With THQ no longer with us, and Yukes no longer developing the UFC Undisputed franchise there is a very noticeable gap in the market as the title of Mixed Martial Arts champion is vacant pending a tournament decider.
First up in the octagon and fighting from the left side is EA UFC. Fighting out of the right side and their opponent is, well umm, nobody. Like many of the other EA Sports franchises, EA Sports UFC may just win the title by default due to a lack of a competitor. Whilst this rookie may wield the power of next gen and the beauty of the Ignite engine it can’t help but show its inexperience at times.
Simply put, EA Sports UFC looks exceptional, setting the bar high for character models, environments and photorealistic animations that will be the standard bearer for many titles over the next 12 months. The entire presentation is of striking resemblance to UFC’s own television and pay per view offerings. Fighters strike, cuddle oops I mean clinch and transition from position to position with lifelike fluidity. Sweat and blood even stain the canvas floor of the octagon and remain there for the entirety of the match.
The controls are easy to learn but simply an art form to master. Initially sticking to the stand-up game will serve you well, peppering your opponent with punches and kicks sprinkled with the odd superman punch for showmanship. However sticking with this game plan will soon see you become easy to read and more often the victim of a sweet kick or punch that catches you at just the right point that will end the match.
Every button on the controller adds to your arsenal of moves, with the face buttons controlling kicks and punches – the hand or foot you use dependent on the button you press – with the shoulder buttons controlling the body target and special modifiers. The left analogue stick will transform the strikes turning a simple jab into an uppercut or hook and transforming an average kick into a brogue kick to the face or roundhouse kick to the temple.
From here on in the combat and strategy of the matches gets more complicated as you add the clinch and ground game into your arsenal focusing on the aspect that suits your style the best. Using the correct clinch for your style will lead to greater damage in the clinch plus easier take downs.
The correct position is never more important than once the ground game starts. Big powerful fighters will aim for the dominant position so they can ground and pound their opponents into submission whilst the more agile fighters will aim for the tricky ju-jitsu submission position in order to make their opponents tap out.
The most important aspect of all fighters regardless of style is stamina. Throwing punches and kicks will use stamina. Wildly throwing these strikes will rapidly expend stamina and leave you open to power takedowns and transitions from your opponents as well as being unable to successfully block the full force of strikes which leads to “red” body parts and there is nothing more frustrating than being knocked out by a standard strike to battered body part purely because you were throwing punches and kicks for no reason.
Apart from the exhibition mode where the entire UFC roster is separated by weight class and sex, EA Sports UFC also offers a career mode where you take on the role of a rookie initially fighting through UFC’s reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter, in order to gain a UFC contract, right up to main eventing UFC pay per views.
Winning your matches and performing well in the training drills will reward you with Evolution Points in order to upgrade skills and purchase new moves for your fighter. Winning fights also rewards your with experience points which are used to “level up” your fighter, which in turn unlocks sponsors for your fighter. Along the way you will see numerous cut scenes (between every single match) from UFC stars offering encouragement; after a while these do become slightly annoying.
More annoying however, especially for a new player, is the lack of any in depth explanations. Despite the lengthy tutorial at the beginning of the game there is no explanation, although it is mentioned, of what and how to posture in the ground position, how to engage and utilise cage manoeuvres or what the difference between the ground and clinch positions actually are. Pause the menu during an exhibition match and you can see a command list of every move your fighter is capable of; this is remarkably absent in the career mode.
Once again, as said multiple times here at Midlife Gamer in the last few months, this title is a prime example of the potential of the next generation of consoles. Like a UFC rookie it hits the target more than it misses but is still a little rough around the edges. If the little annoyances are ironed out in time for the next iteration we truly could have the Ultimate Fighting Champion on our hands.
MLG Rating: 7/10 Format: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One Release Date: 17/06/2014
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of EA Sports UFC by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on a PlayStation 4. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.