EA Sports UFC - Review


With EA Sports UFC, EA aims to bring the MMA sport to interactive life on your home screen. And not only this, but in staggering lifelike detail thanks to its new Ignite Engine.
Being exclusively developed for next-gen consoles and promising the most realistic character models in video games to date, there's quite some excitement how UFC will end up looking.
Yet, aside from watching it, is EA Sports UFC also a game actually worth playing?
Stepping into the footsteps of what EA left behind with its MMA franchise, is EA Sports UFC going to improve the fighting simulator with next-gen or is it copy-and-paste with refined graphics?  


The Core Mechanics - "Not so fast"

Let one thing be clear right from the start: UFC is not your typical fighting game but rather a fighting game simulator.
With that said, the game boasts a fairly impressive yet not entirely flawless array of commands and moves to learn to fully get everything out of your gaming experience. UFC therefore is definitely not a "pick-up-and-play"-type of fighter.

Fortunately though, before diving into the game's offline or online experience, the game does a fairly good job in introducing players to all the necessary features and moves they have to know to get the gist of the game.
Just like the real MMA sport, the game's extensive array of commands cover up pretty much every aspect of the MMA sport's martial arts fighting that one can imagine. Basic fighting moves, submissions, clenching and wrestling all have their relevant key function in fights. Yet, while the game's ambition to cover up pretty much every essential aspect about UFC fights is to be admired, learning all the necessary controls in order to actually know what you are doing in the game is not really an easy task.
While the game's tutorials manage to serve as capable guides to show you everything regarding the gameplay mechanics, learning all the button-combinations necessary to execute specific moves will definitely take quite some time to know by heart. And whereas blocking, kicking and punching are pretty easy to get into, especially the so called "ground game" is a quite flawed and frustrating affair.

Kick your way to the top.

Trying to get the upper hand while being on the ground can either be quite easy or extremely frustrating in UFC.
When on the ground, players need to wiggle their way out of the opponent's submission to practically get on top to obtain the upper hand of the situation. The game does its fairly best to make ground games, including takedowns and submissions, not really a gimmick but a strategic maneuver in fights. Yet what ultimately makes ground games in UFC more frustrating than fun is the amount of button-combinations that have to be known by the player to fully get the desired control of the situation. Multiple shoulder buttons as well as frantically wiggling around your analog stick is commonplace when the fight is taken to the ground. And while ground game situations in real life MMA sports are standard, ground games in the game seem to take up far too much time of an entire round.
Ultimately, takedowns and ground games are absolutely essential for a UFC game, yet sadly the game's flow always seems to get a major bump of frustration once you frantically have to wiggle your way out of an opponent's grip.

Yet ultimately, even considering how difficult it is to get into all of the game's complex moves and maneuvers, once more or less everything becomes clear to the player and less overwhelming, UFC slowly develops into a very interesting fighting experience, which becomes feeling more like a very strategic fighting game than a full-on brawler.
Whereas UFC fights in the game definitely feel much much slower compared to fights in Tekken or Street Fighter, the game's goal is to represent a very authentic and realistic simulation of the MMA sport, and in that it mostly does a good job.
Winning a fight through frantically mashing on buttons will as good as never lead to a victory. Carefully observing the opponent's tactics of attacking and blocking to plan efficient strikes on him while at the same time keeping an eye on your stamina meter, is making UFC satisfyingly and impressively tactical, reflex-based and each fight fairly unpredictable to a certain extent.
A fight with a seemingly overwhelming opponent can either turn out as a fight that extends multiple rounds or come down to a fight not lasting longer than a minute if either one of the two fighters manages to get the a certain strategy or punch just right.
And especially the great feel of nailing down your opponent with a K.O.-kick after multiple exhausting rounds of fighting makes all the tension and hard fighting worth it.

Once the fight is taken to the ground, it becomes extremely frustrating.

Career Mode - "Doing it Rocky-Style"

Aside from "Quick Fights" and a Challenge Mode, UFC's "Career"-Mode is definitely the main show of the game.
There, you are free to create your own fighter from scratch and work your way to the top of the UFC league.

While fairly basic, the game manages to make the Career Mode a pretty exciting affair (especially when you design your character to your liking).
Yet, the Career Mode also is the main reason that quickly proves that the game's complex mechanics and button-combos are the only truely in-depth aspect of the entire game.
UFC's Carreer Mode has you, as already mentioned, work your way to the top from an "Underdog"-like starter fighting in smaller events to the UFC's best of the best.
And while the game neatly covers up aspects like optional sponsorships with brands and the fact that your carreer can be damaged, due to the fact that a lost fight can't be simply retried in a rematch, the spectrum of impactful options in the Career Mode is fairly limited.
Whereas the MMA fights themselves are quite tactical affairs, your career itself really isn't. Moving through your career is not really a strategic choice of choosing the right sponsor or opponent. Opponent-offers therefore are chosen by the game, which you always have to accept in order to progress. Even though lost fights damage your career in terms of losing fans and fame, they sadly still feel rather insignificant and inconsequential overall. Especially considering that even each lost fight grants you a pretty high amount of XP points to spend on your character's stats and purchasable moves.
With that said, next to a respectable amount of options to design your fighter's outward appearance, you can upgrade your fighter with said XP points to develop him into a more round-up and capable fighter. UFC's upgrade feature is a fairly straight-forward and nice RPG-like aspect of the Career Mode that successfully manages to be a capable driving-force to keep you evolving and fighting through your career to become the best there is. Yet, as already mentioned, the fact that XP is gained really quickly even through lost matches makes upgrading your character's stats to their fullest very easy and the entire Career Mode fairly boring after a while of endlessly fighting your supposed way to the top.

Other than that, inbetween each fight, the game offers you the chance to train specific aspects of MMA fighting. Although the game does earn some credit for showing that it keeps an eye on your fighting style, strengths and general behaviour in the fighting ring, the training sessions out to improve your skills mostly result in rather ineffective mini-tutorials or mini-games that only barely show any true effect.
How are my kicks going to improve in fights when the training session just tells me to push a certain button when prompted?
Ultimately, true improvements in fighting in UFC are only gained through actually improving your skills and stats by earning/spending XP or just learning the button-combos once more.
The training sessions therefore only serve as another way of reminding you of the button-combos, but really not much more.

Welcome to the training: X, O, X, O, O, X,...


Like every fighting game, UFC also boasts an online multiplayer feature, which yet sadly remains extremely straight-forward and more functional than exciting.
Featuring an online player championship, there's really not that much exciting to note other than the standard one-on-one matchmaking, whereas wins put you up higher on the main highscore.
Other than that, the online multiplayer feature boasts the exact same fighting mechanics as the offline component, and while no other features in online play are needed, multiple more modes would've made UFC online more fun. Yet, as promised by EA, more modes are to come through time.


Probably THE main key selling point of EA Sports UFC are its extremely impressive and lifelike visuals boasted by EA's new Ignite Engine developed primarily for EA Sports games.
With that said, UFC has been exclusively designed and released for the next-gen consoles PS4 and Xbox One, and it truely shows.
Next to a very good TV-style presentation of the fights themselves, it's especially the very realistic character models that steal the show. Famous fighters actually very much resemble their real life counterparts and details in their facial expressions credibly convey emotions during fights.
Yet, additionally the amount of detail put into the game when its truely in motion is astounding as well. Even though some movements might feel a bit choppy when controlling a fighter, most of the animations happen to look very fluid. It's all underlined by great details like cringed faces when hit, blood spilling out of wounds, near perfect sking textures and lighting, muscles moving during punches/kicks and skin realistically moving during impacts.
While the character models of actual real life fighters look very real though, own created fighters expectedly look a bit stock in comparison, but not too much to pull you out of the immersion.
With that said, with the overall visuals of EA Sports UFC being almost entirely flawless thus far, some presentation decisions happen to be a bit ill-advised, like the supposedly motivating constant video-conversations with some real life UFC fighters inbetween matches of the Career Mode, which feel utterly unnecessary and extremely cheesy.


Accompanying the game's great TV-style presentation is an expectedly great narration and cheering of fans during fights, effectively underlining tide-changing moments and victories or loses in UFC.
Additionally, a great spectrum of various licensed music tracks give players a nice variety of entry songs from various genres to choose from for their individual fighters.
Other than that, there's not much too outstanding or unexpected from the sound department.     

It's only a game, but it really looks like it hurts.

The Verdict

Overall, EA Sports UFC is an okay to good fighting simulator that primarily shines through its great sense for visual detail, presentation and complex mechanics that cover up every essential aspect about MMA fighting.
Though getting into the wide array of necessary (and not entirely flawless) button-combos and mechanics will take quite some time and doesn't make EA Sports UFC a "pick-up-and-play" kind of fighting game, the strategic and tactical nature of the MMA fights in the game will make for quite an exciting experience. Just like in the real life MMA sport, fights can be decided in a matter of seconds or extend to multiple rounds depending on how you play, making many fights very tension heavy and exciting.
Yet, with that said, the game's very limited spectrum of options and modes drastically holds back the overall value of the game. While the Career Mode is definitely the primary show here, the constant upgrading and improvement of your own individual fighter might be fun for some time but also tends to grow tiresome and boring after repeating a seemingly endless quest to become the best of the UFC with losses that turn out fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
Additionally, with only another Challenge Mode and a very standard online matchmaking feature, UFC is a game in desperate need of new modes and relevant content if it wants to to keep players' interest.
With complex yet good tactical fighting gameplay at its core, EA Sports UFC remains a game best suggested to fans of the franchise or fighting game simulators. Nevertheless, it's truely a shame that EA Sports UFC only boasts such a limited variety of modes that take advantage of its gameplay mechanics.

 Final Verdict: 6 out of 10 

Status: Okay / Only for Fans

Big thanks goes out to EA for providing us with a review copy of the game.

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