Well, ladies and gentlemen, it has been almost two years since the release of EA Sports’ initiatory UFC title, but how does EA Sports UFC 2 measure up?
UFC games can be all over the place. The THQ titles could feel more like WWE in aesthetic at times, after all. So when EA got their hands on UFC, it felt like a complete overhaul. This game feels like the next evolution in many ways. While UFC expands and improves many of their systems, though, there is still a little left to be desired. This review applies to the PS4 version and uses PS4 control references that still apply to their Xbox One counterpart (X=A, Square=X, etc).
Gameplay is simple and refined and I do feel that it is safe to say that these are the best controls a UFC title has seen. However, that isn’t to say there aren’t problems.
Gamers familiar with UFC titles will feel comfortable with the controls for the most part. The primary four buttons kick and punch with alternate versions when pressing the L buttons. This is very dynamic, as L2 tends to change the height of your attack and L1 dishes more knees and elbows into the mix. You can also move the left stick forwards and backwards to switch up attacks as well, and all this allows for different strikes or heavier moves that are actually very easy to pick up.
Blocking is different now as well, as your R buttons guard higher or lower depending on which button is pressed, something which is a welcome change for me. UFC’s original blocking system could get stale when your enemy would spam the block button. With two heights, it encourages more depth and skill to work around your opponent’s defense. The parrying system works the same, where you tap R2 and an attack button to deflect an incoming attack and is effective for the most part. You can even bob and weave, which really tricks people out. Risks pay off.
The real star here is the submissions and mounts, though. Instead of opting for the same circular motions the first game adopted, UFC 2 just has you hold the right stick in different directions that lead to different outcomes you can see in clear, floating text. It’s very different when you’re used to the controls of the first title, but it is rewarding to master, especially since the opponent can still guard against these transitions. Timing is still of the essence, after all.
Having a visual aid to guide you through different moves on the ground and in the clinch, you can decide where to go to land exact submissions. Depending on your actions, other options will visibly open up for your opponent, much like happens in a real match. I have turned a match around going from having my opponent on top of me to landing a rear naked choke swiftly by selecting the right prompts. If you are familiar with the moves and techniques, you’ll immediately recognize the sequences and feel at home because things make technical sense.
This is the best addition in my opinion. Learning and using the proper names for UFC- and MMA-specific moves is refreshingly interactive. It’s cool to choose then watch the fighter perform an omoplata technically correct. These mechanics really show off what EA can provide with UFC titles.
This all lends to the immersion of the game. At times, I had to catch myself from getting too excited from all the action, something that doesn’t happen too often. Things could actually get suspenseful and I admit that I did actually yell at the TV quite a bit.
Submissions function the same as the first game as well. When you do manage to pin someone down, the defender can push the right stick in any of four directions to make attempts to escape. The offender has to push in the same direction to block and also follow left stick prompts to submit their opponent. Once again, this all boils down to timing, as the left stick prompts can only be caught by quick reflexes. This can all be very difficult when you’re going against someone with skill, but you do feel like a champion when you do manage to land an armbar or triangle choke.
Stamina can be an unanticipated game changer, whether that be good or bad. I found that stamina still could lead to uneven matches where I could take out the opponent if I landed enough punches to the head within the first round. I even defeated one of my friends by accident in the first round by hitting their torso region a bit too much, making them keel over. It felt a bit hollow, especially when some fighters can use little stamina-consuming punches to KO quickly but other moves seem to consume too much stamina for almost no reason, like lunging.
When I originally opened up this title, I immediately found the wonky “Knockout Mode.”
I don’t have many local friends who play sports games, but when I began playing UFC 2 in anticipation of this review, I immediately called all of my close friends over. Knockout Mode was what they wanted to do most. It is reminiscent of a traditional fighting game, complete with a health bar with a number of markers. When you land a hard hit, the opponent loses one of their markers. It’s simple, but kinda fun and different and not quite as daunting to players who may not want to learn all the mechanics for a full fight.
While “Knockout Mode” is fun, it can also get dry quite fast, as different fighters don’t change the amount of damage being done. The result is what feels like a party mini-game that is a good concept that can still deliver more.
The career mode is the same as the first game, so if you enjoyed that, you’ll get something out of it. It’s still fun to progress and train and any noob will find that training has a good learning curve. UFC 2 also ditched UFC’s live-action video montages in exchange for voiceovers between rounds and trainings. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on preference, but I personally like the new style.
As we’ve explained before, Ultimate Team brings in a lot for EA, and they’ve added a lot of variety to keep players engaged. You can create a team of fighters that you create from scratch and level up and advance online. It’s a good system where you can earn cards that give your fighter different attributes. I must say that I find that the fighter look customization leaves a lot to be desired, though.
You can also create your own events again or predict the real results of upcoming real-world fights and try to simulate them yourself in the octagon. If you manage to play things out right as you predict, you earn a bonus. This is a nice touch where the real UFC world merges with the sim world with a format that is welcome and engaging.
PRESENTATION AND AESTHETICS
This game looks great. Fabric and hair moves and flows better than any previous UFC title, and it really is noticeable. Tattoos and skin look detailed and clean and it’s nice to look at. I found the facial expressions to be particularly improved, although the static and duplicated fans in the stadium are bland.
That said, I noticed quite a few hangups in graphic detail. Feet would stick through fighters, lighting would be odd and drab at times and characters would walk through walls, just to name a few. Something that happened is that during some transitions in scenes, animation would lag. Before the first patch, the game originally had colors flickering on the fighter menus. All these errors stuck out.
Menus are simple and intuitive once you explore and the soundtrack is explosive and dynamic. The licensed tracks have a lot of variety and I never had any complaints about what I was listening to, even if it wasn’t a type of song I’d normally enjoy. In the ring, Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg’s commentary adds some good noise to the fight and blends with the background.
It is also worth mentioning that there is a lot to go through. With female fighters taking the spotlight with the men, there are so many fighters to choose from that you’ll never find yourself getting bored of playing with fan favorites.
EA Sports UFC 2 is a much-needed step in the right direction, but it does have its disappointments and problems if you look too close.
In all honesty, when talking this game out with my friends, there was a general consensus that the the game was great enough to make us laugh, panic and yell at each other. I can’t possibly reinforce that enough. However, there was also the consensus that things could be marked for improvement.
Unless you’re a hardcore fan of the series or UFC in general, you may not want to spend the many hours the game wants you to spend training and fine-tuning your characters. However, if you enjoy UFC or MMA (and have a soul), EA Sports UFC 2 is worth the investment and time.