2014 saw the release of EA Sports’ first ever UFC title in the aptly named EA Sports UFC. It was generally considered a good, solid MMA video game with very impressive graphics. Jump to 2016, and now EA Sports have released the follow up in the also-aptly named EA Sports UFC 2. One would assume that after taking two years to improve and refine an already solid foundation that we would now have a new and improved version of the aforementioned EA Sports UFC. Sadly, that isn’t the case.
Let’s start with one of the biggest positives of the game which is the graphics. In UFC 1, the graphical detail looked spectacular on the consoles. Now EA Sports have managed to slightly improve on this in UFC 2 with improved character models, lighting and blood effects. The latter can be viewed in its full glory during replays as you can see drops of blood and sweat fly across the octagon as every punch, kick, and elbow are delivered in devastating fashion.
Fans of the real-life product will be satisfied with the overall TV presentation of UFC 2. From the walkouts, to the introductions, commentary, and the now infamous Reebok uniforms, everything a UFC fan will be familiar with can all be found in UFC 2. EA Sports have a knack of replicating various sports’ authentic TV presentations and they do not disappoint here.
As realistic as the presentation may be, there are various aspects of UFC 2 which ruin the realism.
As soon as your very first bout, you can instantly feel the increase in the speed from the previous title’s game play. This is where the game begins to feel very unrealistic. No matter the weight class, fighters will throw winding overhand right hooks and powerful roundhouse kicks to the head at frightening pace. Obviously as stamina depletes, these attacks slow down considerably. However, the increase of speed in the game play is completely unnecessary and this is where the gameplay begins to take a step back from the 2014 title.
Stamina has been altered too, with fighters now having more generous gas tanks. Fans need to work really hard in this game to experience sea-level Cain. This will somewhat appease the button mashers out there and make the game more enjoyable for some. However, it may remove the need for some tactical thinking in terms of managing your gas tank and how you are going to use your next attack.
The health indicators make a return, showing players which varying degrees of damage have been inflicted on specific body parts. However, the health indicator may seem rather redundant as fighters can transform into terminators. No matter how many Rumble Johnson-like haymakers you land or how many Anderson Silva-esque flying knees you connect with, your opponent will almost always make an absolutely ridiculous recovery (is normal!).
The new knockout physics system EA Canada have developed is both a gift and a curse. If you are lucky enough to land an actual knock out, it is absolutely satisfying. Seeing your opponent crumple into a heap or fly across the octagon (ala Hendricks knocking out Kampmann) is a real thrill. However, there are plenty of times when you think you have landed a spectacular KO, only for your opponent to magically survive (and on multiple occasions in one fight!). In reality, these fights would be stopped instantly by the referee – not in EA Sports’ universe. The best example would be Edson Barboza’s spectacular wheel kick KO of Terry Etim:
In real life, this is an absolute definitive finish to a fight, however in UFC 2 – not so much.
At times, fighters can feel very ragdoll-like. If both fighters throw spinning kicks, it can lead to one of them landing on their backside only to magically float back up onto their feet in an instant. It is very glitchy at times.
Another teething problem from the new KO physics comes with the hit detection, which at times can be very questionable. Superman punches, spinning back kicks and basic right hooks can be clearly seen landing but yet they do not register with the game. Opponents basically pretend that nothing happened and walk through said attacks. This can be very costly in winning or losing a bout. Below is an example of this with Rafael Dos Anjos landing a flush kick on Anthony Pettis, who is in mid-capoeira kick, then completely ignores the impact to his face and follows through with a knockout of his own!
The ground game has been reworked. The ground controls which EA Sports inherited from THQ are now gone. There is now a new system involving the right stick. If you’re either on your back or on top position, transitional options will now appear on screen. If you want to change from full guard to half guard and so on, it all has to go through the button prompts involving a particular direction. This is all about timing and anticipation. In order to block your opponent’s transitions, you have to watch their animation and try to anticipate their next move. This is very frustrating to say the least. Most sports games are designed to “pick up and play”. The ground game aspect of the sport makes this almost impossible for its video game counterparts.
Thankfully, the submission system has remained the same, even with minor improvements. Submissions can now be initiated in brand new situations such as an attempted takedown being reversed into a gullotine choke. Rear-naked chokes can transform into armbars and so on. This is a welcome improvement to the game for the jiu jitsu enthusiasts out there.
The sound in UFC 2 is a mixed bag.
Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan (who is an unlockable character by the way) return to the commentary booth. What ruins the commentary is the sudden tonal changes. Rogan can get extremely excited and then all of a sudden he returns to his more levelled out mood, calling jabs and kicks. Goldberg can do the same. In UFC 1, Rogan and Goldie would have pre-recorded conversations about certain fighters during a match. Not so much anymore. Rogan will discuss fighter’s styles as they enter the octagon but that’s as detailed as you’ll really hear. EA have also taken random real-life calls from UFC events and spliced them into the game – crowd noise in the background and all. This can be very jarring to hear and can really ruin the immersion.
During the introductions, Bruce Buffer sounds less like he’s in a recording booth and more like his real-life over-excited self. However, on my 5.1 surround setup, the echo effect on Bruce’s announcements sounds horrendous (I have no issues with any other game or movie). He really sounds mumbled and muffled and you can barely hear what he is saying. However, on your basic TV speakers, he sounds just fine. There has even been occasions where Bruce Buffer will have his introductions ruined by random glitches that cut him off completely. Again, this ruins the immersion of a big fight atmosphere.
Crowd chants from Brazilian, Irish and American fans all sound OK and somewhat add to the overall experience. Impact from fighters landing on the canvas after a knockdown/knockout sounds absolutely brutal – in a good way! It really brings home how hard and impactful your punch or kick to the head was to your opposite number.
UFC 2 includes new game modes such as Ultimate Team, Live Events, Custom Events and Knockout Mode.
Knockout Mode turns a typical MMA bout into a more Mortal Kombat/Street Fighter format. Health meters are what you live and die by in Knockout Mode and the frustrating ground game is non-existent. This can be fun for a couple of tries but in the end it ultimately falls kind of flat. The Ultimate Team mode is your typical EA Sports micro-transaction feature which has the same ethos as their other sport titles. You collect random cards which contain attributes and perks. You sell stuff you don’t need and spend money on stuff you’re desperate for to improve your fighter. You can either fight other people’s creations offline or play online. If you’ve played the likes of FIFA, this mode is very familiar to you and is nothing new.
Live Events lets you predict bouts for upcoming UFC shows and you can earn bonus points for actually carrying out said predictions within the game. Custom Events lets you create your dream UFC fight card. This is nothing special though as this was a feature in the early SmackDown! games on the PS1!
Career Mode returns and it is absolutely underwhelming. It is so basic that it is almost beyond belief.
Just like UFC 1, you start off in the Ultimate Fighter show. You then fight generic auto-created fighters on the undercards for what seems like an eternity. Then if you keep winning, you will face “real” fighters from the UFC roster.
There are now random events that affect your training camps, which at times can be absolutely absurd.
A psychic tells you good things, therefore you now train better than ever. The power cuts out at your gym, now your camp is shorter. You stay up all night watching Netflix so now you’re too knackered to train. These are all instances of just simply ridiculous scenarios that ultimately make zero impact to your Career Mode experience. Career Mode is very rinse and repeat. Yes, in real life, fighters can find training camps a never-ending monotonous grind but EA have unintentionally translated this over to UFC 2. In the last career mode, you at least had generic video messages from fighters saying “Hey man, I saw your last fight. Awesome job!“. Not anymore. In THQ’s UFC Undisputed 3, you could work on game plans and participate in more detailed mini-game activities within a fight camp such as flipping tyres to boost stamina and strength. In UFC 2, you roll with a training partner or hit a bag.
Career Mode now feels very stripped down. It is extremely basic, very underwhelming and unrewarding in the end.
One really positive aspect to UFC 2 is the depth of the roster. It is surprisingly deep in every single weight class. There are even a few fighters that an avid MMA fan like myself hadn’t even heard of before! There are even fighters who have only been in the UFC for less than 6 months (Sage Northcutt, who in case you didn’t know, was only 19 at one point!) or quite simply have never competed in the octagon before (yes, CM Punk and even Joe Rogan!). Boxing legend Mike Tyson joins MMA legends Bas Rutten and Kazushi Sakuraba as unlockable characters alongside the returning Bruce Lee. There are legends such as Royce Gracie, BJ Penn and Georges St-Pierre and unintentionally, there are also some Bellator fighters in there such as Benson Henderson, Matt Mitrione and Rampage Jackson. We are simply spoiled for choice.
EA Sports UFC 2 ultimately falls flat. It can be a satisfactory experience at one point then exceedingly frustrating the next. The ground game feels overly complicated compared to UFC 1, but yet the standup seems to be relegated to an arcadey Rock‘em Sock‘em Robots fight. EA Canada had two years to improve on a solid MMA game but yet it feels like they have stagnated, some could even say they have gone backwards in UFC 2. EA needs to go back to the proverbial drawing board and think of ways of improving upon their latest release. Maybe adding the PRIDE mode from Undisputed 3, creating more mini-games to make the training camps more challenging, or having small time regional MMA circuits in Career Mode could have made for a better game. The new knockout physics feels great and the depth of the roster is fantastic, but these two aspects don’t bring much longevity to the title.
In the end, EA Sports UFC 2 feels like a typical EA Sports follow up title: very frustrating, glitchy, arcadey, has hints of potential but feels stripped back from its predecessor. And you know what? As Nate Diaz once said – “I’m not surprised motherf**kers!“.
This review was based on a digital copy of EA Sports UFC 2 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Electronic Arts.