EA Sports UFC Review

Richard Walker

Yukes had been honing its UFC games for three iterations before THQ bit the dust, leaving the door wide open for EA Sports to take over the franchise and leave its own mark on the Octagon. Face punching has never looked as good as it does in EA Sports UFC, but is there brains behind the game's brawn? As EA Sports' first crack at UFC (bar the UFC license-free EA Sports MMA, of course), this is pretty solid stuff, and it's more than evident that the team behind Fight Night has brought across its years of experience in rendering two people standing toe-to-toe knocking seven shades of shit out of one another.

That is to say, EA Sports UFC is an incredibly accomplished take on mixed martial arts, boasting all of the fighting disciplines and moves you'd expect, albeit with a control system and set of gameplay mechanics that are entirely its own thing. It makes a startling impression on Xbox One and PS4 too, with visuals that perfectly recreate the presentation and atmosphere of a real UFC bout. Like Yukes' previous efforts on previous consoles, EA Sports UFC also has a fully-fleshed out career mode, in which you create a fighter and take him from obscurity to hall of fame legend, providing you're good enough of course.

Jon Jones is on the cover and the best fighter in the game.

Career is of course the crux of EA Sports UFC's single-player experience, taking you from training in the gym to your first tentative steps towards becoming a professional UFC fighter, competing for championships and what not. Your plucky pugilist will start with paltry statistics and it's up to you to fight through rivals to earn 'evolution points' that you can then spend on upgrading every area of your contender's attributes or you can buy new moves. Punching power, movement, stamina, endurance, speed... it's all catered for in UFC's exhaustive list of traits to upgrade, and as you win bouts, your fighter will gradually grow and become increasingly proficient in the Octagon.

Playing on normal difficulty, we found these initiation bouts exceedingly difficult, making the career almost impenetrable. Moves that work fine in training don't seem to translate in practice during an actual fight, and when you inevitably end up being taken down to the canvas, the ground game descends into a procession of infuriating right stick twirling nonsense that's almost impossible to win. Your only option seems to be jabbing the left stick to get up and back to the standing fight, otherwise you can expect to be on the receiving end of a broken nose and an early KO. That it took us over an hour to scrape through two low level initiation brawls in career tells you everything you need to know about career. It's exceedingly tough.

There's all of the training and other accoutrements you'd expect from a UFC career mode, but overall it feels lacking, and as the game's central mode it's disappointing. Essentially, career boils down to fight, train, upgrade, rinse and repeat. And despite the introduction of female fighters to the roster, you're bizarrely not given the option to create a female fighter to take into career mode. It doesn't really make much sense. Outside of career mode, you can simply have a fight against the CPU or a friend, and there are loads of lovingly recreated UFC fighters from all weight categories to choose from, although you'll have to either buy or unlock Bruce Lee and Royce Gracie, which is annoying as Bruce Lee is ace in the game.

She doesn't look happy.

EA Sports UFC's control system is logically laid out and makes sense, but if you need to learn and refine your understanding of the game's many intricacies, there's a walkthrough of the basics and a challenge mode that runs through every facet of the game. There's no shortage of training-based bumph to wade through, as the game strives to drum the numerous game mechanics into your brain over and over. The controls might be intuitive, but when clinches devolve into battles of which fighter has the most stamina, it all becomes rather irritating. Quick knockouts are also incredibly tough to pull off and become something of a rarity, which is presumably a conscious decision. We rather enjoyed putting down a rival in the first few seconds in Yukes' UFC games, but we found it really hard to do here, though it is still possible.

As a result, victories are massively rewarding, though we never felt that we won out due to skill and patience. It seems like luck is more of a factor, as some fights become clashes of flailing arms and legs, with few seeming to make any real sort of a connection. We're sorry to keep going on about it, but when a strike landed in the Yukes' titles, you really had a sense of its impact. In EA Sports UFC, there's a vibration in the controller, but despite the outstanding graphical fidelity that sees flesh ripple, bruises form, cuts open and blood spatter across the canvas, there's a diminished sensation of a punch or kick making contact. This might be more realistic, but it takes something away from the experience.

EA Sports UFC also brings the usual online offering to the table, alongside the FighterNet hub with highlight reels, your stats and what not. There are online championships to fight through to achieve supremacy within the online UFC community, a simple unranked head-to-head fight, or you can hit up the rivalries mode to play against your friends. It's fairly bare bones and basic, a lot like the rest of the game. There's very little here to make you want to keep coming back for more. There's only one or two online achievements though, so small mercies and all that.

The legend that is Bruce Lee, yours for $6.

The lion's share of the game's achievements are reserved for the career mode, which means if you want to 1000G EA Sports UFC, you'll have to get on with it a lot better than we did. If you find the career as unwelcoming as we did, then you'll be in for a torrid time in trying to progress and unlock achievements (unless you give in and play on beginner difficulty). As far as the list itself is concerned, it's largely centred around hitting certain career milestones, while the rest is assigned to completing training challenges or performing specific feats within the Octagon. Not an inspired list, but then we weren't expecting much.

EA Sports UFC is a somewhat hit and miss affair. On the one hand, EA has created a remarkable looking game with some robust gameplay mechanics. However the poor ground game and transitions tarnish what is otherwise a decent debut effort on new-gen consoles. A lack of options and modes also puts a downer on the whole package, but on the plus side, it gives EA plenty of room for improvement and loads of stuff to scrawl all over the back of the box when EA Sports UFC 2016 (or whatever) inevitably rolls around next year. EA Sports UFC is a solid effort then, but one that needs to head back into the gym.

EA Sports UFC

A fresh start for MMA fighting games on consoles, EA Sports UFC is a solid second crack at the sport for EA that still has acres of room for improvement. It looks remarkable, but it's a pretty face with a big black eye. EA Sports UFC's lack of options and gameplay finesse mar the overall package, but we can't wait to see what EA Sports UFC has in store next year.

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Crowd noises and the sound of slapping sweaty flesh rub shoulders with a decent commentary and a rock and hip-hop soundtrack in the menus. Perfectly fine.


EA Sports UFC looks truly stunning. Its fighter models are unlike anything we've seen before, and everything else around them looks incredible too. We've all seen the funny glitches popping up online, but personally haven't experienced any in-game.


Stand-up fighting is strong, but once things go to the ground, you'll find that transitions are awkward. The submissions mini-game beats vigorously twirling an analogue stick though. Overall, the controls make sense, but something just doesn't quite gel.


A very basic smattering of modes and options, with some odd omissions such as a lack of custom female fighters, and only the career and fight now modes to choose from in single-player. Challenges are glorified training mini-games, while you'll find a scant online offering.


Prepare to sink a lot of time into EA Sports UFC's career if you want to bag all of the game's achievements. The majority are dedicated to reaching milestones within the career, while the rest are devoted to other areas of the game. A pretty standard list.

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