by Dillon Meehan
In the summer of 2014, video game developer EA Sports released “EA Sports UFC,” the first mixed martial arts video game that was playable on next-gen consoles; and it failed, miserably.
MMA fans had been clamoring for nearly two and a half years to get their hands on a UFC game, however they were devastated when the game was finally released.
Despite being shown a graphically stunning vertical slice in 2012, the game overall failed to meet most fans expectations. Fights never had an urgent feeling that most fans experience with UFC fights, which is strange considering how well EA Sports has done with their Madden and FIFA series.
The action also always seemed superficial. While graphically it was impressive, every punch felt as though it lacked power. Even when you had knocked your opponent to the ground and were standing over them, punches felt slow and as though there was nothing behind it. In the older “UFC Undisputed” games, made by THQ, every punch felt as though it was inflicting damage, which was a major drop-off for most fans.
Then there was the career mode, which seemed as though it was hastily put together in an attempt to appease fans, but it also failed to deliver. In older UFC games, there was so much customization not only for picking sponsorships, but also the attire worn both during the fight as well as during your fighter’s entrance and post game interview.
However after all of that disappointment, EA Sports hope to change the narrative with “EA Sports UFC 2,” which is releasing this winter on March 14th. Last week, EA opened their doors to a select few, myself included, allowing them to see a preview mold of their upcoming game.
From the moment you start your first fight, you immediately notice the difference “UFC 2” brings. To start, the graphics and presentation are even more realistic. As soon as the fighters enter the ring, you hear the legendary voice of Bruce Buffer announcing the fighters and Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg give their commentary, and it all feels natural. With every punch thrown, you will see blood or sweat fling off the fighters and down to the canvas.
Then the real action starts. The fighting has drastically changed. In years past, UFC games were nothing more than a button masher for certain users, but “UFC 2” is far different. The fighting is now much more strategic, with an emphasis on finding a window and landing combinations. You have to be careful; if you get too aggressive you will run out of stamina much quicker than in previous iterations. This means your fighter will move much slower, generally causing either knockdowns or a knockout.
One of the newest features this year is Ultimate Team. In EA Sports’ other titles Ultimate Team has been around for years, however it is making its debut for MMA in “UFC 2.”
For “UFC 2” your “team” will consist of five fighters in five different weight classes. There are going to be both online and offline components to the mode, and you have the ability to apply permanent upgrade items to your fully customizable fighter, as well as boost items that may only last for one fight.
EA has made the online Ultimate Team similar to its other sports games, where there will be various divisions that are based on skill. You start in Division One as a prospect, and then as a contender until eventually becoming a champion. If you keep defending your title, you will move up in the leaderboards, but a loss will drop you down in the title chase race again.
“UFC 2” seems to be a step in a different direction. EA’s first attempt had more of an arcade feel, like what the Burnout series is for racing simulators. “UFC 2” appears to have much more emphasis on realism. While that may be good for hardcore fans of MMA, it is tough to tell if that will relate to consumers enjoying the product.