Less than two years after EA UFC‘s debut, EA UFC 2 is here to prove that EA is here, and they know what they’re trying to do inside the virtual Octagon. This isn’t just a simple update — this is truly a full-blown sequel and no corners have been cut. But is it worth the $60 price tag?
EA Sports UFC 2 (PS4, Xbox One)
The game looks really good. Going “ooooh” when you’ve played dozens (hundreds) of matches and the violent novelty has warn off is a good example of how far this game pushes graphical boundaries. Sadly, EA UFC 2 is pretty boring to look at overall. And this isn’t being critical of the dev team, let me make that clear — this is the UFC’s fault. For nearly a decade, every single event has looked the same beyond the ads in the Octagon. I blame them and I blame Reebok! Boring!
Ultimately I don’t care about shorts when I’m executing a slick one-two on your FACE. The damage you accumulate after a brutal match could make the toughest person wince, and that right there is an achievement in itself.
The game’s innovation comes from its slick refinements. The newfangled ground game is the best grappling system in any MMA game ever. It’s simple to learn and while I’m not yet a master, I feel much more in control of everything I do in this game compared to any MMA game from the past.
Tip: Read the intense breakdown of how to survive the ground game. It’s worth your time.
The gameplay is fantastic. There are 200+ fighters, and most of them play with a unique style. The Diaz’s are lanky and work the jab, while Conor McGregor for instance is quick, and throws plenty of spinning sh*t. I’m extremely impressed with how much work went into making the characters fight more like themselves than templates, but it makes me want more. There needs to be more moves, more distinct styles, more personality and more customization.
For as gripping and visceral as the combat is, cartoonish knockdowns happen way too often. The game in turn becomes arcade-y, and that’s fine, but it’s also pretty ridiculous. It’s more Blitz than Madden. Watch this insane fight for proof.
For those who enjoy the single player career experience like me, EA UFC 2 has fixed up the bland career mode of the first title, added some random elements that make it seem more real, then called it a day. Yes, training for each fight is far less a slog than before, but it’s still hard to get attached to your character with arbitrary doomsday clocks ticking. Now you have a fan count that goes up after every fight. If you don’t gain enough fans, you’re forced into retirement because you’ve taken too much damage.
Never mind the fact that your damage meter seems to go up the same amount despite how much damage you actually take. I was a 18-3 champion with nothing but knockouts on his record, but still, the first text message I received from the powers-that-be after I finally brought home the title was that my popularity was waning and I’d have to retire soon. Why would I get that message after I just saw my followers go up, and I just won the title? I also was only finished once. The damage I had accumulated over my career (which really wasn’t much) outweighed my popularity, and thus I had to hang up the gloves despite being on a four-fight win streak with a combined fight time of about eight minutes. C’mon. I appreciate the effort, but adding in random elements like me losing a training day because I was listening to podcasts takes the control from me and makes the experience far too random. Give me the option to skip a day training, gain some health recovery and maybe happiness, then move on to the next phase of training.
This also comes back around to the lack of personality. Give the career mode fighters some media questions. Crap talk is in the limelight in today’s UFC, and facing Conor McGregor in the cage just seems lacking without any pre-fight buildup. Give us Press Conference mode!
There are a few camps of people who will play this game. For the crews of friends who play it locally on a couch before or after UFC events, it’ll never get old. Then there will be the hardcore competitive players. They’ll enjoy Ultimate Team, and chasing online championships. There’s enough to do here to make this a regular game for you and your friends to play. Single player, outside of the fun-but-flawed career mode, is lacking, even with Knockout Mode, which is only local and makes EA UFC 2 into a fighting game like Street Fighter, with a quickly-depleting health bar.
There’s something about the game that doesn’t do it for me as a single player experience. Maybe it’s the crap talk factor you can enjoy with friends online or on-couch, but the real fun comes from playing real people. It’s not that the AI is lacking (play on Hard), it’s just not the same as real competition.
If you pre-order, you get Mike Tyson, Bas Rutten and Sakuraba. You also get them if you beat the career mode on hard. With EA UFC, there were regular (free) updates for the better part of two years filled with new fighters and gameplay improvements. They’ve already patched EA UFC 2 and added Sage Northcutt and plenty more will follow, hopefully current and past stars like Tom Lawlor, or Matt Serra.
EA UFC 2 is a substantial upgrade over the first game, but there’s room for improvement. Ultimately, the game is fun. Career mode is fun, but needs a more dynamic narrative. The roster, while impressive, needs way more fighters (the devs just made a face like someone farted after reading that sentence), but they need to go big or go home. If UFC has a license for any classic fighter from the promotion’s past, get them in the game. Fans deserve the dream match-ups that could be made possible by their vast library of fighter licenses.
In the end, EA UFC 2 lacks personality because the UFC has no personality, and so the game must live only on its gameplay systems. Luckily those are wonderful and visceral. MMA fans will love the game. Casuals who want to knock out their bloody friends will treat it like the Fight Night games of the past. If you care about MMA fighting over, say, Street Fighter, this will stay in your gaming rotation for a long while.