The sport of MMA has grown massively in popularity over the years, and for a little while there was a battle between EA and THQ, to see who could make the best game based on the sport. Sadly THQ tapped out of the video game industry at the end of 2012, which left just EA to make games based on the UFC. Their latest entry into the series is EA Sports UFC, a current generation only entry. There is a reason EA opted to not go cross-platform with this one, and that’s because there is a lot of graphical tech running under the hood of EA’s virtual octagon.
EA Sports UFC might be a little deceiving to some, especially to those who might have played the Fight Night series. While EA Sports UFC might be made by the same team that worked on Fight Night, don’t expect the controls to be anywhere near as simplistic. For those that have tried out previous EA UFC titles it might ring a bell, for those that haven’t, I hope you like tutorials. EA have done a fantastic job to capture the realism behind the sport of UFC, however the UFC is not just about punching and kicking. Its complex, with many fighting styles, and intense grapple and clinch maneuvers.
Don’t let this put you off though, because the game starts you with a very detailed tutorial. It will take you the good part of an hour to complete. From there you can jump straight into career mode, where you can create your own UFC champion. The customization is rather advanced. You have many options in terms of what your face and body will look like, before it all gets broken and bloodied up in the octagon. Once you have made your fighter look like the guy from Cast Away (a favorite look of mine) you get thrust into more tutorials. This is supposed to be your training in the gym before a fight, but it’s just a re-skinned version of the tutorial at the start of the game.
It might seem excessive on the tutorials but it’s actually important, as you will quickly realize it when entering your first qualifying event. Chances are a 7-foot bear of a man will sit on your face… with his knees. It’s then that you draw a complete blank as to which of the 150 moves, you were just taught, you should utilise to make an escape out of your messy situation. Once you get the hang of things and start winning fights you can then start to allocate attribute points you earn to certain aspects of your fighter, such as faster kicks, or reduced damage. Speaking of damage, the body deformation system used to depict your fighter’s wear and tear is simply brilliant. Cheeks will swell up and blood will stain gloves as the fight rounds go by. Skin and muscles ripple as fists and feet impact the fighters body, giving you a real sense that you are hitting something made out of flesh instead of just polygons.
Every elbow and kick to the face will make you cringe a little, as the mat gets littered with pools of blood and sweat. EA really have done a great job in terms of the character models and animations. All 97 UFC fighters are modeled in almost photo realistic detail. EA have also improved the submission system. Here you will have to play a mini game that involves applying pressure on the thumb sticks and pushing it into various directions to try and subdue your opponent or to escape a submission.
The fun factor really gets ramped up a level when you jump in the octagon in versus mode. You will have a selection of some of the most famous UFC faces to pick from, such as Chuck Lidell. Even Bruce Lee makes an appearance as a DLC character. Most of the famous cages from around the world are available to fight in, like Madison Square Garden’s and the MGM Grand Garden Arena. EA Sports UFC has taken full advantage of their new Ignite Engine and it has really has paid off for them in recreating the sport of UFC.
There might be a steep learning curve, but once you get to grips with the controls and manage to knock out your opponent in less than twenty seconds it all becomes worth it. It’s going to be very hard for any other developer to step into the octagon and take the title from EA Sports UFC, as the bar has been set pretty high. It might suffer from occasional slow-down and take some time to master the controls, but all those hours training in the virtual gym will be well worth it when you get to gaze upon that shiny golden belt.