One of the games conspicuously absent from EA's recent EA Play press conference at E3 was the next UFC game. While EA has not officially announced a successor to 2016's EA Sports UFC 2 (shown) in a financial report earlier this year, CEO Andrew Wilson talked about "a new chapter of our UFC franchise" for the fiscal year (ending in March 2018). Anticipating a full-fledged UFC 3 on the horizon (and that Wilson wasn't referring to a mobile title, for instance), my colleague Brian Shea has written up his wishlist for the next entry's career mode.

Brian also breaks down how UFC 2 has kept up with its promise of a living roster via updates to make sure gamers can play with the best fighters in the real-life sport.

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EA Sports' UFC 2 in 2016 flirted with greatness after a shallow debut entry. With solid gameplay, a thrilling knockout mode, an entertaining Live Events mode, and a fun Ultimate Team mode, UFC 2 provided a strong experience overall.

However, as much as I like the game, the career mode left me underwhelmed. Here are five things I'd love to see developer EA Canada do to make this destination mode better.

Cinematic The Ultimate Fighter Content 

UFC 2's career mode is all about your custom fighter's meteoric rise through the rankings. Over the course of your career, you fight living legends and other up-and-comers on your path to the belt. However, every fighter has a story on how they got to the UFC.

In UFC 2's career mode, you enter through The Ultimate Fighter, UFC's reality show. As such, your first set of fights take place on the show, with some scattered fanfare meant to mimic the presentation of TUF. EA Sports' big push with its higher-selling franchises as of late has been cinematic stories. What better way to bring that trend to EA Sports' UFC series than with an extended cinematic narrative in The Ultimate Fighter?

While the core of The Ultimate Fighter is the fights that take place each episode, drama abounds as type-A personalities are forced to live in the same house for weeks. Over the course of any given season, we see arguments, dumb pranks, and even coach fights as the fighters cope with being thrown into a living situation with their rivals on the show.

In UFC 2, we get through The Ultimate Fighter content really before you even have a chance to understand what's at stake for your fighter. In the real-world, this show is a do-or-die scenario; as far as the fighters are concerned, this is their one shot to make their dreams come true. I'd love to see the in-game version give us something along those same lines.

Once you wrap up your stint on TUF, the cinematic content can move into the background, but don't let it fade away completely. One of the biggest trends in the UFC today is playing up the drama of each fight. With larger-than-life personalities constantly at each other's throats, let players call out an opponent they want to face in a post-fight Octagon interview with Joe Rogan, or let players talk smack at a press event, or get too physical at the weigh ins. The UFC is more about the personalities than it has ever been before, and it's time for the game to reflect that.

Take Away the Failsafe 

Going hand-in-hand with additional The Ultimate Fighter content, I'd love for EA Canada to strip away the failsafes from career mode. Sure, in UFC 2, you might never obtain the belt, but if you lose your qualifying fight to get into The Ultimate Fighter house, you have no choice but to play the fight back. I want that gone.

If I lose my qualifying fight to get into the TUF house, make me find another way to get into the UFC. It might take a couple of years off my time in the UFC, but maybe I need to go fight in a local promotion for a couple of years until I'm so dominant that Dana White has to take notice. UFC 2 already has a "short notice" mechanic where you can accept a big fight with an abbreviated training time. Why not extend that to players stuck in their local promotions? So many fighters get their big break that way, and it would be great to have multiple avenues with which to enter MMA's biggest stage.

Better Career Pacing 

In the multiple times I played through the career, I felt rushed as I tried to ascend the ranks before my custom fighter aged out and the game made them retire. Even when I set to the easiest difficulty for the sake of going undefeated and making history, I was barely able to get a few title defenses on my resume before father time came for me.

This is in stark contrast to how fighters today elevate to the highest level. Sure, some fighters don't get that title shot until late in their careers, but men's bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt is currently 25 years old. When Jon Jones became the light heavyweight champion, he was only 23 years old. Of course, Jones was the youngest champion in UFC history, but being able to elevate to the highest level faster would do wonders for the overall pacing of the career.

Real Training Camps 

In UFC 2, EA introduced us to training camps. In this addition, you improve your fighter in specific categories based on which drills you choose to emphasize. One thing I really liked was the potential to over-train, which could result in a performance-hindering injury. I'd like to see this mechanic taken to the next level.

Give players the option to attend real-life training camps. Let my fighter align himself with American Top Team, or do a camp with Jackson-Wink. Each camp could have specific bonuses based on their specialties, and could even grant other bonuses based on how local the camp is and how loyal you are to the team.

I'd also love to see real athletes and coaches from those camps holding mitts or even sparring with you. It would be great to see legends like Uriah Faber coaching your fighter on striking, or Matt Serra getting you ready for a war on the ground. Though the glory is found in the Octagon, so much of the fight game is in the preparation. Shine a spotlight on that.

Special Traits for Special Fighters 

Remember how electric it was watching Anderson Silva annihilate any challengers during his record-breaking run as champion? What about how dominant Joanna Jędrzejczyk currently is? How about the way Demetrious Johnson has the unbelievable ability to make nearly any other fighter look like they're moving in slow-motion? I want a better system in the game to emphasize these special fighters.

It's already daunting enough for your custom character to get their first title shot against one of these titans of the sport, but think about how intimidating it would be to step into the Octagon knowing that the other fighter also has that "it" factor. Give fighters with heavy hands like Mark Hunt and Conor McGregor a flash-knockout modifier, while ground ninjas like Demian Maia could have a modifier that lets them advance on their position faster or get chokes in tighter.

Something like this would force you to think about the best ways to avoid playing into their strengths, but it would also be great to have flashy fighters like Yair Rodriguez or Anthony Pettis come equipped with a modifier that lets them perform more over-the-top strikes that get the crowd on their side and encourage the UFC to feature them more prominently on the main cards due to their popularity.

It doesn't have to stop with the MMA mainstays, either. Let my custom character earn a badge or two through career or attribute milestones. Maybe I reach a level of proficiency in Brazilian jiu-jitsu; reward me with the deep submissions modifier. While this has the potential to imbalance the game if done poorly, a strong implementation could lead to an infinitely deeper experience.

THE UFC 2 ROSTER AUDIT 

One thing the team at EA Sports promised was continuous roster updates. The team told me when they visited our office before the release of UFC 2 that they would work closely with the UFC to learn about which prospects they should put in the game. With that in mind, I went in with high expectations for the living roster of UFC 2. Now that we're nearly 16 months into its lifecycle, I wanted to do a quick audit of how EA Sports has delivered on that particular aspect.

I took the current UFC rankings for each division and went through to see which fighters the game was missing between the champions and the top 15 in each division. You can see the results below.

Missing from Pound-for-Pound Rankings:

No fighters

Accuracy: 15/15 - 100%

Missing from Women's Strawweight:

13. Cortney Casey

14. Cynthia Calvillo

Accuracy: 14/16 - 87.5%

Notes: No. 4 women's strawweight contender Jessica Andrade is in UFC 2, but assigned to women's bantamweight

Missing from Women's Bantamweight:

12. Ketlen Vieira

13. Katlyn Chookagian

Accuracy: 14/16 - 87.5%

Notes: The women's bantamweight division also includes popular women's featherweight fighter Cris Cyborg since UFC 2 does not feature the newly added women's featherweight UFC division

Missing from Flyweight:

7. Brandon Moreno

8. Ben Nguyen

12. Tim Elliott

14. Alexandre Pantoja

15. Magomed Bibulatov

Accuracy: 11/16 - 68.75%

Missing from Men's Bantamweight:

10. Marlon Moraes

11. Pedro Munhoz

13. Matthew Lopez

14. Rob Font

Accuracy: 12/16 - 75%

Missing from Featherweight:

11. Renato Moicano

Accuracy: 15/16 - 93.75%

Missing from Lightweight:

7. Kevin Lee

14. Francisco Trinaldo

Accuracy: 14/16 - 87.5%

Missing from Welterweight:

9. Colby Covington

12. Kamaru Usman

14. Santiago Ponzinibbio

Accuracy: 13/16 - 81.25%

Notes: No. 10 welterweight contender Rafael Dos Anjos is in UFC 2, but assigned to the lightweight division

Missing from Middleweight:

9. David Branch

10. Krzysztof Jotko

Accuracy: 14/16 - 87.5%

Missing from Light Heavyweight:

4. Volkan Oezdemir

8. Misha Cirkunov

12. Tyson Pedro

15. Gadzhimurad Antigulov

Accuracy: 12/16 - 75%

Missing from Heavyweight:

5. Francis Ngannou

8. Alexander Volkov

11. Marcin Tybura

12. Tim Johnson

15. Daniel Omielanczuk

Accuracy: 11/16 - 68.75%

Overall:

Accuracy: 130/160 - 81.25%

Taking into consideration only the real-world top 15 contenders plus each division's champion, UFC 2 has done a solid job of keeping the roster up to date even after all these months. The biggest surprise omissions are probably Kevin Lee, Francis Ngannou, and the contestants that came out of The Ultimate Fighter 24, but those fighters have all burst onto the scene relatively recently.

In addition to these athletes, each division features multiple fighters not in the rankings, including former champion Jon Jones, recently retired fighters like Dan Henderson, Uriah Faber, and Anthony Johnson, and legends like Chuck Liddell, Bas Rutten, and Royce Gracie (some of whom are DLC characters). Throw in some bonus character DLC inclusions like Bruce Lee, Mike Tyson, and Joe Rogan, and UFC 2's massive roster is still strong nearly 16 months later.

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Have a suggestion or comment? Put it in the comments section below, send me an email, or reach me on twitter at @mattkato.

 

THE GOLF CLUB 2 REVIEW – FINDING THE SWEET SPOT 

Developer HB Studios is back with a new Golf Club title that not only fills out the first title's anemic features suite, but delivers excellent golf gameplay. The game is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and has a fleshed out career mode and online golf societies complete with grandiose clubhouses, major events, plenty of customization options, and an easy-to-use course creator. Check out my review here.

 

THE TICKER
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week

The Steep Extreme Pack DLC is Now Available 
The DLC is the last addition in the season pass (it's also available separately for $9.99) and includes Rocket Wings, Speed Riding, and BASE Jumping. For more on the base game, here's my review