With the continued rise in MMA fighting, EA has devoted all its time to producing a series of UFC titles. The Latest UFC 2, features excellent striking, character models and game modes, yet suffers from the same confusing grapple mechanics and submissions.
This year’s game is very authentic, starting at the last round of a recent PPV, you assume control of one of the 250 fighters featured in the game. Immediately you are taken by the gorgeous graphics and the fantastic physicality of the striking engine. Punches thud into characters like they are sides of meat, the sounds and feedback completely immerse you in the brawl as you try to defeat your opponent. The mano el mano fight is leaps and bounds ahead of the previous offering. Picking the high profile match from this year. Mcgregor vs Aldo and handing another controller to a friend can keep you occupied for hours. Gone are the overly quick fights, replaced by a legitimate war as you try to knock your opponent out. Fights usually last at least two rounds, unless one character gets in an unbelievable shot, much like real life.
The first time you connect with or get hit with a real damaging blow, generates an adrenaline rush, that too few games this generation have managed to exploit. If you landed the blow you are suddenly hounding your opponent down, trying to get the finishing blow.If you were on the receiving end, you are blocking and weaving, looking to survive the few seconds it takes to recover. It brings about a perfect representation of the striking element of the sport. Knockouts and knockdowns are physics and context sensitive. Throw a wild punch that grazes your opponent and you might scratch the side of their face, throw a measured shot that connects with the jaw as they are in an unstable position and you are likely to trigger an instant knockout or, at least, ground your opponent. There are no weird connections in this year’s edition, every shot can be viewed and dissected in the many replays that follow. Despite a number of replays, a brilliant shot never gets old no matter what end of it, you are on.
The game features a few new modes. Career mode is the normal struggle from the reality series The Ultimate Fighter to headlining a PPV. It is functional and features much-improved menus from last year. The EA sports Gameface makes a welcome return after being inexplicably missing from the latest PGA Tour game, so there is no excuse for not creating yourself, then watching as you get beat to a bloody pulp. Because believe me, the blood is as realistic as can be. Bruises, scratches and streams of blood can be seen as the blows reign down. For some, this can be quite distressing. If you take a women’s match, the ferocity is the same, yet the damage seems to be much more pronounced. One round of Rousey Vs Holm left both fighters with faces like roadkill and bruises all over. Not for the faint-hearted.
It is the grappling and submission game, where problems begin to creep in. Despite much improved on-screen prompts, the submission and grappling just aren’t very fun. When watching UFC, you can see what actually happens one fighter strains for control while being wary of exposing themselves to a submission hold. In UFC2, you can perfectly recreate any of these encounters if you have the time and patience to learn the mechanics inside out. If this was a fun part of the game, you would easily find yourself doing this unfortunately, it just looks like an overcomplicated guessing game until someone gives up or both fighters stand up. Had it been replaced with a simple button mashing or rock paper scissors variant, then we could have got on with the fun part, the striking.
With this in mind, there is the new KO mode. In principle, this sounds excellent. Pick your fighters and grappling and submissions are disabled. It then becomes the first person to hit the other 5 times wins. It is designed as a simple party game, that allows players to be winner stays on. Despite how good this sounds, in reality, the matches are over too quickly and a proper quick match does a much better job of this. It is still a fun distraction when you have a crowded couch and only two controllers.
We also have the micro-transaction based ultimate team. Here you pick a team of fighters and take them online to fight the rest of the world. It is a neat idea, but will be subject to the same issues as other ultimate team modes. How long before you are fighting a team of shiny Mike Tysons, that someone has paid real money to get? He is a pre-order bonus along with Bruce Lee and a few others. It is quite thrilling o take control of a prime Mike Tyson and lay waste to another fighter with only your fists.
Th real problem with the game comes from the best feature. The graphics and striking are so brilliant, that it makes you long for the equivalent Fight Night game. While Boxing may not be to everyone’s taste, it is still a bigger sport than MMA and deserves an updated game. The engine in this game could easily be adapted to power it, so the lack of any EA boxing game remains a mystery. We can only hope that it is revealed at this year’s E3. Until then UFC2 is a worthy substitute.