Also On: Xbox One
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Canada
The team behind the Fight Night franchise is back, but no longer are they tied down to the sport of boxing — which has seen it’s better days. EA Sports has now grasped the gold ring of the UFC, and thanks to that same talent, has created an entertaining representation of the sport, even if it has a few hiccups in its rookie debut.
Utilizing the EA Sports IGNITE technology, UFC for the PS4 and Xbox One is the most authentic and realistic looking UFC video game to date. The engine showcases the diversity, power, and fluidity of the attacks, as well as the strengths and weaknesses across the different fight styles on display in the UFC universe. This starts with the fighter’s likenesses, which not only are captured accurately, but the expressions and emotions the fighters display show off the greater awareness of this next gen technology. It also continues on to the movement and animations where each action has a counter and opposite reaction — that in a blink of an eye, can change the momentum of a fight. Submission and position battles, while having a greater learning curve than most gamers are used to, are rewarding when mastered for those who like to punish their opponents until they tap out.
Visually you will know when a player is hurt in EA Sports UFC and not only by the “WTF” expression on their face. Various cuts and contusions will make you wince as the blood flows not only down a fighter’s face and to the mat, but it will even rub off onto the bodies of their opponents which just enhances that attention to detail and realism. Top it all off with authentic TV style presentation that mimics not only The Ultimate Fighter show, but UFC PPV matches as well. The EA Gameface feature makes it over to UFC as well, but you can’t make any visual adjustments to your fighter other than gear once you create them, so make sure your face and hair are exactly the way you want before uploading your fighter. Overall it’s hard to look at UFC, fan or no, and not be impressed by the visual feats these developers have accomplished – the results are stunning to behold indeed.
It is in this attention to detail that helps to complement the game play which, while not perfect, is a very solid effort especially in the striking component of the fights. This only makes sense as the developers have all but perfected the striking nuances in their Fight Night series, so it easily transferable to the UFC series as well. Where the game becomes a bit convoluted, and unfortunately misses the pick up and play mark, is that there are a lot of maneuvers in the game beyond just standing strikes. Sure it’s easy to take your traditional punches and kicks and put them on display, but it’s not until you are in the clinch when things get real, and a bit tougher to grasp. Not only do you have to position yourself within striking distance and inevitably into a submission move if you choose, but you need to defend against the same possible outcome in favor of your opponent. Knowing who has the upper hand not only depends on watching what is going on screen with your fighters, but watching the icon that indicates where you are in the hold. There are many intricacies that go into all facets of the bout, so it’s best to not only take the provided training to heart, but maybe even repeat it a couple times before you start to put your fighters reputation on the line.
I must also mention the impressive Real Time Exertion system as players will not only tire out and fatigue, but if a part of the body is injured in the fight, you could be opened up to devastating punishment because of it. I actually had a bout where my leg was hurt by a solid block when I kicked, and I lost the use of it and had to punch my way through the bout. Now that’s good stuff. It is in this less-than-simplistic, and certainly not button mashing style of controls that will either win over hardcore fans, or turn off casual fans. I must mention that there are a few collision detection miscues here and there, but nothing that completely breaks the game. Thankfully there is a nice array of difficulty settings for the A.I. that will help hold your hand through this learning curve and to victory.
Where UFC may find itself lacking is in the offline play ability and modes. You have exhibition and Career modes… and that’s about it. The Ultimate Fighter Career mode is just that, starting your off as an up and coming rookie in UFC and proving you have what it takes. From there, if successful, you are chosen by a team leader to represent in the Ultimate Fighter Tournament. Once you have taken down all comers there it’s off to the UFC, and after again proving your worth in undercard and main card matches, you find your way to a title shot. Thankfully the career mode isn’t terribly short and doesn’t end with you winning the title as you must prove your worth by defending it as well. Of course you aren’t just going from match to match as you will be optioned for a series of training sessions to help improve your skills. You also have the chance to upgrade your fighter, gear, and move sets as you gain experience over time. While it’s a good time and entertaining, there just isn't enough meat and potatoes there if you are just looking at going it alone against the CPU AI.
Thankfully if you have the coconuts to take your skills online, you will find a wealth of depth online that stems from either competing in a one on one rivalry to Online Championships, which is probably the game’s bread and butter. You will fight multiple seasons proving where you stand, fighting for belts in multiple divisions, and climbing the ranks to be the best in the world. All these stats are tracked by Fighternet where you not only track and compare stats, but share highlight reels or maybe even have your highlight viewed by all if your fight is featured as the Highlight of the Night. There is a ton of fun and bragging rights to be found online, albeit if you have the stones to compete.
All in all, it’s hard to not like what EA has created so far in this new UFC franchise. While we may not see this title updated yearly like NHL and Madden, EA has assured gamers that updates and roster updates will come free of charge over time, so it should not become outdated or stale before the next big PPV event. This, topped off with a fun career mode, and addicting and rewarding online mode, strong controls (learning curve aside) and impressive visuals are more than enough reasons to plunk down $60. UFC fans have been shunned for many years with only a handful of decent games over the last decade, so it’s time to reward yourself with this fine representation of the sport.