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EA Sports UFC 5

Platform(s): PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Oct. 27, 2023


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PS5 Review - 'EA Sports UFC 5'

by Redmond Carolipio on Nov. 23, 2023 @ 2:15 a.m. PST

EA Sports UFC 5 is the next installment of the MMA fighting franchise, and lets you step back into the Octagon as a variety of celebrities.

One of the more vivid instances of " leveling up" that keeps popping into my head is the second UFC fight between then-heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou, a man who can punch the soul out of your body. In their first fight in 2018, Miocic spent five rounds negating and neutralizing Ngannou's power by taking him to the ground, where Ngannou didn't really have any answers at the time, and therefore, no way to escape. Miocic grinded his way to a win.

But the second fight, three years later? Different story. Ngannou used the years to build himself some wrestling and ground defense, enough to keep Miocic standing up and engage in a firefight Miocic wasn't going to win. Ngannou got the KO victory (and the championship). I 'd expected to see a similar evolution with EA Sports UFC 5, especially since it came a few years after UFC 4, which I greatly enjoyed.

Well, Francis Ngannou isn't in the UFC anymore ... and that level change I was looking for isn't in this game, either.

It's not that there aren't any improvements and differences at all in UFC 5; it's just that you can see most of them within the first hour or so, and then it's practically the same title from a few years ago. There are the same game modes, same feel to the career mode, and not much more beyond the ability to roll around in the Octagon with a thick roster of UFC fighters.

However, those fighters ... man, do they look good. UFC 5's visual presentation is easily its strongest asset. These are some of the best-looking athlete models I 've ever seen, down to the facial expressions, tattoos and body types (some are perhaps more toned than their real-life counterparts, though). It also managed to nail and faithfully replicate most of the aspects of a real UFC broadcast, down to ring walks, entrances, and Bruce Buffer yelling "It's tiiiiiiime! " as the lights in the T-Mobile Arena or some other venue change. So much of the full UFC experience goes beyond the action inside the Octagon, and the fact that UFC 5 presents enough of these elements well enough to occasionally build that feeling of real anticipation heading into a fight is quite the feat.

When the action is actually inside the cage, two other things stand out: The new focus on body damage and injuries (which can cause the doctor to step in and end the fight, AKA a doctor stoppage) and the cinematic, slow-motion replay you see when you send your opponent into the darkness with a knockout. In addition to the body injury system adding a sense of actual blood and visceral physicality to a fight, it adds a dimension of strategy. Now when you cut your opponent or damage his or her eye or nose (or turn their legs different colors with calf and leg kicks), you can target that area and make it worse. I 've managed to force a doctor stoppage only once so far, when I essentially broke an opponent's nose and basically turned their face into a bruised, bloody mess. The doctor jumped in, took a look at a protesting fighter, and then essentially told the ref yea or nay. You can also get the full impact of the body damage system when you're caught in one of those five-round, deep-water wars when both fighters are in need of new faces.

Knockouts are kind of a fun (and sometimes morbidly funny) thing in UFC 5. When you knock out someone cold, the replay dims the lights and shows your KO from a variety of angles — and close enough so you can see flesh tremble ripple from the impact. Most of the time, it's a satisfying thing of beauty. Sometimes, though, the physics get away from everything, and opponents sometimes drop goofily like a bag of bones — as if someone dropped a fake skeleton from the ceiling.

Also, while I extolled the virtues of the TV and fight presentation, it doesn't nail everything, and there are things I thought would've been implemented in some form or fashion over the course of several years of development — and I admit, some of this might be pie-in-the-sky stuff.

I 'm sure there are legal ramifications for this, but the lack of fighters ' actual ring-walk entrance music sort of bothered me. If you're going to have Jon Jones enter, I need to hear "The champ is here! " If you're going to have Conor roll in there, it 'd be cool to get the man's whole entrance, like the Irish preamble leading into "Hypnotize. " Also, can we have a post-KO reaction camera from the commentary table? That's been a staple of UFC programming for years. Where the hell is Megan Olivi delivering a flawless snippet about a fighter's backstory as they walk to the Octagon? Can we have rotating commentary teams like NBA 2K? I love Jon Anik and DC, but Joe Rogan, Dominick Cruz, Paul Felder and a few other fighters handle commentary on all fight desks ... why not hear from them? There's a lot of meat left on the bone in terms of experience replication, and I 'm just a little disappointed that it wasn't nibbled on more.

Unfortunately, while I still enjoyed much of this experience, I could not shake the aura of sameness in UFC 5 from the previous game. Out of a sense of sports-game tradition, I dove into the career mode, and its formula remains practically untouched from before. The odd cut scene is new, but the act of grinding forward and building your fighter is exactly the same: You get a fight offer, use your handful of training camp weeks to build up the fighter, promote the fight, and improve your skills. Rinse and repeat. Even the menu formats look the same. Again, it's been several years since UFC 4, and this is what we're getting?

There isn't too much else to explore beyond the career mode and regular fight modes without getting into the more gimmicky aspects of the package. When I was playing UFC 4, I enjoyed the changeup that the Kumite and Backyard modes brought, especially since one of UFC 4's cover athletes, Jorge Masvidal, started as a backyard brawler. Three years later in UFC 5, those modes are back ... and also feel almost exactly the same.

To my chagrin, EA Sports UFC 5 feels like a mega-update to UFC 4 that flexes the muscles of the Frostbite engine and the PS5 for the sake of visuals and not much else. The score I 'm giving the game is out of respect for the slightly tweaked but still intricate fighting system that's flexible enough for people of all skill levels and time availability to enjoy. Also, it really does look fantastic, and would probably be a solid library addition for fans who haven't played any of the previous UFC titles and want a way in. For me, this wasn't the level change I 'd hoped for, and I can only hope there 'll be some newer pieces in the next one.

Score: 6.2/10

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