too often and there isn’t much variety in those animations.
Outside of exhibition fights (offline and online), you can also partake in the Ultimate Fighter Career Mode, which has you create a fighter (which can’t be used online strangely enough) and fight through a heap of fake fighters until you can work your way up to challenging UFC fighters. I also found it odd that while there are female fighters in the game, you can’t actually create your own. As you progress through the career, you also need to make sure you win, as a loss is not an option. Is going undefeated really necessary? It wasn’t in Fight Night Champion, so that shouldn’t be the case here either.
Going back to the combat itself, I will say that despite some frustration with frequent reversals and a lack of variety in the finishing animations, the average fight was rather entertaining. I feared that knockouts would be too frequent but that wasn’t the case. There were many fights that came down to decisions and hard-fought submissions that gave me a sense of accomplishment, especially in instances when I was losing a fight. The submission mechanic is somewhat like a mini-game and you have to work your way through four stages to pull it off, while being on the opposite side of a submission attempt is just as challenging.
Progressing your fighter comes in the form of buying (with in-game points) moves and such though you have to add those moves to your arsenal which is a little bit of a chore. Overall, I’d say the interface can be a tad confusing and I’m hoping EA can alleviate that with the next game, and based on how they’ve managed to update the menu system in their sports game like Madden, I’m confident they can do so.
Online matches are some of the most fun I had and EA uses a sort of season format, which features 10 fights per belt and some tournaments. There is a ranking system to make sure you don’t face someone much too advanced for you and you can fight in any weight class you choose.
As I look at the what the game brings to the table from top to bottom it’s obvious there are some issues that need to be addressed, but fights feel realistic, the game looks fantastic and for a first effort, it’s a pretty good game.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5