And now, it’s time! After two years of buildup, EA Sports UFC has finally hit the octagon for fans throughout the world.
The game takes a roster of 99 fighters from UFC’s past and present – and one who never set foot in the cage (Bruce Lee) – and offers them for players to beat the holy hell out of each other in three or five round fights, including the option for championship fights at a variety of venues.
There are only three main modes available in the game: Fight Now, Career and Online. Fight Now and Online are pretty self-explanatory, so there is no need to give details on the modes.
EA Sports UFC’s primary mode is its Ultimate Fighter career mode, which allows you to create a custom fighter – or use Bruce Lee – and take him through the ranks of starting as a low man on TUF to becoming an undisputed champion in one of the weight classes.
You start with an elimination fight to enter the house, and then sit through a draft of the fighters to determine what team you will be on for that season. You then keep fighting until you win the show. Losing is not an option. Seriously, you can’t lose and continue. If you, somehow, do manage to lose a fight during your time in the “house”, you will immediately be prompted to retry the fight, even if it’s the finals.
It’s a major bummer that it’s so linear at the start of the game mode. Even something has little as having to start your career from the beginning of the show would’ve been a nice touch. But alas, it just makes you retry the fights over and over and over again. It is cool to see the TUF presentation style with the pre-fight walkouts. Also, hearing commentary from Dana White and those in the crowd during the fights adds to the sense that you are an actual part of the show.
Once you earn your first contract, you enter a career mode that just all feels too much of the same. You sign on for a fight, train your fighter, unlock moves and abilities and then fight. Sure you move up in the card and earn bigger payouts with each fight, but it becomes very repetitive after a while. And, in turn, becomes pretty boring, with the exception of your first main event, title fight, etc..
When it comes to actual gameplay, that’s where EA Sports UFC shines – as it should. The fighters move across the mat fluidly, and I rarely found instances of sliding. In fact, I think I only encountered one instance of it, and that was using my created fighter during a training session.
The punches and kicks all look good, and there were no instances of clipping or strikes registering as having made contact despite evidence to the contrary. Combinations flowed nicely, and it just felt like a seamless fight experience. Even with a few instances of it feeling a bit “arcadey”, everything looked, and felt, like an actual fight, except for one big aspect.
EA Sports tried to take a unique step in the form of the new submission “mini-game”, but I feel like it was a failing effort. The submission attempts, no matter what skill level I played on, just felt too easy to escape. In nearly 100 fights during my time, not one ended in submission, even with the attempt to do so.
The creative suite in the game leaves a lot to be desired. It’s as basic as basic can get. Limited hometown selections, physical characteristics, attire options and moves to choose from — some actions only give you one or two options when all the moves are unlocked — are all a major drawback for the fighter creation. It’s the first game, so this is something I won’t hold against EA too much. That being said, I fully expect the creation center in the game to be exponentially expanded in future installments of the game.
The game includes over 100 different choices, including some popular artists, in regards to walkout song options. Unfortunately, after you pick the song you want to represent your fighter, there aren’t many times to actually take advantage of it. Only five-round fights will see fighters walk out to the octagon with their music. All three round fights have the match just load with the participants already in their corners. It may be a small issue, but it really takes away from the game’s presentation when most of your fights don’t involve walkouts.
Again, this is first installment of a brand new series on a brand new engine for a company, but when EA Sports has had as much time to work on the game as it’s had, it makes sense to have a certain set of expectations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t meet all of those expectations.
Make no mistake, aside from the aforementioned submission system, the game is very fun inside the octagon. For an initial version of a franchise, EA Sports has built a very solid foundation for what should become a long-running franchise for the company.