MMA and video games haven’t exactly meshed well in the past. Sure, the UFC games for the THQ ranged from good (UFC Undisputed 2009), alright (UFC Undisputed 2010) and finally holy crap that’s amazing (UFC Undisputed 3). I even liked the old Pride game on Playstation 2 since it possessed the best create a fighter function until EA MMA. Then, we had EA MMA which was an excellent all-around game with solid gameplay; great create a fighter, and probably the best career mode for an MMA game. It sadly bombed out, killing any potential of a sequel. The early UFC titles that appeared on the PlayStation 1, 2 and Xbox weren’t that great and are generally forgotten for a good reason. When you can tap out Tim Sylvia with a 125 pound girl (Yes, you read that right), you are not doing your job correctly.
[adinserter block=”1″]So, what can I say about EA UFC is that while it’s a fun game, although it feels unfinished. For one, there is no depth outside of career mode and arcade mode. Remember, UFC Undisputed 3 had a tournament mode, title mode, title defense mode and most of all, the Pride mode. I was still playing the game two years after it came out just for Pride mode so I could run the Grand Prix and the freakshow fights. THQ went the extra mile and reunited Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten to do commentary to give it a truly unique feel. While arcade mode is fun and you can spends hours just playing random match-ups, this feels like a barebones game.
The barebones notion doesn’t help when it comes to a rather sparse roster of 97 fighters spread out over nine divisions and while the company has promised DLC for those who rose to prominence (UFC Bantanwieght Champion TJ Dillashaw is absent from the game), there is no presence of any sort of legends. It doesn’t help that Dana White has pissed off most of the fighters you could place in legends mode (Randy Couture for example) or that most of them have associated themselves with Bellator like Tito, Rampage or Frank Shamrock. While this does mean that the fighters in the game have their own unique traits (Rousey mean mugs and has a wide variety of armbars, Pettis uses the cage on offense, Jon Jones and Anderson Silva have a wide variety of kicks and elbows), it still feels a bit off. EA tries to make for this by letting certain fighters move up and down in class, which is a way to cover up the issue. A problem in my mind is that fighters that don’t have any special moves are restricted with the same set of moves and animations. I’ve seen the same belly to belly suplex used by a good amount of fighters, which is almost a kill move if you’re stamina isn’t at full level. Do this move once and it can drain your opponent’s stamina by a good amount and you once you learn this takedown with a fighter who has it, you can dominate.
The striking mechanics in EA UFC are top notch, probably the best striking mechanics I’ve seen in any MMA game. Yes, it does take a while to learn some of the bigger moves, but it’s worth it to see a well pulled move. My biggest complaint though comes from the ground game and that has more to do with the submission system. Personally, I loved the submission system from EA MMA, with well-timed button hits for leg and arm submissions and the hot spot for chokes. It wasn’t the greatest or most innovative submission system, but it was better than the shine that THQ was offering. Here, we have a mini game similar to the hot spot requiring usage of the right and left sticks, it is incredibly infuriating. It somehow managed to top the submission system from Undisputed 3 for the most annoying submission system in the UFC series. Congrats I guess. It makes me yearn for the shine.
Now, let’s talk about career mode and my first big problem in what are my many, many problems with it. First, you really don’t have much for customization when it comes to said creation. You can pick from pre-set hair and body, a far cry from the creation system in other combat sport games, including the WWE games. You also have preset stats depending on what style of fighting you decide to go with. You also can’t take any fighters on the main roster (Bruce Lee the exception) and there was a certain fun in taking Dan Severn and transforming him into a Thai fighting machine. Also, I feel a slight bit creepy for beating on Bruce Lee or anytime I land a solid shot to the brain or knock him out with a headshot.
I’ve always thought that having your created fighter enter The Ultimate Fighter and get into the UFC way was a great idea. Unfortunately that’s about it for career when it comes to variety as after you win the whole thing (With unlimited rematches if you lose in TUF, there’s a Batista joke somewhere) and career mode becomes monotonous. You don’t have the option of picking opponents taking out any suspense on whether your guy is truly good when you step up to face a big name, do three training activities and then fight. That’s it; career mode is best played in short bursts every now and then. Just boot up the game, take a few fights and then turn the game off. Do the same thing three days later to keep things going. The worst part is that you can’t branch out to other gyms to learn new moves or techniques and you can’t change weight classes or participate in Pride tournaments. Don’t ask me how my Brock Lesnar cut enough weight to make 205, just marvel at the epic war between him and Jon Jones that headlined Madison Square Garden. Also, for as much hype that the UFC has put behind Rousey, you’d think that you could go as a woman in career mode, but that isn’t included. While it’s not a huge complaint (Large enough for me to point it though), it’s an interesting point since the UFC has put so much hype behind Rousey.
What’s sad about this is that EA Canada developed this game and these were the guys responsible for the last two Fight Night games, some of the best boxing games of all time. Fight Night Champion had a very good Championship Mode that was more like a movie. Sure, it seemed a bit cliché with the plot but it worked and it made for a fun play through. That’s the disheartening part about this since Undisputed 3 and EA MMA had solid career modes and this feels like an afterthought. EA could have done so much more with career mode, heck that’s my next post. With such a highly regarded studio behind the game, it’s tough to say this but career mode is probably the worst career mode I’ve seen in an MMA game in a long time. Take a look at the career mode in the NBA 2K games and take a look at this, this feels like some slapped on at the last minute.
While I haven’t started online play because I don’t like having slurs hurled at me by twelve year olds, a point of interest was that EA killed their Fighter Share program. It drew quite a bit of controversy since the excuse seemed rather lame (Avoid copyright issues) and it was quickly pointed out that THQ had no issues with the WWE and UFC games. When I heard this, I had visions of having to take that perfect Fedor CAF and drag him through career mode and then doing the same thing with any other fighter. Luckily, you can give fighter the stats they deserve without a cap, so smart move EA.
[adinserter block=”2″]As this point, you’re probably thinking that I hate this game but I don’t. The graphics are fantastic, the presentation is done will with a minimalistic HUD and commentary seems to be on point. The fighters are well animated, the striking feels great and most of all you’ll have a great mixture of pain and frustration. It’s the type of game you can get a whole of friends together have a few solid hours of fun playing with. My main hope is that EA Canada can build off what seems to be a solid foundation while fixing some of the mistakes they’ve made. The biggest problem will be the specter of Undisputed 3 hanging above the EA UFC games, so hopefully EA can top that. If EA Canada can work on the problems and keep the gameplay fresh with new features, I can see the EA UFC series topping the Undisputed games. EA just needs to make the effort on their end.
Robert Goeman has been writing for CamelClutchBlog since 2014 and has written for FiveOuncesofPain and What Culture. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertGoeman. After every article, Robert usually does “Talking Points” on twitter, bringin up points that didn’t make the article.