Video games should always be two things: equal parts challenging and enjoyable. EA Sports’ first ‘official’ Ultimate Fighting Championship game since acquiring the rights in the wake of THQ closing up shop certainly has both. That said, it’s clear that the challenge is the heavyweight and enjoyment is the flyweight in this fight.
EA Sports UFC opens with a tutorial, but not much of a tutorial. You are shown the moves, once or twice, then are quickly ushered on to study another aspect of mixed martial arts. This is the first instance of when players become aware of the phenomenal amount of button combinations are required to play the game. You do get more training between each fight during Career Mode but overall it’s way too much to remember in the heat of battle. The training offered is slow when it comes to offering prompts and wasting time. As training progresses, the instruction becomes less and less, leaving you to fend for yourself and guessing (or trying your best to remember) what the next button press should be. The Challenges menu, reached from the Main Menu offers the same type of training that is available throughout your career, so of course can also leave you a little clueless.
Button mashing only gets you so far in EA Sports UFC, but it can work as long as you can quickly acquire the ability to counter clinches and escape being grounded. Combine this with applying your earned stat points to your punches and kicks and you should at least be able to elevate yourself for the undercard for the event to the main card. Progress also presents Game Plan options, awarded after victories. These are abilities which can be applied to your fight style. These include physical, ground and stand up abilities, which give advantages to things like the power of your hits, your ability to recover and the quickness of your submission application.
Career mode plays out well, covering your player’s rise up through the ranks, starting with a season on the reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter and then to the undercard of Pay Per Views with an aim to headline the event and receive a title fight. Creating your fighter has some basic options, but the end result looks relatively clean. There is also the option to upload your EA “Gameface” from your EA Sports’ website profile, as seen in previous titles. The likenesses aren’t picture perfect, and managing to upload it is harder than trying to apply a perfect gogoplata, but if you can manage it, it will sure save you time if you want to get straight into the octagon.
Taking your fight online is allows options like quick matches, bouts with your friends or Championships and Tournaments. It’s certainly not the place where you should begin your EA Sports UFC adventures. Once you believe you have mastered the craft, go ahead. Fights appear stable and flow without lagging.
Fighters probably don’t move as fluidly as they could and certain animations appearing on screen, like the UFC logo, or after someone lands a big hit, seems to stutter the flow of the game. If you are on the receiving end on that hit, it makes it difficult to regain the composure of your fighter
There is plenty of live footage to keep UFC fans going, both actual fight footage and scripted. Most of the guys are very articulate, where others have their speeches to you sliced together, somewhat poorly in places. UFC owner Dana White will even get stuck into you if you decide that you’d like to skip the tutorial. As the game progresses you will start to see a little repetition in these presentations. These can all be viewed again within the Media Centre. As you head towards a title shot, these video messages from trainers and fighters alike seem to be a little over the top; lots of guys basically telling you to win. Repetition also becomes prominent in the commentary, more so from Mike Goldberg than Joe Rogan, the two fight commentators.
On the subject of commentators…
Um… Mr Creator Person, sir? Your geography skills suck! Melbourne is located in VICTORIA not NEW SOUTH WALES! If that’s some sort of jab at the fact Victoria won’t allow cage fighting….well you missed the mark with that shot. For a sport that is meant to be represented worldwide, that is really embarrassing. I hope for ring announcer Bruce Buffer’s sake that was pieced together and not straight from script.
UFC may score the win with its live events across the world, but the game’s learning curve is a little too steep to welcome newcomers or those with insufficient patience to master the skills required to excel. Had EA Sports taken that back a notch, I’m sure we’d find more people playing online and less people tempted to take EA Sports UFC into their local for a trade-in.