“Iiiiiiiiiiiitttt’s TIME!!!! This is the main event of the evening” – Just like a lot of main event fights in real life, UFC 2 sometimes lives up to the hype that our beloved Bruce Buffer shouts about and introduces with such enthusiasm that it’s hard to not get excited. At other times however, the main events fall short of Bruce’s spurts of excitement and are over quickly, or are just… bad, and this holds true for EA SPORTS’ next attempt at a UFC game. At times it’s undeniably brutal, smack bang in your face fun, but at other times it feels like a fight we have seen all too many times and we have been here before.
Reviewed by Neal Pickhaver on a purchased copy for Xbox One
EA SPORTS promised with such loud introduction an all new KO physic, new modes, a revamped career and an all new and improved ground and grappling system. While some of this holds true, it still does not take away the fact that not much really seems to have changed, or maybe it has, but it has not improved. At its best, the new physics offer some beautiful KO’s with blood flying out of cuts that finally drop, splattering to the canvas after your opponent’s head bangs against the floor and man does it feel wonderful when you catch your opponent just at that right moment as they step in only to end up as a pile of crumbled bones and limp muscle on the floor.
However at other times you can see how flawed and broken the new physics system is. For example, I have KO’d people with my shoulders as we are slugging it out, or my arms somehow swing behind my body around my waist and KO someone as we go in for a clinch, and they are only two of the many (sometimes hilarious) animation glitches that can occur. These little glitches can hopefully be patched and don’t happen too often to be a huge problem but it’s a shame to see it happen. It feels cheap when you win this way. Also 90% of my fights always end in a KO due to these new KO physics, which is fun for a while but as an avid MMA fan I would love to see a real chess match fight affair (like the recent Cruz vs Dillashaw for example) where we need to be clever, pick our shots, fight smart and see more fights go the distance.
Speaking of going the distance, one thing that really does infuriate me is there can never be a draw. Seriously, one of the game developers said live on one of their twitch streams “there are no draws in UFC 2.” I do not understand this decision and will never agree to whatever reason they give. What’s worse is the in-game commentators mention at the end of a really hard fought close fight they feel the fight is a draw, but no matter how even a fight is , the outcome will never be a tie. To some this will not be a problem but for someone that is really into MMA, this kind of thing takes away from the immersion and is disappointing. Another thing to mention is there are no fouls (low blows, behind the head punches, cage grabbing etc etc) and there are no doctor stoppages due to cuts (and oh man there are a lot of cuts). Again, to some people this is no problem but for people like me, that want a decent MMA sim this is really disappointing. These things happen in real MMA and they happen a lot. I think EA should have at least added the option to turn on a ‘sim mode’ where these things can happen in-game. Being forced to protect a cut could add a lot and force the player to take a new approach to a fight, especially if your face gets ripped up early.
Ok, it seems most of what I have said has been negative but despite these negatives (there are more to come) I still find myself always staying up late, telling myself “just one more fight, then bed”. It most certainly is addictive and at times really does feel great and can nail the essence of MMA on the head (at least its brutal side).
To start with the obvious, graphically the game is beautiful. The character likenesses of most of the fighters are amazing (and that’s a good thing considering there are now over 250 fighters on the roster with more being added and current ones being updated as real life fights take effect). I would go as far as saying that these are the best character likenesses I have seen in any game before. Sweat appears as fights go on, bruises appear at points of impact (it’s beautiful to attack the body then a minute or so later you see your opponent ribs starting to go red, bruise and graze), the ripples of fat and skin and splatters of sweat and blood (that always seem to flow exactly in the right motion) as you plant a kick into your opponents face or stomach are thing to behold in a slow motion replay. So yes, graphically the game is outstanding.
Commentary is also very much on point – not amazing but not bad either. The commentators get excited at the right moments and sometimes scream with excitement giving you that little rush to try and push for a big win. They go over the basics as your fighters enter the octagon (their strengths, style and at times previous results). Other audio is good too; the snap sound of kicks as your shin slaps an opponent’s thigh is spot on, the thud of punches and sometimes the grunt your fighter makes as he/she lunges in for an attack are all good The crowd too are well perceived, they chant their favorite fighters’ names during the course of a fight, they ‘’ooh and aaah’’ during replays and boo and jeer if they are not happy with the action in the octagon. So the sound overall is ok, it’s nothing mind blowing, definitely not as good as, let’s say FIFA 16 but it’s not bad either.
Now let’s talk about the modes. EA have added a few new modes but let’s get career out of the way first since it was my first go-to mode when I started playing. EA promised a revamped, more in-depth and improved career mode for UFC 2 but did they deliver? In a nutshell…… no, no they did not. Honestly, career mode is fairly average at best and just plain bad at its worst. Not much has changed at all from the last UFC. You create a fighter from what seems to be the exact same options as the last game except that you can now make a female fighter this time around. You start in ultimate fighter, win, get signed by UFC, hooray! They have tweaked a few things though. For example, you can now choose ‘normally’ between three opponents for your next fight. This helped stop the constant rematches that we faced in the first UFC and is an improvement for sure.
The mini training games during training camp prior to a fight are improved (slightly) but are not worthy of any real high praise, one good thing though is once you have participated in a certain training area you can save your result and sim it during the rest of your career to get that same result over and over again. EA made a fairly big deal of players having to deal with training injuries and other such problems during a training camp and I’m going to be blunt here and say the way they implanted this new feature is….well…. awful. It’s completely random and the actual training injuries have little to no effect at all during your next fight apart from maybe Joe Rogan mentioning you hurt your leg in training as you enter the octagon.
Other random events that happen during career mode again are just awfully implemented and you have no control over the outcome at all, basically a little pop up comes and up and will say something like “you made a joke during a press conference and gained some fans” or “your coach is training someone else you can’t train stand up for this fight”. It really is as simple as that, those are the new revamped career mode features. Again EA fall short on career mode and it’s a shame because it’s a mode that could be amazing if they took the time, even if these little pop-ups had a multiple choice selection with varying outcomes would be something, but no. It’s simply train (if no pop up stops you) and fight, no media interactions, no rivalries, no big fight build ups, no other organisations…nothing like that at all.
Also, retirement is forced upon you in a really bad way. You gain fans by winning, the more fans you have the longer you can fight (although there is a limit of 35-40 fights max) but at the same time each fight you take damage, which in turn reduces how much longer your career will last. Now, in writing that doesn’t sound too bad, but the fact that these two factors again seem to be raised randomly is very annoying. For example, I have had fights where I have finished without being hit once, I jump in and get a submission in the opening minutes but still after the fight my career damage bar raises and my career length shortens. I managed to play through career mode and retire as a legend in 2 weight classes and that is enough for me and I don’t think I will return to this mode anymore. Another thing to note is you can’t use your career created fighters in any other modes, so once your fighter retires, that is it, you won’t be able to use them again at all. Sad face.
Now onto the “all new, super shiny mode” Ultimate Team. That’s right, Ultimate Team finally makes its way to UFC games. At first I was like everyone else, I thought I would hate this mode, here come EA with another cash grab card system and it would be a fail, but well, I can’t believe I’m typing this, I was wrong, very wrong. This mode, for me , is the go-to mode. I play most EA Sports games and I usually avoid Ultimate Team modes like it’s the plague but here it just… works, it really does. Sure, yes there are cards, yes you can buy these cards with real money but in all honesty you really don’t need to spend a penny. The rate at which you make coins in-game, you can buy card packs after every few fights. You can also make coins by playing live events, which is basically betting on real life upcoming fights. If you get the result right you win coins, a fair amount of coins to which you then spend on card packs.
Card packs consist of a variety of things including stat boosts, fighting styles and moves (which are permanent) and fitness, and other training cards that can be applied before your next fight to give you boosts in certain areas, for example – chin strength, leg strength etc etc. I like to think of them as a streamlined training camp. Fitness cards are basically stamina cards which you need to apply every few fights to keep your fighter healthy and fighting fit (you get so many fitness cards though that this is never a worry or a problem).
In Ultimate Team you can create up to five fighters to be part of your team. They start off with fairly basic move sets but after a few fights and card packs you can start to mold them into the type of fighters you want them to be. You take them online to fight other players and compete to become the division champion and eventually moving on up through the divisions. As your fighters win fights your overall team level raises. You get coins and card packs for free as your overall team level raises. There are still some negatives about the online play; sometimes you lose , a lot.. like a lot lot, and a lot of the times these losses feel cheap. For instance, you are clearly in control of a fight, fighting beautifully but then that good ole new KO physics system bites you in the arse and your opponent just flattens you with one shot. In turn though, sometimes this happens in your favour and you are the one getting a cheap KO. I’m not sure how the matchmaking works but there certainly are times I’m fighting other players who have fighters with much better move sets and much higher stats than me, it’s glaringly obvious, but again it seems at times it’s vice versa and you are the one with superiority. Lag hits are bad at times and oh man if you get hit with a lag spike it’s game over. Sometimes the game lags out halfway through a round and the fight will restart. It’s rare, but it does happen.
If playing online is not your thing then fear not, you can also play Ultimate Team against CPU opponents which apparently are player made fighters but controlled by the CPU, I’m not sure about others but when I do play against the CPU for some easy coins I always seem to be fighting the same opponents over and over again which leads me to believe something is broken here and the game is not downloading player made fighters correctly, hopefully this will get fixed because if you want some easy coins, fighting against the CPU is the way to go. You do earn coins at a slower rate this way though. One thing to note is all the coins you make offline can be used online, all coins are shared between all your fighters on your team. So if you get some cards you don’t want for a certain fighter you can use them on another one of your created fighters instead. Even with some of its flaws, Ultimate Team mode remains to be my favourite way to play UFC 2. Like I said before, I normally avoid UT modes but here it just works really well.
Other new modes include ‘create an event’ which is exactly what you think it is. Create a fight card and then play out all of the fights. You can make great events and it’s a good way to use the massive roster EA has included.
‘Live events’ is a new mode that lets you bet on upcoming real fights. You win coins for UT if your bet/prediction is correct and you can also win bonus coins by actually playing out your prediction in a sim match on the game.
‘Knockout mode’ is another new mode which is basically a way for EA to show off the new physics system. All grappling is stripped from the match, your health bars are shortened and you and your opponent slug it out until only one of you is left standing. Not my cup of tea but might be good for a laugh after a few drinks with some mates around.
All the other old modes from UFC are in the game such as Fight Now, and Online Championship. For me, the highlight and the clear area where EA worked on is Ultimate Team. All other modes (especially career) seem to be no more than an after thought.
I should also mention the new ground and grappling system. Is it better than the last UFC game? Hmmm, it’s different but not necessarily better. Some will prefer it, others won’t. In a nutshell, whilst in a grapple or on the floor you hold the right thumbstick in the direction you want to transition to gain a better position. If your opponent doesn’t counter this by moving his/her thumbstick in the correct direction you win the hustle and move into the position you wanted (ground game and clinch stats improve the speed rate you transition which at times feel very slow). Submissions remain largely unchanged, it’s the same formula as last time….. oh and the Thai clinch is still OP. 😉
So all in all, UFC 2 looks beautiful, it emphasises more on the brutal, bloody hard hitting side of MMA and can be really good fun at times, but at other times it will leave you frustrated and throwing your controller after being KO’d by a cheap shot. If like me you were hoping for a realistic, sim style MMA game, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. You will still enjoy yourself but you will be left wanting for that something more.
Words by Neal Pickhaver