Let me be right up front that I am not a big fan of UFC. I will sometimes catch the highlights, but I’m more of a WWE kind of guy. I like my fighting sports fake and pre-determined. So after thoroughly playing UFC, I am surprised that I liked it as much as I did. The building blocks are there for something truly great though, and there are a few missteps that make EA’s first UFC game far less than stellar.
One thing I liked about the game is that it has simple, easy to navigate menus. Most EA Sports games nowadays like Madden and FIFA are just cluttered messes of all sorts of nonsense that can be intimidating to casual players. EA Sports UFC keeps it short and to the point, making it a breeze to bounce between the career, local multiplayer, and online multiplayer modes. It cuts out all of the extra garbage that EA stuffs into their games, so it’s a purer experience.
The multiplayer in particular is an absolute blast and it is what I spent most of time with when playing the game. Local multiplayer with buddies is good for a laugh, and the online is excellent. While I did run into some connection issues every now and again, the online runs very smoothly with next to zero lag issues. The online battles are also a lot more thrilling than battling the AI. Epic moments happen quite frequently and uploading your best moments to share with the world is as simple as can be.
Character creation could’ve used more options, but what’s there is sufficient enough that you should be able to mostly create whatever you want. My friend and I created a character based on “The Mountain” from Game of Thrones, giving him incredible striking ability but making it fair by giving him terrible stats when it came to the mat game. This resulted in a lot of intense battles where we were desperate to stay on our feet and land precise blows to the opponent’s head.
If you don’t want to bother with fighter creation, the available roster is quite extensive. All of the major UFC weight classes are represented with a wide range of fighters available to play as. Heavily advertised for the game has been martial arts legend Bruce Lee, but his inclusion is where EA has actually royally screwed up and took what could’ve been a game easy to recommend to people looking for a fun multiplayer experience to a game that is marred by the shady business practices EA is known for.
There are three different ways to unlock Bruce Lee in the game. For one, you could’ve pre-ordered it. That’s now out of the question unless you can get your hands on a pre-order code. The second way to unlock him is by going through career and completing it on the hardest difficulty, but I’ll get to why that is ridiculous in a minute. The final option is to purchase him from the store, but I recommend not even visiting the store in EA Sports UFC as it will just leave a terrible taste in your mouth.
Bruce Lee is available in numerous fighting classes, but you have to pay for each class one by one. There’s a bundle that gets you all of the Bruce Lee variations for a slightly cheaper price, but I think it’s incredibly stupid that EA is trying to sell people the same fighter six times. I sincerely hope no one fell for such a cheap tactic and kept their money in their wallets.
Unlocking Bruce Lee through the career mode is an extreme struggle, mainly due to how terrible the career mode is and how horrendous the AI is as well. Career mode forces you to use a created fighter, and then your stats are set to terrible standards. This is done so that you can level up your fighter and improve their stats over time, but what it does is put a giant roadblock in the beginning of the game. Once you get over that roadblock and have decent stats, the game becomes significantly easier, but it’s that first hurdle that is such an infuriating struggle.
The AI is just cheap and annoying as hell. They are boring, defensive fighters that are absurdly efficient, even on the lowest difficulty settings. EA Sports UFC just might be the first game I’ve played where real, human players are not as tough as the AI. I have a feeling that EA designed the AI this way on purpose to try to force those that want to play as Bruce Lee and didn’t pre-order the game to buy him from the store. I can’t confirm this as fact, obviously, but that’s the feeling I got when I was forcing my way through the terrible career mode.
Shady business practices and an awful career mode aside, EA Sports UFC has a solid base game and core mechanics that result in a lot of fun times. The building blocks are here for something really awesome for EA Sports UFC 2, but I hope that they are conservative about it and don’t just stuff it full of all the stuff that other EA Sports games are held down with.
The controls are a bit complicated and confusing, but once you master them, it’s easy to dominate in the octagon. It’s fun developing your own combos and submission strategies and seeing how effective they are against your opponents.
The soundtrack is decent, though EA has done much better in the past. There are a few standout songs at least, which is better than I can say for a lot of other sports games these days. The commentary is nothing special, but the sound effects are nice and they do a good job of recreating the UFC feel from an audio standpoint.
EA Sports also does a great job of recreating the authentic UFC feeling when it comes to the visuals as well. This is one of the few true eighth generation games available right now on either PS4 or Xbox One, and the difference compared to cross-generational games is immediately apparent. The fighters are ridiculously detailed, with their skin rippling when they are punched in the face, sweat and blood dripping from their bodies to the canvas in an extremely realistic fashion. The animation is almost perfect besides minor technical issues. The game is one of the best looking games of its kind ever produced to date, and while the load times are little obnoxious (especially when some fights last less than 30 seconds), they’re not so long that you’ll want to stop playing.
Most of the achievements in the game are easy to unlock as they can be boosted by yourself if you have two controllers with little effort. The replayability is not going to come from achievements. Rather, the replayability in this game comes from the multiplayer experience. Due to the DLC debacle and the horrendous career mode, I was tempted to give this game a much lower score initially, but then I remembered the fun times I had with the multiplayer. My buddies and I have dumped hours just beating the hell out of each other in the octagon that it almost makes me forget about all the terrible decisions that were made in other aspects of the game.
EA Sports UFC could’ve been so much more had EA just made a few different decisions here and there. The career mode needs to be completely revamped and the AI needs fixed. The price gouging DLC is just bad PR and makes me not want to buy any of the DLC at all. However, the core mechanics are great and the multiplayer is a ton of fun. I’m not going to find myself catching any UFC events over my WWE shows after playing this game, but I am definitely going to be following the development of the sequel, and who knows, maybe a UFC fan will be made of me yet.
Tested on Xbox One. Final Score: 5.75/10