EA UFC Review
EA is moving forward with the UFC brand after tackling some of the biggest franchises in sporting history. As the fan-base continues for UFC, we wondered how the EA game would play-out for new fans of the sport, so I went in full-force to learn to play and learn the rules all at once for this review That being said, before we get into this review I do not watch UFC on a regular basis. I’m familiar with the sport, and I’ve caught the occasional Pay Per View instance here and there, but calling myself a longstanding fan of UFC wouldn’t be fair to those that have been with the franchise for years.
That is also, why I wanted to review this game. I feel many people are in the same beginning stages as I am with the league. Fans will generally give their favorite games quite a bit of leeway when it comes to new releases, especially when concerning sports games (which are annual releases at this point almost across the board). While the UFC franchise has been with THQ for the past few years, I can only assume that this will become an annualized franchise like any other of EA’s sports titles.
So how does this installment fare as the debut entry for a new UFC franchise? Though I may not be as hip as some in the UFC arena, I’ve played almost every EA Sports title that has been released over the past few years, and I know what works and what doesn’t.
In short, the effort is admirable, but while there are certain aspects to be enjoyed, the overall experience grew thin after putting a few hours into the game. It didn’t take long before the repetition soon set in, and whether I was playing through career mode or an exhibition match, the experience started to largely feel the same.
I’ll certainly give credit where credit is due, though. If you can remember shortly after the last generation of systems launched, ‘Fight Night Round 3’ blew minds with its impressive graphics. That’s the same feeling I got with UFC this time around. These are easily some of the best characters and animations I have ever seen in a game, be it a sports title or not. From the skin stretches and slight variations as the fighters move about and get hit, to watching as the sweat forms and glistens as the match progresses, it’s extremely impressive.
The fighters don’t slide around as they move; everything looks natural. Even if you’re caught button mashing (which doesn’t work, by the way) the fighters all move with a realistic sense of weight, and will never be seen twitching about in a manner that defies the laws of physics.
Because of this, the pacing of the matches feels a lot more deliberate and less like an arcade fighter. When you actually make contact with your opponent, you’ll see it in their faces. It’s one thing to see their faces react to a nasty hit in a slo-mo instant replay, but I was really impressed when I noticed it as it was happening in real time. It adds authenticity and spectacle to the game, and really made me feel like I was in danger when I took a couple of good shots to the face and was forced to watch that pain translate into my fighter’s expressions.
Too add to the realism, EA Sports has developed an AI system called MMAi, which is basically a way to make computer-controlled fighters act and react in a more uniquely intelligent manner, and less like they are operating off of a script. Every licensed fighter in the game will have dynamic fight plans and goals that mirror their real life tendencies. If you stop an opponent’s Plan A, they will switch gears and go into their backup plans. This makes for a much smarter AI opponent, and while it isn’t something that is necessarily noticeable unless you’re looking for it, it’s nice to see an opponent start by swinging endless punches, then when that fails, adapt to a more submission based technique.
As far as the actual fighting goes, I appreciate the fact that the pacing is more deliberate and realistic. I’ve played MMA games before where each match turns basically into a boxing match, with endless punch/kick combos. On lower difficulty levels yes…this game can essentially turn into that, but once you learn the nuances of the game and crank up the difficulty, you should be prepared to actually think and strategize as you enter a match.
You shouldn’t be mashing the punch buttons non-stop because once you do, you’ll bleed through your stamina meter and leave yourself open to some punishing counter attacks. I can appreciate that EA Sports is trying to maintain some form of balance in the matches, so things don’t become too one sided, but that often leads to a suspension of disbelief. I used to box and wrestle, and have even been in my fair share of fights. Many of the moves I’m seeing in-game would easily knock anyone out for good, but for the most part, you can land a number of uncontested uppercuts or knees to the face and still pull out a multi-round match.
I understand things may get boring if you’re knocked out with every haymaker that lands on your jaw, so I can look the other way on this one. The submission system took a while for me to get used to at first, since it plays out in so many stages, but once I got used to it, it actually became an invaluable tool for winning matches. Even if I soon realized that it’s the same rinse and repeat sequence for almost every move. After you initiate a takedown, you can flick the right analog stick in various directions to reposition yourself on your opponent.
As your opponent tries to break free or land some strikes of their own, it is imperative that you switch positions, so as to not only avoid any strikes or counter holds, but also to place yourself in a better position to land your own strikes and potentially force your opponent into submission. Once you get a submission locked in, four quadrants will pop-in with an on-screen overlay to show where you must hold the right stick. If you’re applying a hold, you hold the right stick in the same direction that your opponent is trying to escape from, and if you’re escaping a hold, you will try to move the stick in different directions to find one opposite of what you’re opponent is applying to you.
It may come across difficult to explain, but it plays out like a chess match where you are always trying to predict, and ultimately outthink your opponent. EA Sports UFC is not as casual friendly as many other fighting games out there. It offers a much slower pace, stopping the common notion of button mashing and penalizing you as you run out of stamina and become a sitting duck.
Those that put some time into the game to learn the nuances however, will find a relatively unique fighting game that stresses positioning and strategy over chaos. Just like with other fighting games though, the gameplay is limited in what it can offer. There is career mode, but other than some FMV vignettes scattered about here and there, cut-in with some random training segments thrown in, what you’re essentially doing is just playing match after match as you move up the UFC ladder. It lacks a certain dramatic element and ends up feeling too much like a string of exhibition matches thrown together. If you’re someone who likes to play online and fight your way through live opponents, then that is great for this game. UFC should fill that need just fine, it is only the single player experience I found that grew slightly stale after just a few hours. The game has some very admirable gameplay systems, mechanics that I would like to see in future iterations of the game, but not enough to hold my interest for any long periods without getting online.