Review: EA Sports UFC – As Real As It Gets

We’ve heard a lot about a new next generation exclusive UFC game being powered by EA Sports’ IGNITE Technology that would capture the athleticism, dedication, power, aggression, physiology and emotion of being a real UFC athlete. But how does this next generation title fare in the face of this tall order? The short answer: very well. Read on to find out exactly what the tale of the tape is.

This is one of the best looking sports/fighting games made to date. EA Sports UFC uses the IGNITE engine and really showcases what it is capable of. No two fights are ever the same and cuts, bleeding and bruising are all realistically developed during a match. Fighters’ cuts will get worse as they take more damage and bruises will become more visible as the match goes on. I have been able to cause cuts over eyebrows, on cheeks and bruise a fighter’s legs and abdomen. Also if you decide to continue to attack a region that has been damaged you will see more detailed results, such as a kick to the abdomen crumbling a fighter over on the canvas or a leg kick causing a fighter to limp or even fall.

I highly recommend trying the demo or playing through the tutorial as it takes you through the basics of striking, modified striking, defending, takedowns, transitions and submissions. This is a lot to remember in a short time for a novice player. The good news is that if you had played a previous version of UFC Undisputed the controls will feel familiar to you and you can get by pretty quickly; this also applies if you played the previous EA Sports MMA title — you’ll be familiar with the stamina gauge and conserving energy to not get gassed.

Where the demo really moved into uncharted area is with the submissions; these are initiated, guarded and completed totally different than any other title to date. The controls for striking are tight and intuitive and will have you putting together blocks and counters together rather quickly.

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“A champion is defined by the adversity he overcomes.” – Anderson Silva

Once you choose a fighter then you can see the match settings which are: Difficulty, Match type, Round Length and Venue. Once you begin loading up the match you will get random game tips and fighter quotes to keep you busy before Bruce Buffer announces the two fighters. Graphically the IGNITE engine makes UFC look great in and out of the Octagon but you will see some occasional issues here and there.

One thing you may notice is an occasional hit detection that didn’t quite register or a fighter’s limb looking blurry as he/she strikes near the cage. One other graphical oddity I noticed was during certain submissions, especially arm bars, my opponent’s arm would clip into my fighter’s body.

EA took great care in making sure the feel of a real UFC fight was captured. Everything from the announcer (Bruce Buffer the official announcer of the UFC), referees (Yves Lavigne and company), the Octagon (complete with sponsors), fighter trainers and even Octagon girls were meticulously scanned and give an authentic feel. Even the commentary puts you right into the fight with Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg calling the action and letting you know when a cut to a fighters cheek is getting worse or repeated leg kicks are damaging a fighter.

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Once all the intros are done, you now are in for the real treat: fighting! Whichever fighter you choose, even on the locked in Easy difficulty, be prepared to be challenged both standing and on the ground. I have played easily over a few dozen matches and each one has played out differently with me winning and losing in a variety of manners, from TKO to KO to Flash KO. Striking in the game feels crisp and you cannot just spam punches and kicks as you will deplete your stamina and make yourself susceptible to a takedown or a counter strike, which could lead to a KO. Takedowns can now be modified and you have the ability to shoot for a single or a double leg takedown now.

Transitions and guard passes require you to know which direction you want to go to and what ultimate position you desire (i.e. the full mount, side control or taking someone’s back). Controls on the ground can be frantic at times as there are many vulnerable positions while on the ground and you will find yourself scrambling quite a bit. Playing against the AI, the transitions feel very simple and fluid but against a real opponent the tides change quickly and transitions are very much dependent on opportunity and stamina.

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“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.” – Bruce Lee

Ground and pound is brutal and if you can capitalize on a position you can easily end fights with big punches from the top, but you are never defenseless in the game and can reverse, strike or go for submissions to get yourself out of bad situations. Flash KO is something that when you get them feel very satisfying but when they are done to you feel kind of cheap. The Flash KO at times feels a bit out of place, especially against certain fighters whom are known to have strong chins.

Striking was pretty simple to pick up and get used to the different technical modifiers while submissions continue to feel foreign. Beginning a submission and defending it may seem simple but completing one is a whole other story. Submissions depend on how much stamina the attacker and defender have as well as their submission stats.

The UFC Career mode is really where the game shines and immerses you into the feeling of being a real fighter. You begin as an unknown fighter that goes onto the Ultimate Fighter show in order to make it into the UFC. Once you win the Ultimate Fighter contest you will then be vaulted into the UFC to fight in undercard matches until you build up enough popularity and fans. As you win fights in the UFC, you will also earn XP for your level and Evolution points, which you can use to level up your skills (i.e. punching, stamina, different moves, submissions, etc.).

The game tracks your overall career damage as you progress, so the damage your fighter takes during each fight will accumulate over time and shorten your career. The game also keeps track of all your fights and if you won or lost through submission, KO or decision. Aside from wins and losses, the game also keeps track of your time spent fighting, significant strikes landed/taken, takedowns and even your favorite submission.

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In the beginning of your UFC career your matches are typically on the undercard until you build yourself up to the PPV and main event card by fighting the top ten fighters in your weight class. Before you accept a fight offer, you always get a glimpse of your opponent’s stats, record and fighting style before you start training. You then are taken to the gym and begin a trio of training exercises to build up the fighter’s stats. The training typically is some kind of combination of striking, ground, wrestling and defense that seems to be random, which keeps it fresh.

Aside from training and assigning Evolution points to skills or moves you want to acquire, you can also set up Gameplans. You get a total of three Gameplans, each with a total of five abilities that span striking, ground and physical attributes. Gameplans allow you to further customize your fighter for certain situations, such as if you are fighting against a ground specialist, a knockout artist or an overall fighter.

When certain things happen in your career — losing your first match, win streaks or winning your first decision — you will get other fighters, trainers and even Dana White videos to talk about it with you. One annoying thing is that every time a fighter video clip is triggered the PS4 gives you a message in the upper right-hand corner that the “Gameplay recording paused/resumed because you have entered/exited a blocked scene” so you can’t record that portion that is being played.

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“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” – Bruce Lee

Fighting Online is where you bring all of your offline skills to use against other players and really is the closest experience to feeling like you are in a actual fight. The seamless transition from offline to online is nice and finding other players is very simple. The number of current online fighters is displayed and is then broken down by weight class.

Once you pick a weight class to fight in the server will look for an opponent and off you go. You don’t know who your opponent is until after the match is over so anonymity is maintained before and during the bout. Some major sponsors are missing, like Nike and Burger King for example, but the other usual suspects all appear (i.e. Affliction, Headrush, EA and RevGear).

All in all EA Sports UFC is a great fighting game that embodies the strategy and fighting prowess needed to be an ultimate fighter. The game does a great job making each punch, kick, takedown and submission feel as real as it gets without having to step into a real Octagon. This is a must have for any MMA or UFC fan and a must try for anyone who really wants to learn the sport and understand what it is all about.

The essence of the game can be summed up like so:

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”  – Bruce Lee

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