Also On: Xbox One
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Sports
EA’s UFC 2 brings with it a handful of new improvements and modes, including an updated roster, Ultimate Team, and improved animations and visuals. It’s a slick looking combat game that certainly seems to encapsulate the look and feel of real-life UFC events. There’s very little to fault in the presentation here, outside of the continued issue with sluggish menu navigation. All in all, I’m fairly impressed with the sequel, and if you have any love for UFC, I think you’ll find plenty to enjoy here.
Ultimate Team is certainly the major addition this year for me. I’ve generally enjoyed this mode in other EA Sports titles, and while it’s been modified here to bring it in line with a single-competitor sport, it remains the area of the game where I spend most of my time. In Ultimate Team you’ll build a roster of 5 created male/female fighters. They’re fully customizable as far looks go, and thanks to the character creation tools you can up with some, uh, eclectic looks here. You’ll also choose their weight class and discipline, like boxer, wrestler, kickboxer, etc. This will dictate starting stats and moves, which can then be enhanced through the purchase of card packs.
Packs of cards will unlock additional moves, some of which are specific to weight classes and genders. Rarer cards will consist of those specific to a real-life fighter, think of these as extra special moves you can bestow upon your own created combatant. You can also unlock perks, which can be slotted into five different spots, and you’ll also earn limited boosts to areas like leg health, body health, and so on. These consumable boosts can give your fighter a slight edge in a match, but are far from overpowered (or even necessary). You’ll also need to manage your fitness level, each successive fight will lower a fighter’s overall fitness, which in turn can reduce your stamina level for the next fight. This limits the amount of successive strikes you can perform, so keeping your fitness up, and in turn your stamina, is certainly crucial.
Despite what it may sound like, you don’t need to do a lot to babysit your fighters in-between fights. You can slot in perks, moves, and boosts quickly enough without a great deal of menu navigation. Instead, most of your time spent in Ultimate Team will be between the online Ultimate Championship mode, or the Single Player Championship mode. To progress in either, you’ll need to win a series of fights before becoming eligible for the championship in your weight class. This can be quite an ordeal against other, real life players, but I’ve found the A.I. in single player mode to be a bit of a pushover. Either way, the core fighting in UFC 2 is a lot of fun, so even if you score some losses you’ll likely want to jump right back into the fray.
Speaking of which, the actual mechanics of fighting in UFC 2 aren’t that different from the previous game. Striking is still based around button modifiers for low and high attacks, as is blocking. You can perform stronger strikes based on directional inputs, and the analog sticks are used for takedowns, clinch maneuvers, and the ground game. Submissions are still a little unwieldy, at least for me. And I rarely see matches end in submissions online, so I’m willing to bet that the majority of the players I’ve encountered aren’t exactly a big fan of the process either. Managing both analog sticks to defend and progress when in submission mode still feels a little clunky, and it’s a system that really needs some refinement going forward. But thankfully the striking game feels great, and is fun to engage in. This is helped by the improved animations, making impacts feel and look spectacular. Flash KO’s aren’t nearly as prevalent this time around, empowering players to actually go toe to toe with their fists and feet, as opposed to constantly backing off or turtling up.
Outside of Ultimate Team, there’s a handful of other things to keep you busy. Standard Exhibition, online ranked and unranked battles, online friend battles, and career mode are all present. Career Mode is likely another area where players will spend the majority of their time, offering up the ability to create a new fighter from scratch, or using an existing UFC fighter as a template. You’ll engage in training camps between fights, work your way up from The Ultimate Fighter, to the under, mid, and upper card in UFC events. Training consists of a series of mini-games revolving around three styles, Stand Up, Clinch, and Ground. You’ll have limited time to train between fights, but can slowly progress with your stats at a pace that’s on par with your position on the roster. Career mode also features limited longevity for your fighter, which can improve with a higher fan base from winning fights, but also decrease based on injuries sustained.
Knockout Mode is another unique mode featured, devolving UFC fights into a more arcadey experience, complete with health bars for fighters. This is a strikes-only mode, and most fights are over in 6 or so hits. It’s a unique time waster for the series, but not my favorite addition here. It would likely be aided by some online play, but most A.I. opponents are brain dead in Knockout Mode, making the whole affair feel underwhelming.
That said, I’m certainly enjoying my time spent with UFC 2. There’s a few misses here, but overall I think EA’s done a suitable job with the franchise, and this entry shows continued improvement. Outside of my dislike for submission mechanics, I can find very little to fault in the actual fighting mechanics implemented here. And thankfully the online side of the game has held up quite well so far, with multiple matches completed free of lag or other network issues. So again, if you have any love for the world of MMA, I’d urge you to check out UFC 2. You won’t be disappointed.