Article first published as Playstation 4 Review: ‘EA Sports UFC’ on Blogcritics.
Released just a few months after the launch of Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Electronic Arts’ "Fight Night: Round Three" was the fighting game to own, at the dawn of the last console generation. Eight years later, mixed martial arts fighting has surpassed the comparatively pedestrian sweet science, and EA is attempting to regain their fighting game crown with "EA Sports UFC." Released exclusively for Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s Playstation 4, the game was developed by EA’s "Fight Night" team with the EA Sports Ignite game engine. If nothing else, "EA Sports UFC" certainly looks the part of a showcase title for the new console generation.
Not enough can be said about how good "EA Sports UFC" looks. The textures, lighting, deformations, and animations are second to none on gaming consoles, though surprisingly, there is some drop off with the female fighters. Though she was obviously involved in the development, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey looks pretty trollish in the game. It is also worth noting that you are also not able to create a female fighter in the “Create a Fighter” menu. As long as neither of those points are deal breakers for you, "EA Sports UFC" will go a long way in justifying the expense of being an early adopter for the Playstation 4 or Xbox One.
Despite how breathtaking the graphics are in "EA Sports UFC," there are some flaws to the actual mechanics of the game. At first glance, the game seems fairly realistic while the two opponents are on their feet. High and low punches and kicks are delivered with a button press and they all land appropriately. Where things start to fall apart a bit is all behind the scenes. Though the game boasts a real damage system, the actual implementation of it leaves something to be desired. An undefended square shot to the head is unlikely to deal the damage it would in real life. Likewise, the culmination of leg strikes and body blows don’t adequately impair your opponent either.
Of course a huge part of MMA is the ground game. "EA Sports UFC" for the most part creates a multi-level mini-game of the jiu-jitsu, wrestling, ground and pound portion of the fighting. This actually creates somewhat of an exploit when facing the CPU. Once the pattern is figured out, beat downs and submissions are easy to come by. It is a near equivalent to the repeated leg sweeps in the corner, on the original "Mortal Kombat." To be fair, mapping the huge variety of attacks, counters, and submissions in MMA fighting, is a feat unto itself. The only improvement I, personally would like to see is the removal of the graphic overlay and a way to make the process a little more organic.
Though "EA Sports UFC" does offer a career mode, it is pretty bare bones. Instead of occasional gameplay diversions, the title offers some prerecorded videos of actual UFC personalities offering words of warning or encouragement. The real life characters do create an unnecessary contrast with game models. A better option would have been to just use the actual voices with in-game models. Though most player will be able to create a character they like, the options are somewhat limited compared to many big budget RPGs. Of course, "EA Sports UFC" offers a local two player option along with an online option that I found almost no issues with.
"EA Sports UFC" is an MMA fan’s only choice on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One and it really looks impressive. Unfortunately, the level of presentation sets a standard that the rest of the game struggles to keep up with. While the fighter’s models almost all look like the real thing, the fighting doesn’t feel quite as authentic. For their first shot at the UFC license, EA Canada has done an admirable job of starting the franchise. There is obviously room for improvement, but I for one, have no doubt the team is on the right track.