In my review for ‘EA Sports UFC 3‘, I was critical of various issues such as the hit detection and the overall controls, but the improved Career Mode and additional new game modes received praise. Sadly, in EA Sports UFC 4, the previous issues still exist. If anything, they have actually become worse.
How Good Is The Gameplay?
The gameplay itself is almost identical to UFC 3. The striking remains fluid, but once again the hit detection is erratic. At times you’ll punch thin air, but do damage to the opponent. You can then visibly land a flying knee and it doesn’t even register as a strike. Animations are clunky when two character models clash together. They react in a rubbery, janky way which looks really unnatural.
EA Sports have advertised a “new” feature of action-packed replays (basically what the ‘Fight Night‘ series did) but even these are not as good as those boxing games. In ‘Fight Night‘, you would see the character’s faces ripple; their jaws cracking in great slow-motion detail. Ten years later, on a further generation of consoles in UFC 4? Not so much. Yes, you do see sweat and blood particles fly in the air due to the impact, but the character faces are so stiff in comparison.
The controls are frustrating as ever. EA Sports have changed a few controls since the last iteration. Takedowns are no longer initiated by using L2 and one of the analog sticks. It is now L2 and Triangle, or Square. This seems like such an unnatural choice of button in comparison to the way it was before. Clinches have also changed. To initiate a Thai clinch, it is now R1+Square, whereas before it was L2 and Up on the right analog stick. Again, another change that feels a lot less natural.
EA Sports also tried fixing the frustrating ground game controls by simplifying them. Now there are fewer options on the grappling hud, which means your fighter feels more restricted. The legacy controls were kept in and also a hybrid option of new and old is another option.
The submission mini-games have been completely changed. Before, we had the submission gates game, which wasn’t the best. However, in UFC 4 they have changed to a cat and mouse type of mini-game where you have to avoid the other player’s colored bar with yours for as long as possible. The more the blue and red bars overlap, the more chance of a submission. Once again, this just feels unnatural compared to the gates game, which felt more apt for what was actually happening on the screen.
Paying homage to the likes to Kimbo Slice and Jorge Masvidal’s background, EA Sports has added a backyard arena level. This is accompanied by a Kumite arena, akin to the 1988 martial arts movie ‘Bloodsport’. This was a particular favorite arena of mine due to my affinity for the film. This arena has an 80’s synthwave soundtrack along with over-the-top fighting movie sound effects, and a Shao Khan rip-off voice-over. I would have loved to have seen Jean Claude van Damme, or even Frank Dux himself as a playable character for this arena.
What Is The Career Mode Like?
The main event for a new sports title is always it’s Career Mode, and in UFC 4 this is practically the exact same as the previous title from 2 years ago, but with a new piece of window dressing in the form of Coach Davis in the amateur circuit. The Career Mode no longer just drops you off into the World Fighting Alliance at the beginning, but now the rinky-dink amateur circuit. This is where Coach Davis scouts you and recruits you to his gym, where he teaches you the fundamentals of MMA in a handy, but possibly quite lengthy tutorial.
Once this stage of the Career Mode is over, it is practically the same as UFC 3 but with a few rare cut scenes with Coach Davis at pivotal points in the career (such as title fights or retirement bouts). Coach Davis is more of a voice-over actor during the extremely repetitive fight camps. (“That’s it! Nice combo! Good leg kicks!”. It becomes redundant very quickly.)
You enter the WFA, fight a few times; then either get invited to ‘Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series’, or just straight into the UFC prelims. ‘Dana White’s Looking for a Fight’ with Matt Serra and Din Thomas is no longer featured in Career Mode. This was a nice little touch in the previous title, which is now gone for some unknown reason. Now Dana White just turns up in some backwater amateur circuit (in his low-res PPV attire nonetheless) to watch you fight. Once again, the goal of Career Mode is to become the G.O.A.T by achieving certain accomplishments.
THQ has done a better job with UFC Career Modes purely for the fact that they had a variety of mini-games for training camps, and actually let you choose real-life MMA camps. It was understandable for the first iteration of EA’s UFC titles to be stripped back in comparison to the THQ games, but after 4 different attempts, it is borderline scandalous that they have yet to equal a game from the PS3/360 era.
The only new game mode for UFC 4 is the online “Blitz Battles”, which is essentially limited-time challenges for one round, with very specific rulesets such as no punching, no grappling, one weight class, etc. Every other game mode in UFC 4 appears in UFC 3. One glaring, but yet fantastic omission is the Ultimate Team mode. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end of this for all EA Sports games!
How Good Does EA Sports UFC 4 Look?
It appears that the graphics in UFC 4 have regressed since the last title. Character models look less detailed than before, with lower textured faces in particular. Graphically, it just seems flatter than UFC 3. The biggest instance for this is Dana White’s model. His suit in particular looks like it is from a previous console generation with super-duper low-res textures. It is painful to even look at it. Conor McGregor looks better in Activision’s ‘Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare‘, a game that was released in late 2016!
Conor Mcgregor in Call of Duty vs Conor Mcgregor in UFC 4 .
State of that. pic.twitter.com/2CPGmwcdKw
— Callum (@Callum_JN) July 22, 2020
Frame rates still take a beating in these games. From camera transitions during walkouts to post-match festivities with the stats menu slowing things down, it’s just not up to par for today’s standards. EA Sports added in a “performance or resolution” feature in the settings. But even if you select “performance”, frame rates between cut scenes and actual gameplay still differ. There were even times where I attempted a head kick roundhouse, and the CPU threw the same attack at the same time, and when they clashed together the frame rate took a nosedive.
How Does EA Sports UFC 4 Sound?
Jon Anik teams with Daniel Cormier on the commentating and you can instantly hear the improvement in this regard compared to the lackluster UFC 3 commentating. Anik and Cormier recorded the commentating together and it shows as both banter with each other, chime in, and sometimes interrupt each other. It feels so much more natural than the stitching together of lines in UFC 3 (thanks to Joe Rogan’s refusal to record new material). Rogan is referenced a few times, showing that lines from the last game are still there. Cormier has an enthusiasm that really comes across in the game. This makes the commentary much more fun to listen to, albeit it becomes a tad repetitive.
UFC 4 is not worth the full price. I would go as far as to say to not even buy it unless it’s around $10/£10. If you haven’t played an EA Sports UFC game before then I would still say “wait for a sale”. It certainly isn’t worth the £50 it’s currently sitting at, as of this review. Like previous EA Sports UFC games, there are some glaring issues that have been there since ‘UFC 1’. From a lackluster Career Mode to downgraded graphics, to the stuttery frame rates, to the underwhelming control changes and physics. It is difficult to justify this game to any MMA fan unless they haven’t played UFC 3.
This review was based on a digital copy of EA Sports UFC 4 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Electronic Arts.