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EA Sports UFC 2

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Canada
Release Date: March 15, 2016 (US), March 17, 2016 (EU)

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - 'EA Sports UFC 2'

by Brian Dumlao on April 5, 2016 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

EA Sports UFC 2 innovates with stunning character likeness and animation, adds an all new Knockout Physics System and authentic gameplay features, and invites all fighters to step back into the Octagon to experience the thrill of finishing the fight.

Buy EA Sports UFC 2

EA's UFC title didn't make a great first impression when it debuted roughly two years ago. It succeeded in giving players the presentation they had expected from the then-new generation of consoles, and the fighting system was solid as long as you weren't big on submissions. However, it failed when it came to providing modes for the player to enjoy, and it was also pretty lacking in some aspects, like more options in the character creation system. EA Sports UFC 2 seeks to improve on those shortcomings while maintaining some of the elements the first game did right, and it does exactly that.

Like many recent games from EA Sports, UFC 2 kicks off with a tutorial framed around a big event in the sport. In this case, you'll take control of Robbie Lawler as he defends his Welterweight championship against Rory Macdonald in UFC 189 in the bout's fifth round. Though the bout doesn't tell you all of the fighting mechanics right away, it shows off the small tweaks to the striking system. The face buttons still act as your striking buttons, with the L set of buttons and triggers acting as stronger strikes and body strikes, respectively, and the left analog stick determining the move you'll throw in conjunction with those buttons. The R set of buttons handles both high and low blocking, and hitting those in combination with any of the face buttons at the right time initiates a parry move. It's nothing monumental, but it still works well in concert with the other fighting mechanics.

The game starts to teach the clinch and ground game systems once you initiate them with the right analog stick, and unlike the striking system, the changes are much more apparent. For starters, the quarter-circle analog stick moves are gone, as the game relies on the cardinal directions when two people are tangled up together. Those aren't done with standard flicks, as you're expected to hold one direction without interference from your opponent if you're going to hit your desired move or transition. To help ease players into it, there are prompts to let you know what your directions will perform, negating the need to memorize a laundry list of directions that may not be applicable in the situation. It won't necessarily help those who are unfamiliar with things like a half-guard or a sprawl, but at least you know when you can and can't perform those moves.

The submission system has also received some changes, but it could still use some improvement. You'll depend on holding one direction on the right analog stick instead of flicking if you want to break free from the move or prevent the opponent from escaping the hold. Occasionally, you'll see a prompt to flick the left stick in a direction if you're attacking; successfully hitting the direction in time means you can advance a stage in the hold before your opponent is forced to tap. It seems much easier than before, but it's much harder for the attacker since he has to pay attention to preventing an opponent from escaping and hitting the prompts at the proper moment to get the submission to work. Most of the time, you or your opponent can easily break free of the submissions, so the only time it'll work is if your opponent starts to panic.

Overall, you're looking at a much better representation of the sport than past efforts. The game still relies on endurance and pacing as opposed to simply hitting your opponent at all times. Good fights often come down to wearing down your opponent's stamina with body shots and weakening several different body parts before going in for the kill. You'll get blocks that catch limbs and moves that result in you staggering toward the cage with your back facing it. It's a fighting game for those who like the more strategic elements of MMA, but it still has moments where a badly beat-up fighter can throw a powerful blow to stagger a healthy opponent or get in the right tackle and punch that flips the pacing and direction of the bout. In short, there's never a fight with a predictable conclusion.

Coming along with an improved fighting system is a roster that eclipses the previous game and can easily be compared to UFC Undisputed 3 for having the largest roster of fighters. You can pick any weight class and see loads of current fighters like Michael Bisping, Nate Diaz and Roy Nelson. There are loads of women in the strawweight and bantamweight classes, like Jessica Aguilar, Bec Rawlings and Miesha Tate. there are upcoming fighters like CM Punk, hall of famers like Royce Gracie and Bas Rutten, and even guys like Mike Tyson and Bruce Lee for fantasy fight setups. Granted, the roster has a bit of padding due to some fighters occupying a few different weight classes, but it still feels like a very hefty lineup of fighters.

The prior game in the series was criticized for having too few modes, but UFC 2 seems to do a better job on that front. For the most part, the online modes remain unchanged. Ranked and player matches are still present, as is the ability to specifically fight against friends as long as the matches are between fighters in the same weight class. Finding an opponent is rather painless, but the online performance remains the same as it did during the previous game's launch. Most of the time, the performance is smooth, but you encounter stutters now and then. The hiccups don't mess up commands, so you're not going to throw phantom punches and kicks at inopportune moments. Overall, it's good but could be better.

Offline is where you'll find the bulk of the new modes. Versus mode is pretty self-explanatory, as is practice mode, where you can modify your opponent's behavior for better training. Skill Challenges act as tutorials and minigames designed to drill you with fight basics and nuances. In Live Events, you can try to predict the outcomes of upcoming UFC events, and you can also create your own event. There's also a knockouts mode, where all you need to do to score a win is to hit your opponent the required number of times to make them fall. This is a great mode for those who want quick matches where stamina has no effect.

Career makes a return as one of the game's bigger offline modes, and there are some improvements. The most apparent one is the ability to create a female fighter, but even male fighters have more customization options, including the ability to apply and create tattoos. Once you customize your look and select your weight class, you'll go through a few rounds of The Ultimate Fighter before finally making your way to the UFC proper.

As far as streamlining goes, the game lets you simulate your training sessions between fights instead of having you skip them without benefits. The catch is that you have to play through the sessions before you can simulate them, and the grade you get is also how your simulated session would go. It can be annoying to do if you want to concentrate on one discipline, like striking or submissions, but it seems like a fair compromise otherwise.

Compared to the previous career mode, this one feels more fleshed out since it monitors things other than the fights. Training may give you boosts, but it also introduces the risk of injury. The injuries aren't enough to make you skip fights, but if you're unlucky, you can come into a fight with lower-than-desired stats. Also, your performance in each fight affects your overall toughness, which determines how long you'll stay active before being forced to retire. You can extend things if you start as an 18-year-old, but if you win fights while getting mauled by your opponent almost every time, you'll end up retiring much earlier than you'd like.

Interestingly, the removal of most of the live-action footage from the last game doesn't make the mode better. You may be free from having to see bland pep talks by some of the real-life fighters, but at least the videos gave you an abstract personal narrative. Here, nothing you do really gets much fanfare, so winning a championship match is treated with the same reverence as winning a regular match. Considering the things that occur outside of the Octagon and how other sports games are starting to handle these aspects, it would be nice to see this title follow suit.

The other big mode is Ultimate Team, now a staple for any EA Sports game. Even though the actual bouts are one-on-one affairs, the mode lives up to the team moniker by letting you build up to five fighters in any weight class. From there, you'll send them into either online or offline fights, each with their own championships to earn and defend. In both situations, you'll square off against other people's creations, so you won't come up against someone using an established pro. Your wins and losses aren't just covered for each individual fighter but as a group, so you'll either feed into or take points away from an overall ranking system that determines the level of competition you'll get. The trading card system is also present in this title, but instead of getting new fighters in each pack, you'll get new moves for your fighters as well as stat boosts, both of the temporary and permanent varieties.

Even though it mirrors Career mode pretty closely, Ultimate Team is the offline mode that players will spend the most time on. Part of that comes from the ability to earn coins all the time, so it doesn't take long before you can earn enough to buy packs and make your roster stronger by improving your fighters. Another advantage is that it doesn't have the extra requirements of Career mode. There are no forced training sessions to go through, so you can jump into more fights at a faster pace and no forced retirement, so you can keep going with your favorite created fighter as long as you want.

The graphics were certainly a highlight of the previous game, and things have been tweaked in UFC 2 to make them better. The fighters look even more like their real-life counterparts. The sway of their trunks and hair movement look more fluid, and there are fewer instances of them clipping into the body or the mat. The skin textures also have great detail, especially after a fight, when you see the bruises, cuts and sweat. Speaking of which, the damage system remains a hallmark of the title, as the bruising and reddening of skin are more gradual while blood and sweat from a hit splatters against the mat — and even on to the fighters. Elsewhere, the arenas are more distinct, with little touches like the LED rings in the Staples Center, and the crowds look better when the camera zooms in after a fight. The only flaw is in the frame rate in the intros. In particular, the frame rate stumbles when the camera transitions between the wide shot of the Octagon to the fighters walking in, but it is rock-solid everywhere else.

Likewise, the sound has also seen some improvements. The soundtrack features more original tracks from EA than licensed ones, including a few instrumental themes from Fight Night Champion. None of the included songs are themes used by the fighters in real life, but they fit nicely. The voices and effects take center stage, so there are lots of calls from the audience and coaches throughout the fight, and it helps to pull the player into the moment. The sounds of leather hitting flesh or bodies getting slammed on the mat are crisp, and the commentary from Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan sounds as natural as it does in every TV broadcast and pay-per-view event. Things go into overdrive once you land a killer blow. The deep thud of a hard hit makes everything go frantic, as the crowd gets whipped into a frenzy and both commentators become just as excited as the fans. These are the moments that more casual MMA fans will recognize, and hearing that executed perfectly is the hallmark of the audio portion of the game.

EA Sports UFC 2 is a perfect example of how to capitalize on a mostly solid start. Even though it could still use additional improvements, the fighting system remains solid, and the tweaks make it more accessible to those who aren't well versed in fighting games. The presentation has been improved to make it even more impressive on all fronts, but the amount of modes give the game some longevity beyond online play. It isn't perfect, but it certainly is one of the better representations of an MMA game, so fighting fans of all types should check it out.

Score: 8.0/10

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