EA Sports UFC 5 Review

Richard Walker

Blood and sweat. There's loads of it in EA Sports UFC 5. So much so, it appears to have been among the primary focuses, with realistic particle effects ensuring that bodily fluids spatter across the canvas and all over the face and body of each pugilist knocking seven shades out of one another inside the octagon. Ditching the Ignite engine for EA's ubiquitous Frostbite engine, UFC 5 isn't quite the seismic shift you might be expecting, but, rather, it's another iterative step forward for the series, one that doubles down on immersion and realism. That's where all of that flying perspiration and red stuff comes in. And the 'Real Impact System', what with its 64,000+ possible facial injuries. Ouchie.

'As real as it gets' is the UFC mantra, and so too, it seems, of UFC 5. This is as real as it gets, at least until UFC 6 comes out. The TV broadcast presentation is impressive, from the moments leading up to a showdown, as both fighters walk out into the arena, to the bout itself – every strike landing with a wince-inducing crunch. Knockouts are greeted with a cinematic super-slow-motion camera, showing the bone-shattering final moment again and again from various angles. You get to watch the fighter on the receiving end as their cheeks and mouth wobble, the skin slowly rippling as rivulets of, yes, blood and sweat take to the air in a hypnotic mist. It's beautiful, in a savage sort of way.

UFC 5 is pretty, then, or, as pretty as a game featuring acres of moistened flesh being pounded to pulp possibly can be. But, crucially, this fifth instalment delivers in the gameplay stakes, buffing up the fighting mechanics and physics, making for a combat system that simply makes sense. Again, this is a refinement of what's gone before, rather than an all-out ground-up rebuild, although the various tweaks and improvements add up – UFC 5 feels nice and tight, while connecting punches and kicks feel suitably impactful, especially when you manage to rock an opponent or open up a cut. In replicating the brutal, uncompromising nature of MMA, the latest entry delivers in spades.

Grappling and submissions feel like a more viable, straightforward option in this one, too, with a new submission health bar that helps you gauge when an opponent is getting close to tapping out. Mercifully, those convoluted grappling mini-games have also been binned (unless you fiddle with the legacy control settings), so it's simpler to chain together submissions or shift your position to wriggle free or gain the upper hand. Different kicking techniques and other strikes, like hooks, uppercuts, and overhead punches, are logically mapped out to the controller, too, so mastering your fighter's move set isn't a massive headache.

Other adjustments also make defensive manoeuvres more effective, so moving your head out of the way of an incoming strike is quicker and consumes less of your stamina. Moves in general, including clinches, takedowns, spinning elbows, kicks, and so on, are all far easier to execute – UFC 5 is by far the most intuitive instalment yet. This also has the added benefit of minimising the amount of explaining of controls and systems you'll have to do when playing with a friend for the first time. You can get to the action much faster, with very little fuss.

As far as modes are concerned, however, there's little that's new to write home about. Career Mode is almost completely identical to the one found in UFC 4, with your burgeoning fighter looking to make a name for themselves. You start with a backyard brawl, cutting your teeth (and the faces of your rivals) in no-holds-barred scuffles, before graduating to the World Fighting Alliance, until you're considered worthy of a place in the UFC proper. After pummelling half-star and one-star opponents, it's a pretty major jump to the big leagues, against 3, 4, and 5-star fighters, but, hopefully, you'll have spent your evolution points wisely on pumping up your stats and acquiring helpful perks.

Between Career Mode fights, you can choose how many weeks to train before the big event, with each week giving you 100 points to spend on sparring sessions, promotion to hype the fight, or on forging connections with fellow fighters. On your road to becoming the G.O.A.T., you'll have to fight dozens of times, and after a while the relentless loop of training and fighting grows quite tiresome. It'll prove even more tiresome if you previously put in the hours with UFC 4, doing much the same thing. Still, you can always drop out and play a few Fight Contracts – match-ups between current UFC stars that are constantly refreshed on a regular basis.

Fight Now has numerous match types to choose from, too, including the return of the Kumite, while jumping online enables you to take part in casual quick fights; fast, arcade-esque Blitz Battles; or a full-blooded Ranked Championship. Online Career, meanwhile, allows you to pit your Career Mode fighter against others, albeit with a clean slate – none of your Career Mode stats, moves, or perks carry over into the Online Career. Online, you'll also find little twists, like the current 'Hands Tied' modifier, which rules out punches, meaning it's kicks all the way.

And kicks aplenty you'll get out of EA Sports UFC 5. Not only is it a magnificent looking MMA sim, but it's a cracking fighting game brimming with modes, modifiers, and fighters, both past and present. Fans of martial arts and face punching/rib kicking in general, or those who just like a good scrap will find much to enjoy in UFC 5 – an accessible and mighty fine fighting game.

EA Sports UFC 5

While not a particularly significant leap over its predecessor, EA Sports UFC 5 nonetheless tightens up and improves the series' fighting mechanics, while offering an expansive roster of fighters, and a nice selection of modes. Punchy.

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I could personally do without the ear-assaulting soundtrack, but the bone-crunching sounds of a fight are all accurately represented. That's what really matters. The commentary is as good as it's ever been, too.


UFC 5 makes a successful jump to the Frostbite engine, with realistic lighting, a startling attention to detail, and a brutal injury system for cut, bloodied faces. The 'Real Impact System' definitely delivers.


Tweaks to the control scheme make for a more logical fight system, while those grappling mini-games have been nixed in favour of something more streamlined. In short, UFC 5 is a cracking fight sim.


Career Mode is much the same as before, although the Online Career is very good, as is the online Blitz Battle mode. Kumite, Stand & Bang, and all of the usual Fight Now modes are present and correct.


Some overlap from previous years, this is an entirely serviceable list that covers almost all of the required bases. That said, given the wealth of modes, there could have been a better spread of tasks.

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