Is it just me or does UFC seem to be all the rage at the moment? Whilst it’s always had a fairly big following, it seems to be everywhere these days. It’s all over social media, fighters are appearing on late night talk shows, revenue records are being broken within the company – everyone seems to be crazy about UFC.
Me? I’ll admit that whilst I’ve not always been the biggest fan of MMA, I’ve become a UFC convert over the last couple of years. Fights are gripping spectacles and there’s a certain buzz to be found with each live event. Plus, the fact that it’s actually real helps ascend it above the likes of the WWE. Sure, they’re different forms of sport entertainment, but there really is that sense that ‘anything can happen’ – who expected Conor McGregor to knockout the previously untouchable José Aldo in thirteen seconds?
That ‘anything can happen’ vibe has been brought over to UFC 2, EA’s second entry in their UFC fighting series. Whilst the game still has a strong focus on grappling and ground battles, there’s a new emphasis on that killer knockout blow. All it takes is one punch to achieve glory – something that’s been evidenced in real life and it’s certainly the case here too.
UFC 2 opens with a tutorial taking the form of the epic bloody battle between Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald at UFC 189. You take on the role of Lawler as the game tasks you with re-creating his victory, all whilst learning the basics of the game. Fans of the original UFC title will be at home with the game feeling essentially the same, though there have been a few additional changes that improve how the game plays.
First and foremost is the improved knockout system. It’s a more physics driven system now with knockouts coming from anywhere. Sure, not every successful blow landed provides a knockout – it’d be unrealistic if that was the case. There were times though in the previous entry where you’d land a hit that realistically would wipe out your foe only to see them still standing, or perhaps they’d battle on after the fifth roundhouse kick in a row has pinged against their chin. Now though there’s more authenticity and a clean knockout is more common place. Each knockout feels more unique too, with your opponent crumbling to the ground in a heap as your fighter begins to parade around in victory. Sure, it’s brutal, but it’s the UFC and this is what people want to see.
It’s not all about knockouts in UFC 2 though. There’s still an emphasis on grappling and ground battles, though I’ll admit my fighting style was better suited to standing battles. The grapples are still a little complicated with a variety of different stances to switch between as well as submissions and attacking options, but the introduction of the grappling assistance display does make it a lot easier. A little graphic appears that shows which way to flick the analogue stick to move to each stance, as well as showing a small meter that indicates if you’ll succeed in the movement. It’s a small addition to the game, but one I really appreciated. It certainly helped me find a lot more success in my lacking ground game.
There’s been a minor change to your fighter’s damage too, with arms now receiving individual damage. You’ll have a diagram of your characters body next to the stamina bar that shows how much damage is done to your head, body, each arm and each leg. The redder that body part looks in the diagram the more damaged it is – if it’s flashing red you’ll want to get defensive fast, as it means you’re more susceptible to that knockout blow. You’ll find your fighter is less efficient the more damage they take too. Take too many blows to the body and you’re stamina is going to take a hit, whilst too many shots to the legs will decrease their effectiveness for kicks. You have to look after each part of your body efficiently if you’re going to survive to the end of a fight, especially during those five round championship fights.
Defending has been improved by allowing you to defend either your upper or lower body separately. On the Xbox One you had to press RB to defend your upper body and RT to defend your lower body, which was unusual given their positioning on the control pad. I’m not sure if you’re able to swap them around, but instinctively I kept wanting to press RT to defend my upper body. It’s a minor qualm with the game, but something I noticed whilst playing.
The roster of UFC 2 is one of the most impressive I’ve seen in any fighting game, with over 250 fighters available across multiple weight classes and featuring different fighting styles. Admittedly some of these fighters are the same but at different weight varieties, but it does allow you to chance to make some dream match ups. You can inflict revenge on Nate Diaz with Conor McGregor if you want, or alternatively you could have Ronda Rousey beat Holly Holm – it’s time to get revenge for those ‘cursed’ cover stars. There are endless possibilities, plus the addition of Bruce Lee and Mike Tyson means you can set up some insane showdowns.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the roster is how authentic each fighter looks and feels. It’s incredible how life-like fighters look, with every minor detail added to their appearance as well as perfectly recreated tattoos. UFC 2 aims to provide the most realistic representation of the sport yet, and if it was based on appearances alone they’d have certainly succeeded.
UFC 2’s career mode has seen some improvements from the previous iteration of the game, though it still lacks any real personality that makes it stand out. Whilst it’s enjoyable to create your own fighter (who can look accurately like you thanks to EA Game Face) and see them rise through the ranks up to main even status, there’s no notable rivalries or real interaction to be found. There’s a lot of trash talk in UFC and heated rivalries between fighters, so it would’ve been nice to see some of that transition over to the video game counterpart. Still, there’s no denying that the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ segment at the start of career mode is pretty sweet.
You’ll improve your created fighter in career mode through training – a series of mini-games that each reflects a particular aspect of your fighter’s fighting style. The mini-games are easy enough to get used to, but it’ll take a bit of work if you’re aiming to reach the highest ranking in each one. Those who aren’t interested in training can simulate it if they please, though this will restrict your improvement in each attribute.
Outside of the Career mode there have been a few new game modes introduced, most notably the ‘Ultimate Team’ mode and ‘Knockout’ mode. Whilst Ultimate Team has worked well in EA’s team based sport video games, the utilisation of it in a game that focuses entirely on solo combat is unusual. Fortunately though, they’ve managed to make it work, even if it doesn’t have the same appeal of the FIFA or Madden versions.
You’ll create a team of five fighters and compete both online and offline as you try to improve their ranking on the leaderboard. You’ll be able to purchase ‘Fight Packs’ with both virtual and real currency that offer different boosts and perks, as well as new additions to each fighter’s moveset.
Whilst the idea is neat, there’s less of a thrill to be found from these Fight Packs. In FIFA and Madden you might unlock some superstar player that you’re able to add to your team, but when you simple unlock perks and boosts there’s no real thrill to be found. It’s like opening a pack of Pokémon cards and finding them full of energy cards – it’s simply not the same.
Knockout mode on the other hand is fantastic. There’s no grappling or ground game to be found – this is all out war throwing everything you’ve got at your opponent as you try to knock them out cold. Whilst there are fans itching for a new Fight Night game, Knockout mode is a pretty good alternative. Sure, kicks are thrown in too, but you can still throw some nasty uppercuts as Mike Tyson – what more do you want?
There are other neat additions too such as ‘Live Events’ that let you bet on the outcome of upcoming UFC events for bonuses, as well as the ‘Online Championships’ that let you compete to be world champion online. Unfortunately for me, my skills weren’t good enough for the online world where my record stands at 2 – 9. Maybe I should just stick to Knockout mode…
EA have created the most authentic and accessible UFC experience yet with UFC 2, though it’s still lacking that bit of personality that would cement it as the greatest of all time. Whilst the game mechanics are made a little easier for new players, there are still a lot of complicated manoeuvres to master in the grapples. Career mode won’t keep you interested too long either, with it consisting of fight after fight as you work up the rankings.
Still, it’s one of the most stunning fighters I’ve ever played and with a 250+ character roster on offer there’s plenty of match ups for you to take part in. You’ll have a blast with the brutal Knockout mode and Ultimate Team will please those die-hard fans who want their own stable. Perhaps most importantly though the game is good fun to play, offering an experience that’s as chaotic as it is tactical. I’ve spent a ton of hours with UFC 2 and I’m not going to be finished with it anytime soon – even if I’m not destined to be the online world champ…
– Over 250 fighters to choose from that are accurately recreated
– The brutal knockout mode is great fun to play
– Improve gameplay dynamics that makes the game more accesible
– Fighting is undeniably good fun
– Lack of personality in career mode
– Grappling and ground fighting still feels a little complicated
Developer: Electronic Arts (www.ea.com)
Publisher: Electronic Arts (www.ea.com)
Release Date: 15/03/2016
Format(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), Playstation 4