EA Sports UFC 2 Review: One-Two Punch
Ryan Bloom / Mar 21st, 2016 No Comments
EA has traveled a long, strange path with its UFC franchise. Failing to predict UFC’s rise in popularity, the company reportedly rebuffed initial gaming pursuits led by UFC president Dana White. White and UFC moved on to THQ, while EA later jumped into the mixed martial arts world with the Strikeforce-branded EA Sports MMA.
Despite White’s “war” on EA, the two companies were brought together after the downfall of THQ. EA Sports, which had produced a critically acclaimed fighting title, and UFC, the most recognized mixed martial arts brand, seemed like a match made in heaven. But when EA Sports UFC released in 2014, it was somewhat of a disappointment. EA Sports UFC 2, EA’s third MMA effort, is a much-improved product, but even after all this time, EA doesn’t quite seem to grasp the spirit of the UFC.
Knock ‘Em Out Like Fight Night
EA Sports UFC 2 shines when its fighters are standing up pounding each other with vicious blow after blow. Fighters are meticulous recreations of their real-life counterparts, down to the finest details of their tattoos. Every punch to the ribs or kick to the face delivers jarring life-like animations and produces brutal bruises and cuts. The realism starts with the Pay Per View broadcast-style presentation and climaxes as blood flows out of the eye of an unrelenting combatant.
This is peak UFC. The hand-to-hand violence builds up emotion, then the gore humanizes the two warriors standing in the Octagon. However, this level of immersion isn’t sustained as players grapple to the ground.
The ground game is integral to the UFC experience — some of the sport’s most famous athletes are known for their wrestling style — but in the game, it merely involves holding down the right stick. Pulling off arm bars and submission moves doesn’t require the intensity it does in real life, and it is far too easy to turn your opponent’s head into a punching bag while on the ground.
Maybe this was to be expected of EA, a company that once rejected UFC and continued to produce Fight Night boxing games, but it doesn’t quite capture the unpredictable nature of the sport.
Style Over Substance
Despite its flaws, the core gameplay was not the original EA Sports UFC’s biggest problem. Fighting is more satisfying this time around, and developers attempted to give this some context by offering several game modes. Unfortunately, these modes don’t give EA Sports UFC 2 the substance it needs.
The glowing example is the game’s career mode, which is far too short and thin. Players fight past The Ultimate Fighter competition through the world rankings. In a world where NBA 2K16’s “Livin’ Da Dream” and other RPG-style modes exist, UFC 2’s career mode is extremely scant.
In stark contrast to Fight Night Champion, EA’s last boxing game, there are no out-of-ring storylines to add context to matches or personality that gives life to the figures involved. Career mode provides no motivation to continue playing aside from eventual retirement. Players quickly get the feeling that they’re just going through the motions as they play through events and repetitive training mini-games.
New to UFC 2 is Ultimate Team, EA Sports’ flagship game mode. This mode is presented in an innovative way for UFC 2. Rather than obtaining player cards to add to your roster, you start a team of user-created players and earn cards for each warrior that provide attribute boosts and new moves.
Like career mode, Ultimate Team fails to live up to its potential — there are few ways to use your fighters and no ability to play solo. While the individual game modes don’t provide the longevity UFC 2 needs, the depth comes from offering more modes.
The outlier is Knockout Mode, an arcade-style boxing mode that capitalizes on the game’s superb stand-up fighting. In Knockout Mode, there are no submissions or grappling. Combatants are able to take five solid blows to the head or body before being knocked out. Like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, players must take two of three rounds to be victorious.
Knockout Mode is the perfect blend of mixed martial arts realism and arcade fighting. It’s quick and full of tension. Patience and timing are rewarded, but so is aggressiveness. It’s a difficult to find this balance during a round that could last only seconds, and that is what makes it great.
EA Sports UFC 2 continues to build a solid foundation for the franchise. The game is realistic and intense, but its lack of depth on multiple fronts holds it back. Developers created smart new game modes, but they aren’t built out enough to provide lasting replay value. Meanwhile, stand-up fighting is complex and gratifying, but the ground gameplay is uninspiring.
UFC 2 is a franchise trending in the right direction, but EA may have been better off making another Fight Night game.
tags: ea sports ufc , EA Sports UFC 2 , EA Sports UFC 2 Review , review