IT’S TIME!!! The wait is finally over. It’s been 3 long years since the release of UFC 4 and for the MMA world, 3 years might as well be decades in regards to how quickly fighters come in & out of the promotion and of course performance swings on the charts. But that’s here nor there. What matters is we finally got EA Sports UFC 5.
I love the sport. I’m a huge fan of MMA video games and while considered a controversial choice, I still think the best MMA game ever made was the 2010 release of EA Sports MMA. If you played it then you know why and if you are a fan of the sport on a global level then you really know why. So, the question now is what’s new with UFC 5, and what improvements have they made to make this game appeal to fans and video game players? Let’s be honest, like any sport, if you are a fan you will pick up this release regardless. So enough chatter, LET’S GET IT ON!
Developers EA Vancouver have openly stated they put an insane amount of time into re-creating the big-fight feel. We now have more camera shots of the crowd in the arenas showing and hearing their excitement. The huge spotlight that passes over the sea of people in the arena as it finds its way to the fighter walking down to the octagon looks authentic. The same goes for a majority of the fighters. For example, we now have “The Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko in UFC 5. This is HUGE considering a deal could never be agreed upon to bring him to the promotion.
As Fedor makes his way to the octagon, he is accompanied by his iconic walkout music that brings back so many memories of his time in PRIDE. Again, if you know, you know. Once the fighters get close to the octagon, we get a noticeable quick cut to show the fighter getting checked out before entering the octagon. This cut is the same one from UFC 4 and unfortunately will not be the only familiar cut-scene. One would assume within the 3 years from UFC 4 that every aspect of the game would be overhauled or at least tweaked. We also have the return of the commentary team Daniel Cormier and Jon Anik which is fine since they updated their commentary for all the new and returning fighters.
UFC 5 is now running at 60 FPS. Every juke, side step, punch, kick, and shoot takedown animation looks smooth. If you are a returning player, then you will feel right at home with the major exception being takedowns. You now must hold the left trigger and press X + A to perform a single leg and to perform a double leg hold the left trigger and press Y+B. If you continue to hold this button combination you will attempt a slam. In UFC 4, you just must hold the left trigger and press X for single or Y for double leg takedowns.
There are other button combination changes for performing a clinch or spin move. But as someone who trained in BJJ in real life, I enjoy taking the fight to the ground quickly so this was a noticeable change for me. Now if you are new to the series and think this all sounds a bit complex my answer to you is yes, it is but have no fear. There is a simple control scheme that you can revert to in the settings. This will focus primarily on the controller face buttons and depending on the fighter’s abilities and distance perform a variety of moves with a press of a single button. Want to perform the said takedowns? Simply press B.
We also now have doctor stoppage. UFC 5 has added a multitude of different cuts, swellings, and bruises which can occur throughout the fight. And just like in a real MMA fight, some cuts can cause extensive bleeding which can cause the doctor to step in to examine the fighter and sometimes stop the fight. I had this happen during the first minute of a fight after only receiving two punches and a hook. My left eyebrow was cut. The doctor stepped in and stopped the fight.
I appreciate the new feature and I have already seen the complaints regarding the quick stoppage but this is something that happens in real life. The same goes for flash knockout. Some hate it, especially when it happens to them in career mode. Overall, I do like seeing the wear & tear develop on the fighters. I am surprised they didn’t go a step further and bring back the face icing we had from the fight night games in which your corner would try to reduce the swelling by applying ice. You would take control of the hand and apply it where needed.
Grappling & submissions
This part of the game has caused many people to rage quit the series out of pure frustration. Like in real life, the art of BJJ is meticulous and complex. When to make a transition and which body part to attempt a submission along with how to defend has always felt cumbersome due to the on-screen mini-game that would appear. You would spend more time focusing on the mini-game chasing the red or blue bar around and less on the fighters. This mini-game is now a thing of the past.
As you fight, you have a stamina bar on the top of the screen. Every action taken will deplete this bar. Some actions such as quick jabs will take little stamina while defending a takedown or throwing a series of combos will take much more. Once on the ground, you will see a stamina bar for submissions. Attempting and defending will deplete the bar. So if you focused on a bunch of leg kicks during stand-up and once on the ground for a leg submission on the leg you had been attacking, you will see the submission stamina bar quickly deplete which in turn will lead to a successful submission.
You will still see prompts appear showing which submission can be performed from your current position. The same goes for defending. And of course, depending on the fighter selected the speed depletion will vary. I personally feel this is 10x better than the mini-game system and produces a respectable submission that an opponent can accept in defeat instead of losing because you are not good at a mini-game that really has nothing to do with the player’s skill.
Fight contracts is a new mode that changes daily. You will see a list of match-ups with a reward currency attached. Win the match and get the reward currency which in turn can be used to purchase cosmetics for your fighter. We have seen these systems before in other games and like other games these items can also be purchased with real-world money. This can be a cool mode to jump in if you want to have a quick match but do not have any particular fighters in mind. Just select a matchup and fight.
Fight now has a good amount of play modes to select from such as your standard bout of 3 rounds, 5-round champion match, and backyard match to name a few. These can all be customized so you can make a title match which can only be won by knockout or submission.
Create an event allows you to fully create a fight card from top to bottom along with match rules and real-world venue locations like the MGM and Madison Square Garden. You can also do backyard but unfortunately, we still cannot replace the octagon for a ring and create a PRIDE tournament.
Career has been a big disappointment for me. Full disclosure: I am currently still playing career mode but have completed UFC 4 career mode and can so far tell you this is pretty much the same mode with some new cut-scenes. Even the story about you being a new up-and-coming fighter trying to make it to the UFC is exactly the same. You can create a new fighter or import a fighter. I imported the legend that is Wanderlei Silva.
The career mode now gives your character a voice but no dialogue choices. This is a shame as I would have liked to truly create the type of fighter I want in and out of the octagon. Maybe I want to give him an attitude so that he gets booed every time he enters the octagon. Coach Davis is also back so it feels like just another up-and-comer has entered his gym and wants to go pro. It would have been great to have something completely new. Let us start off in Brazil or another country and tell a more emotional story of a fighter trying to find his way in MMA from another combat sport like Muay Thai or kickboxer like Bas Rutten.
Online offers your standard quick fights and ranked matches but also a career mode for your created fighter. This is great but seeing other players use a create a fighter (CAF) Brock Lesnar just has me wondering why UFC 5 doesn’t have a (CAF) community creation center like WWE 2K23. There are websites dedicated to CAF so you can create past and present fighters not in the game but I really hope a community CAF is added at some point in this franchise.
UFC 5 feels a bit too much like UFC 4. Whether this is good or bad depends on how you enjoyed UFC 4. The doctor stoppage is an interesting feature to add and to make it a focal point so much so that you may worry more about getting cut than knocked out. All the gory cuts and bruises add to the experience and the new submission system is a much-needed improvement compared to the previous mini-game system. The roster is a good mix bag of past, present, and fiction with franchise mainstay Bruce Lee along with Mohammad Ali and Mike Tyson.
As I mentioned in the opening, if you are a fan of the sport then you will pick this up. The question now is if having these new features and control changes enough to lure in the casual gamer or those who are into other combat sports games like Street Fighter or WWE 2K. One thing is for sure, if your main complaint with previous versions was the grappling/submission system then I recommend giving this a try.
This review was based on a digital copy of EA Sports UFC 5 for the Xbox Series X provided by Electronic Arts.