Usually when I'm watching two grown men beat each other up, their names are Ryu and Ken.
I am a fan of a good fight in games, but aside from the occasional boxing match I have never been very interested in MMA. After watching trailers for EA Sports UFC, I figured now might be the time to start to learn the sport through the game.
EA Sports UFC (PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Released: May 20, 2014
This is the biggest MMA game release since EA Sports MMA in 2010. The game features a roster of 97 UFC fighters, as well as two DLC characters: former UFC superstar Royce Gracie, and Bruce Lee. The first time you start, it presents you with an 18-step tutorial which shows you how to do everything from throwing punches on your feet to breaking submission holds on the ground.
Unfortunately, right after the tutorial, you are presented with your first fight. I hesitate to use the word fight, however, as the opponent had knocked me out within 30 seconds. Not a submission tap out, or a win by decision, just a cold hard knockout.
The tutorial at the beginning is both too dense and not specific enough. It is too dense as it presents you with several options on how to win, but if you forget the specifics of one you are out of luck. If you want to be refreshed on, say, how to start a submission hold while you are on top of your opponent, you may think to access the player handbook from the pause menu. However, when you select this, you are just prompted to visit the EA Sports website for a digital version of the guide. Pressing start to look at your controls is something that has been in not only fighting, but boxing games for years and it could have really benefited UFC.
There are also dozens of moves you can use at any time which can be very overwhelming. Each punch or kick (controlled by the four face buttons) can be modified by holding any direction or a shoulder button, and are different depending on if you are holding your opponent or not. It's not unlike in a fighting game, where without playing around with one fighter for hours you will not know which move to use in which situation.
Unlike fighting games, however, there is no accounting for frames or combos you need to practice, so a lot of the time you will find yourself in a situation where you and your opponent both try to punch each other and both awkwardly miss. There is also a minigame when trying to put your opponent in a submission hold that is fun when it is two human players who understand it, but incredibly easy to manipulate against the AI, leading to easy wins.
When you're on the ground after getting pummeled, you really start to notice how beautiful this game is. Everything from the glistening sweat dripping down characters, to the detail of the muscle -- this game is beautiful. UFC really shows off the power of the current-gen consoles. I think it's the best-looking sports games out today, and definitely high on the list of all games.
The career mode does a much better job at teaching you how to play than the tutorial. I would suggest starting it immediately after you get beat up by the AI for the first time. You can choose one of the game's fighters or your own and take it into a simulation of one man's rise from nothingness to Spike TV celebrity. Before your first fight, you get a more detailed version of the tutorial which breaks things down into simpler, repeated commands that you have to master if you want to stand a chance. There are also frequent FMV cutscenes from UFC president Dana White, which is really goes at odds with the game because it looks so good, but obviously not as good when you're just seeing video of the humans the simulation is trying to emulate.
The character creation process in UFC goes above what you would come to expect. You can make everything from the typical scary-looking UFC dude who unironically wears Tap-Out clothing and walks into the ring to “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons to a dreadlocked giant with the same chicken tattoo seven times named Turducken Hammerfist. It has stat manipulation like other EA Sports games, with attributes based on a style of fighting you can select like boxing or greco-roman wrestling. It also has a sort of perk system where you can have three different loadouts for your character, and different abilities based on standing offense, ground game, or defense that you can set up and choose before a fight based on your opponent.
After completing a career mode, the versus mode is where you will be spending most of your time offline. The way it operates is smooth and easy, and great for both MMA fans who want to see their favorite athletes duke it out to fans of the game who want to test specific matchups. The online is completely functional, and presented a mostly lag-free experience for me.
EA Sports UFC is an odd package. It might be too deep for fans of MMA to get into, and not cohesive enough for fans of fighting or boxing games to get into. Walking away from the game, I have no desire to go watch an MMA fight anytime soon, but I am not turned off from it completely. I can understand why it is only growing in popularity.
I would recommend anyone with a little bit of interest in the sport and a lot of patience check out EA Sports UFC. There is a fun game in here somewhere -- it's just behind a lot of barriers.
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