It’s been almost two years since EA Sports brought their first UFC game to PS4 and Xbox One, a title that was met with a lukewarm reception. The franchise is incredibly popular in the US, but how does the second outing of the videogame edition fare? Here’s our review.
With a new entry EA’s own Fight Night series only rumored but nowhere on the horizon, there is a distinct lack of realistic fighters on the current generation of consoles. Aside from the original UFC game, all we have to go on is 2K’s WWE franchise – and how much realism can be found there is up for debate. So for those who aren’t interested in Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat or BlazBlue because they prefer a more realistic approach, EA Sports UFC 2 is the clear choice.
The original UFC game suffered from a lack of polish, which was somewhat surprising because EA had built up quite a bit of experience with their earlier MMA title. For UFC 2, the basic formula is unchanged, but refined in a few key areas. One big example of this is how the game deals with grappling and ground fights. When fighters end up on the floor together in UFC 2, the controls feel much more smooth and natural than they did in the last game. There, you had to rotate in quarter circles (Street Fighter style) to pull off moves, but the controls were often too imprecise so you ended up feeling a lack of control. In UFC 2, you can just steer in any of the four main directions with your right thumbstick, and the game always visually communicates the outcome of each move. Whether you’re on the offense or trying to escape, this creates tense situations that can end or continue a fight – without the hit-and-miss feeling the original game brought with it.
As good as the ground game is, we can’t help but feel that the striking aspect isn’t quite up to the same level. We tried playing the game as if we were boxing, but Fight Night offers a vastly superior engine in this regard – even though it’s five years old. Some of the controls in UFC feel over-simplified, and striking is a good example of this. Getting out of the way of a punch to the face only requires you to lean back, and subsequent punches to the head will keep missing their mark. In Fight Night, you could just reposition and still hit the head, but in UFC 2 that’s out of the question. You can choose to strike or swipe at the legs instead, but it breaks the illusion of a realistic fighting game. Still, the game is fun to play and accessible enough due to its control scheme. With practice and time you can get better, but it’s possible to get some KOs early on because basic moves are easy to pull off.
Another point of criticism for the original UFC game was a lack of engaging game modes, something which has sadly not been fixed. All the usual modes are there, including an online ranking and matchup system, but the main draw is the career mode. It’s a bit of an anti-climactic mode though, since you’re forced to retire after 25 to 35 fights because you have suffered ‘too much brain damage’. What? A much better way, at least in terms of storytelling, would have been to integrate this better into the story. If you’re a champion you can go on fighting a little longer (presumably because you didn’t get kicked in the head as often), but in most cases a career will end more abruptly than one would like. The same can probably be said for the game itself – it’s fun, but you’ll find yourself looking for depth that isn’t there after a while. Recommended for UFC fans and those looking for a more realistic fighter, but if you’re a fighting game fan than Mortal Kombat XL offers a more well-rounded package.