EA Sports is back again this year with a new edition of their UFC franchise, which is slowly gaining pace and reaching the level of a FIFA game in regards to quality and popularity. The company overtook the license from THQ studio’s previous game and it was immediately noticeable that they took a much more serious approach to the game which the players liked, because they’ve been waiting for an MMA simulation, not an arcade-fighter-styled game that THQ regularly used in all of their WWE games. Once they’ve seen the success the game had EA took the time to polish up the game, so now we can say that we have a true MMA representatation in the gaming world.
The whole menu is similar to other EA Sports games, which will make managing the options much easier for players who play their other games. Everything is clearly written and explained; every mode from the previous installment is still here, plus a few new ones. Surely the greatest addition is the Ultimate Team mode, already familiar to many from the FIFA franchise. However, while in football this mode was created so that players can make their own dream team with all the stars they want, who they can unlock and buy as cards, in this game that mode is something of a failure and will disappoint everyone who hoped they could make their own “dojo” and gather UFC’s best of the best and dominate all categories. Here you have the possibility to create up to five fighters who will fight in various divisions in order to climb the ladder to the champion title. There is an option for online matches against other players (which, sadly, requires an Xbox subscription in order to play), as well as an offline mode in which you get to fight against the fighters created by other players and controlled by the AI. You’ll earn points and money, which you’ll spend on cards and fighter upgrades. Those cards contain “special” moves that can broaden your fighter’s arsenal, as well as “training” cards, which are used to recover your fighter from his last match and prepare him for next one. Once you’ve seen all of that, you’ll realize that this mode should have been the Career mode and not Ultimate Team, which disappointed many fans, but we’re hoping that EA will fix this in the sequel, if not in this game. Besides these, there is also the Knockout mode, which is mainly used for short and sweet brutal finishers. There’s no floor techniques here, no grappling, no prolonged matches – just short bouts in which you attempt to make your opponent kiss the mat as painfully as possible.
Perhaps the two most interesting modes are the Live Event and Custom Event. The first one literally skips to the next event in line and allows you to “bet” on the score, and if you guess right, you get rewarded, and you can also play each fight. If you manage to fulfill your prediction, you also get bonus points. Custom Event’s there for you to create a whole event as you see fit. From the matches, to the background, referees, octagon girls, etc; you can create your dream event, which means that every fight can be a title match and you can participate in every one of them if you want. One of the things that would work really well in this mode, and which UFC’s doesn’t practice since the early days of the organization, are the so called “one night tournament” types of events, in which the whole tournament takes place over one night, and by the end the winner is proclaimed a champion in that category. The Career mode is also still here and it’ll take you through training, “The Ultimate Fighter” shows and houses, all the way to the UFC and the title of champion. How much they focused on realism can be seen in the fact that the creators now made it possible for your fighter to get injured during training and therefore disrupt his way to glory, which is another thing to be aware of.
The number of fighters is huge – over 250 of them, both active and non-active. UFC made an effort to get everyone who has ever gone through their organization and had their permission to put their character into the game. Alongside them, we have Bruce Lee as a bonus character from the previous sequel, as well as Mike Tyson and Bas Rutten, who are new additions to the line-up. You can also see CM Punk in the game, who some will recognize from the WWE, and who is expected to make a debut in UFC by the end of the year. It’s a big remark that all of these characters can only be bought with real money, and can’t be unlocked by playing or game points. This is especially irritating when it comes to Bruce Lee, who was in the previous game, but it seems that the publishers don’t care, as long as they get as much extra income as they can. We hope that UFC adds more fighters to their game, considering that they have the rights to a few organizations that no longer exist, as well as cooperation with others who wouldn’t mind getting some publicity through UFC games.
When it comes to the way the game looks, EA Sports made real effort to make everything look as realistic as possible. All fighters are faithfully depicted, tattoos and haircuts included, the octagon is decorated with logos of all current sponsors, and the arenas are completely copied – lights, big screens and all. Along with the fighters and their coaches, we also have referees, Bruce Buffer as the announcer, as well as the octagon girls. The level of detial is so high that you can recognize a fighter or anyone else around the octagon at just the first glance. The gear for all fighters is the same, Reebok, which some may mind because they’re used to a variety of equipment, but this is all due to contracts UFC made. The game may stutter only while the fighters are entering the ring, and that only at two places – while exiting the hallway and moving towards the ring, and while entering the ring itself. Luckily there’s no stuttering during matches.
The fights themselves are spectacular and can look brutal sometimes, especially when you’re finishing your opponent on the ground. Each blow to the head will make it bounce, adding to the over feeling of force in the impact. Even in the previous edition the fights looked amazing, and now it’s almost like watching them on TV. We say “almost”, because there are moments when it seems like your blows are just caressing your opponent rather than of hurting them, and it usually happens when the fighters are on the ground or near the fence. The grappling system in the game is a bit slower and it lacks the fluidity that the other elements of the fighting have. Sure, now it’ll be easier to cope due to the added mini-menu which shows the actions that your character will take if you move the corresponding analog stick in a certain direction. Also, the process of submission is now divided into five parts, and yes, we understand that EA wanted to ensure that both players have an equal chance this way, but it only slows the game and loses the feeling of realism they’re trying to achieve. The injuries are visible during the match, and they look even better during breaks between rounds. Focusing on a certain region on the opponent can pay off, because that may make it harder for him to move, or lower his stamina and stop him from making any huge combos. Two big things that really bothered us are the lack of quick finishes through knock-out, as well as injuries through hitting. We’ve tried to break the balancing leg of our opponent many times, but we failed every single time, and we all know that this happens more and more often in real fights.
The sound is improved and there are no false sounds any more. Everything you hear in the game, every hit and fall, is a real recorded sound imported into the game. That means that someone had to go through all that torture to make the game sound real enough for everyone (or at least we like to think that way). As for the music, the library is filled with various genres. Some might object that the game’s soundtrack isn’t comprised of just the “hardcore” music as it used to be, but I think that UFC as an organization has been working hard on changing their image and that shows in this case. But don’t worry – all songs you heard at the events are here.
Apart from all previously mentioned pros and cons to the game, there is still another big thing missing – the so-called “thrash talk” before the match. Throughout UFC’s history, the fights were built by conflicts and verbal insults of the fighters; face to face, as well as over media, and that heated up the atmosphere and the viewers before the match. Lately there’s been a lot of that with stars such as Chael Sonnen, Connor McGregor, Jon Jones and Dominik Cruz, to name just a few, who elevate the importance of their bouts and spectator inclusion through verbal wars against opponents. We hope that EA and UFC add this to the game in the near future to make it an even more faithful representation of events before the match and provide even more fun for the players.
UFC 2 is a great game and although it has certain oversights, it shows that the studio and the UFC are making an effort to translate this sport into the virtual world in the right way and make it possible for us, the players, to feel as if we’re really in the octagon. Even though there are a few flaws this game is definitely worth your time and can entertain you a variety of ways, whether you give it an hour or much longer.
Author: Ivan Danojlić