|System: PS4*, Xbox One|
|Dev: EA Canada|
|Pub: EA Sports|
|Release: June 17, 2014|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
MMA games are a strange little niche in the video game world. They aren’t exactly fighting games as the idea of gameplay, spacing, mix-ups and frame data never really come into play. They aren’t exactly boxing or wrestling games as they aren’t very mashable and their gameplay proceeds at a fast pace. They are, for all intents and purposes, a sports game, owing more to simulationist principles than anything else. EA Sports’ latest outing, EA UFC, built upon the newly acquired official UFC license, attempts to capitalize on this simulationist feel, but it seems to miss the mark just a bit. The game boils down to a brutal man on man fight to a series of numbers that, while exciting for fans of the sport, can be somewhat intimidating for only casual watchers of two sweaty men punching each other and at times just feel… inaccurate to the actual feel of MMA itself.
Before you notice anything else, you will notice that this game is absolutely gorgeous. As a next generation exclusive, the fighter models take a flying leap over to the uncanny valley. If you didn’t know better you might actually think that you were watching a Pay-Per-View event. Blows land with sick and wet crunches and snaps, flesh ripples and unshielded impacts of fist and feet hit home, and you even get to see competitor’s heads snap back and forth like a broken bobble head when a knockout blow is landed. Everything from sweat dripping down on the mat, to the bruises and cuts you get while fighting, are represented in the game’s graphical suite. I say this with no hesitation: EA Sports UFC is the best looking MMA game in existence, period, and possibly the best looking sports game on the market right now.
Unfortunately, once you get past the outer layer of realistic sweat physics, the game breaks down a bit. It’s not readily apparent, as you can jump right in and start mashing and you’ll have a fun enough time. Each face button corresponds to a different limb, and on the surface there is a sort of Tekken like simplicity to that. However, the sheer amount of button combinations when you take into account all of the game’s modifiers what with directions and shoulder buttons and the like, is staggering, so much so that it’s easy to throw a move that you didn’t want to throw.
As I said before the game is not very welcoming to mashers and this, as much as I hate to say it, may be its core problem. Your moves are tied to a stamina mechanic, and that means that you are very likely to tire yourself out quickly when you are first learning the ropes of the game. The game’s defensive dodge, block, parry system is very interesting but, once again, is not transparent for new players. If you spend enough time with the game you’ll eventually have these really awesome fights where you block and parry and dodge and weave and respond to each and every one of your opponent’s moves.
But is this MMA? Granted I’m only a casual watcher of the sport, but I’d wager not. MMA is quick and vicious and fueled by emotion clouding your mind of the years of skill and training you are trying to draw on. The striking game feels too calculated, and unfortunately there is a HUGE disconnect when you enter the grapple game.
Once you choose to initiate a clinch—which honestly I rarely found a reason to--your options reduce significantly. You can strike, move your position, and try to make your opponent submit, but your options are dwarfed by the amount of striking options. Here it starts to feel like a wrestling game, with each animation taking you from one grappling state to another, with a small window of time set aside for counter maneuvers. Submissions utilize this Simon style mini-game in order to try and force the opponent to submit and while it’s tense and interesting for the player, it looks kind of goofy on screen. Not to mention it’s just flat out hard! It seems so much easier just to stay on your feet, which unfortunately is very unlike the actual sport of MMA.