EA Sports UFC - Flashy Knock Outs For Next Gen Consoles

EA Sports' first ever licensed UFC game is heavy on flashy knock outs and graphical style, but does it have the gameplay to make it a true fighting classic?
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EA Sports' first ever licensed UFC game is heavy on flashy knock outs and graphical style, but does it have the gameplay to make it a true fighting classic?

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A UFC bout that particularly sticks in the memory is the main event of UFC on Fox 1 between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez for the UFC Heavyweight Championship back in 2011. The first ever UFC title bout to be shown on network television, there was an inordinate amount of hype and bluster around the event leading up to the fight, including a particularly showy hour long pre-show where UFC President himself, Dana White promised that he had hand picked the event as he was sure it would have fans buzzing.

The fight itself lasted 64 seconds.

It was a wondrously savage bout, with new kid on the block Dos Santos finishing blows resembling a chimpanzee trying to smash open a tin of food, but after three hours of preliminary fights and another hour of build up, fan reaction to the knock out largely a mixture of shock and short change. Like a someone losing their virginity, first time viewers found the whole thing somewhat exciting, but no idea what was going on and found it over far too quickly for their liking. “That was fun for a bit I guess, but was that it?”

That fight sums up EA Sports UFC perfectly.

When it comes to new game hardware, fighters often serve as a great barometer as to how detailed the games will be playing for the next decade can be. Put all your efforts into rendering two characters on screen rather than 20 and the quality of those two will be that much more impressive and so forth. Going by that train of thought, both the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One are packing some serious juice as EA Sports UFC offers up an one of the graphical benchmarks for both systems.  Each of the fighters in EA Sports UFC looks superb with tattoos, facial hair and musculature  well realised and animated realistically.  Fists and feet fly through the air and land with a satisfying crunch when performed correctly. EA Sports UFC is a looker and then some.

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But UFC has never been a sport about who’s the prettiest (just look at Wanderlei Silva), it’s about what you can do in the octagon. For the most part, EA Sports UFC does the business with a solid strike game and an easy thumbstick driven submission mini game working to make a convincing simulation of the sport. Facing your friends in either local of single multiplayer, bouts often turn into interesting cat and mouse games, with EA Sports UFC living up the sport’s nickname of  “kinetic chess”.  Against CPU opponents however, and it can be too easy to jump in with a desperate last ditch submission hold and score a cheap tap out victory. For a game so visually realistic and a sport where submission wins are so hard to rack up for one fighter, having such an easy exploitable gameplay loophole can bring you out of the experience somewhat.

Outside your one and done bouts, and EA Sports UFC is strangely short on options. Career mode is a fairly straightforward “fight your way up the contender table, win world title, defend it” narrative that offers very little tangible sense of progression other than gaining more. More stats for your fighter, more sponsors, more moves and more messages of encouragement from fellow fighters.   It’s a little disappointing to see that given the extra horsepower offered by the new consoles, and following the enjoyable rags to riches storyline of other EA fighting games like Fight Night Champion, something more wasn’t done to make EA Sports UFC resemble the story driven and television focused sport its based on.  A single player career mode that more closely resembles The Ultimate Fighter television programme, with the option to make hated rivals wouldn’t go amiss in a follow up game, neither would more OTT promo cutscenes in the lead up to big fights and rematches.

For their first ever licensed UFC game, EA Sports UFC is fun. Electronic Arts have created a game that is incredible to look at and offers great thrills, but much like that UFC on FOX fight, it’s over too quickly. Scoring a knock out victory is great, and some of your more devastating victories will last long in the memory, but like how the dos Santos – Velasquez rivalry took a rematch to really be considering a fighting classic, EA Sports UFC may just need another entry to really count as a must buy.

This game was reviewed on Playstation 4.

EA Sports UFC is available to buy now on Playstation 4, Xbox One.

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