UFC 5 is a game that a lot of MMA fans have been eagerly awaiting. With the mixed feelings that UFC 4 left back in 2020, fans wanted to see what EA Sports would do to improve the in-cage action as well as replay value.
What the company did was make a number of changes throughout the latest title to try and find the right balance between being an authentic simulation and a fun-to-play fighter.
To do this, the series makes the move to the Frostbite Engine and adopts a Mature rating to offer more realism than ever before. On top of that, a number of changes to the combat system and game modes look to keep players engaged for years. But do all the changes take UFC 5 to the next level?
Let’s find out.
EA Sports UFC 5 Review
First and foremost, the gameplay is where the move to a mature rating really stands out. The game features a new blood and injury system that makes every fight feel like each second matters.
There are eight areas on the face that can suffer cuts, bruises, and more. You can find yourself struggling because of an eye that’s been swollen shut. A bruised leg can become worse over time, causing you to limp around and struggle with balance in the cage. Everything you do and how you handle yourself finally impacts how a fight plays out. Not adjusting how you fight after a round or two could lead to a quick finish with you on your back.
There are even doctor stoppages that can happen should you not be able to defend yourself after an injury gets to be too much.
The grappling system has been retooled and made simpler in many ways. Gone are all mini-games of the past that took your focus away from the fight in favor of looking at meters. Everything is more simplified which puts the focus more on the action in the cage than keeping an eye on random meters that appear on the screen. Moving the left stick to the left will start to initiate a submission. Holding it to the right sets up a ground and pound. There are more advanced controls using the right stick and a combination of the trigger and shoulder buttons. It’s a great new system for more novice players while also being tough enough to master when you move away from the assisted grappling system.
There are some questionable areas that could be solved via updates but aren’t just yet. The first is clipping issues when transitioning on the ground during fights. The other major issue, which has happened far more often than I’d like to see from a final release, is fighters jumping, skipping, and flat-out glitching across the octagon into each other. It’s happened no less than 10 times thus far, and immediately takes you out of any immersion.
There are also weird camera movements that happen at the worst possible times based on your location in the cage. The camera will just switch orientation in the middle of a fight even when you are in the middle of throwing punches, which can completely disrupt your rhythm and timing in the fight.
UFC 5 has a lot of options for players whether you prefer online or offline.
Offline, there are the modes you expect to see like Fight Now and Training. There’s also a new Fight Week mode that allows players to make fight picks, pick up weekly contracts against AI fighters, and more. At the time of writing this review, Fight Week content wasn’t available as it wasn’t planned for launch until the week of November 6.
Career Mode is, by far, the best it’s been since EA took over the UFC license nearly a decade ago. That said, it’s not going to be a mode for everyone.
You start out as an up-and-coming fighter at the gym of the returning Coach Davis. After a couple of amateur fights, you’ll have an opportunity to fight on Dana White’s Contender Series. From there, the story really begins as you can continue on that route or find yourself fighting in the World Fighting Alliance (WFA).
Throughout your career, you’ll be offered fights that you can accept or decline. After accepting a fight, what you do will determine your preparedness for the fight. You can choose to train, learn about your opponent, learn new moves, or simply promote the fights.
When it comes to your opponents in your career, the game does a great job at remaining accurate to what your scouting report tells you. If you learn that your opponent likes to throw elbows, that’s exactly what you better train against. If they say they like to go for finishes early in rounds, it’s best you try and survive the first few minutes to tire them out. It’s all part of the strategy that goes into every fight, and it actually works quite well.
There are also injuries that can happen at any point that can completely throw off your training for a fight. At one point, I suffered a bad leg injury during sparring that completely ruined any real chance I had at winning my fight the following week.
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You get notifications every now and then of a new rivalry being started, but it doesn’t really add much to the career experience. All trash talk takes place via social media posts and via text. It would be nice to see a bit more emotional and visual investment in the mode than what’s currently there.
One other area of the career that bothers me is the fact that your fighter doesn’t truly age, in the general sense. There’s a longevity amount that tells you how much career you have left, but it doesn’t seem to take into account your fighter’s starting age at all. I started my MMA career at 33 years old, and after eight fights I still am 33 with 97% of my career to go. I highly doubt I’ve trained and fought eight times in one year and still have that much career left, especially when I’ve suffered two “major” concussions.
The fighter creation suite remains just as limited as many other EA Sports titles. Options for your fighters are far too restricting. Hell, I still can’t even choose my actual hometown (Buffalo, NY) for my fighter, which you’d think would be a given. It’s a major weak spot within the company and needs to be improved sooner rather than later.
For those who want to play online, there are a number of options. There are regular ranked fights, but the two more fun modes are online career and blitz.
Online career mode sees you take a created fighter online and work your way up by taking fights, improving your attributes with Fighter Evolution points, and, eventually, fighting for championships. It’s another nice way to add replay value to the game, but the way some players fight online really leaves you wanting to avoid it altogether. That’s not an EA thing, that’s a community thing.
Blitz is a straightforward mode that has you fight in quick elimination tournaments. It’s a nice change of pace mode for those who just want to do a few online fights with purpose.
Without question, UFC 5 is the best-looking MMA game ever released. As with all games that move to the Frostbite Engine, visuals are top-of-the-line. From the fighters themselves to the arenas to the pre-fight walkouts, everything just looks as close to realistic as a video game could get.
How blood accumulates and injuries get visually worse during a fight adds to the realism of what happens inside the octagon, and really helps take things to a new level for the franchise.
Almost everything about UFC 5’s presentation is the best it’s ever been, and you can’t help but admire what you see. The only thing I would’ve liked to see is a better replay suite. After each fight, you can watch the replay that gets shown immediately after, but a custom replay system would be great for checking out the fight from different angles.
UFC 5 Review Verdict
UFC 5 is a game with a lot of great things going for it. The changes to the damage system add a new layer of strategy to fights and the new grappling system helps make every fighter feel like they have a chance in the octagon.
Career mode is fun for what it is, and online career mode adds even more for players who want a bigger challenge against real people.
It’s not a game that’s going to change the mind of everyone who’s ever had a problem with the franchise over the years, but UFC 5 is still a good game worth picking up for any MMA fan.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10
NOTE: A copy of UFC 5 for PlayStation 5 was provided to SGO for the purposes of this review. The game is available on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S.