Release Date: June 17, 2014 Platform: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One Developer: EA Sports Publisher: Electronic Arts Genre: Fighter/Sports
I’ve got a love–a strong, deep love–for the sport of mixed martial arts. It’s a sport that truly feels like an art at times, as even a contender that has been beaten up for 4 and a half rounds can come back and win it with a perfectly executed swing of the fist to score a knockout. It isn’t about size, either; even the smallest of fighters can become terrifying as opponents in the octagon. MMA fighters don’t all have to be the strongest men on the planet to get a win, as craftier contenders can get wins through twisting someone’s arm in ways it’s not supposed to or locking up their opponent’s knee until the opponent says “I’ve had enough.” But, it’s because of the numerous styles of fighting and possible outcomes that gamers have yet to be truly satisfied with any MMA video games that have been released up to this point.
And, until actually playing EA Sports UFC,I thought for sure that EA would use the powers of the PS4 and Xbox One to incorporate more diversity into the gaming octagon. Instead, EA focused too much on bringing the highest quality graphics to the game instead of adding more fighter animations, possible moves, and giving EA Sports UFCan overall new gen feel.
EA Sports UFC,as a whole, has a fantastic presentation. The majority of fighters look exactly like their real life counterparts. Ross Pearson’s video game avatar looks exactly like Ross Pearson. Jon Jones looks exactly like Jon Jones. But, there are a few exceptions, such as Scott Jorgensen missing his skin condition, or Nate Diaz looking like a neanderthal. There’s also that whole people-having-blank-stares-in-video-games thing going on, too. But, nonetheless, the majority of fighters look spectacular as they earn their bruises and blood in the octagon.
These extremely high quality graphics brings some performance problems, most notably framerate issues, as the game struggles to maintain even 30FPS, at times. On top of the framerate issues are the long loading times. You’ll find yourself waiting…and waiting…and waiting for menus to load.
But putting performance issues aside, there are some glaring problems that any player will notice after just one or two matches, especially if they are followers of professional MMA. Of these problems, the most unforgivable is the fact that there are no TKOs. Never will a fight be stopped by Yves Lavigne or Herb Dean from a fighter taking too much damage, not defending themselves, an injury, or any other of the numerous reasons fights are stopped in the UFC. Instead, players are forced to either score a knockout or submit their opponent. It’s a major problem. After knocking down an opponent to the ground, any MMA fan will tell you the next step is to rush in and try to finish the fight via stoppage or knockout. Unfortunately, in EA Sports UFC,players don’t have that option to really pounce on their opponent. Instead, you’re forced to shuffle forward and then get pulled right into full guard, making it impossible to rain down blows and finish off your dazed opponent. There are also no penalties called or points lost for low blows or eye pokes, which are common in MMA, even though they both occur frequently in the game.
Another obviously absent component is wearing your component down with your physical weight–a major factor in MMA for bigger fighters, especially. Instead, your fighter sort of hovers over their opponent when in side control or any other position on the mat. There appears to be no penalty to your opponent for being on top of him or pushing him into the cage with your weight.
EA Sports UFCalso feels robotic at times, with a frustratingly limited number of canned animations. In fact, every fighter throws the same looking punches as other fighters that throw the same style of punch. But, that’s not the case in MMA–no two punches look the same. Unfortunately, every time you go for a single punch, it lands in the exact same spot, where there should be slight variation with its angle so it doesn’t look exactly the same as the punch you just threw.
Also, there’s no pre-fight fist bump. C’mon, EA–that’s a staple in MMA fighting, albeit a small one.
There are a couple of areas in which EA Sports UFC is strong, though, such as the create-a-fighter mode and multiplayer fighting. The create-a-fighter mode is delightfully deep, having quite a few options available for creating the next UFC badass. Multiplayer is also strong, since it takes away the more robotic A.I. you’d otherwise find in the octagon and replaces it with a human opponent that might know a thing or two about proper MMA fighting. This creates some dramatic moments, especially when playing couch multiplayer.
EA Sports UFCis unfortunately not the new gen MMA game fans of the genre were waiting for, mostly due to how clean it is. We’re still forced to feel like there could be so much more in store for those that want a proper MMA game. But unless EA shifts focus to expanding the number of possible moves, finishes and animations, instead of their apparent focus on high quality graphics, there’s no hope for a proper MMA game. EA ensured that EA Sports UFClooked nice and pretty–and that’s great–but they forgot to make sure that it played like an MMA fight, which isn’t about being pretty.