EA Sports UFC 2
EA Sports’ debut game with the UFC license in 2014 was a good first attempt, but problems with the ground game and a barebones infrastructure prevented it from remaining interesting in the long term. With myriad improvements to both the feature set and the core gameplay, UFC 2 takes the series from prospect to contender in just its second entry.
The core gameplay carries over into UFC 2, but refinements small and large improve the experience. A key criticism of UFC 1 was how the ground and clinch games played, but a revamp of those mechanics has evolved the exchange beyond the unrealistic turn-based structure. Fighters can now move and pass independently. This results in more fluid struggles, with success determined not only by stamina, but also fighter stats and ease of execution from the current positions.
The HUD tells you exactly what each motion on the right stick does during these engagements, making these interactions more accessible. As someone who struggled with grasping those areas in the last game, this helped me feel confident in taking the fight to the ground.
The standup game was the last UFC’s strongpoint, and though the improvements in this area are less noticeable, landing punches, knees, and kicks feels as satisfying as ever. With more realistic physics that capture the brutality of each knockout, I often caught myself yelling excitedly – as if I was watching a UFC fight at a bar with friends.
With UFC 2, the mode suite has been given an overhaul as well. Career now includes more options for fighter development, including a fun risk/reward balance to training where if you train too hard, you increase the likelihood of an injury. Random variables can also affect your training, like an irresponsible TV series binge or a more focused coach. While it was always annoying to have my fighter act in a self-sabotaging manner outside of my control, it was enjoyable to see what wildcard elements popped up to affect the upcoming bout.
The fighters you encounter in career feel more unique to face, making for a less repetitive experience. I love the thrill of creating a character and working your way up the ranks to challenge the top real names in the UFC. Because of the massive roster of over 250 licensed athletes, emerging from the droves of EA-created characters happens much earlier, making for a better experience.
Unfortunately, competing for a belt before your career reaches its twilight is difficult. With a meter that forces you into retirement as you accumulate a certain level of damage over your career, even when I was 18-3, I was still only narrowly able to compete for a belt. You can push the retirement marker further down the spectrum by earning more fans, but you can’t turn it off or slow it down. Unless you’re extremely dominant, your fighter can be forced into retirement before you get into the best parts of the mode.
The other big addition is the Ultimate Team mode, a standard offering in EA Sports’ FIFA and Madden series. Unlike those versions, UFC’s take has you create five fighters to form a team and open packs of cards using coins you either earn or buy to upgrade those fighters with moves, attribute boosts, and more. To earn coins, you can take the fight online to face off against other created fighters, or play single-player against A.I. versions of created fighters.
The grind of upgrading your fighters is much slower in Ultimate Team than it is in career mode, but you accumulate currency at a reasonable rate as long as you win online and complete the daily objectives. However, the most exciting part of this mode in Madden and FIFA – opening a pack to find your favorite real-world player – is absent, since this mode is based on upgrading created fighters rather than building a team of real stars. Still, opening a pack to find a powerful move to plug a hole in your best fighter’s game is fun, but unless I want to take my developed fighters online, I’ll probably stick with career mode for the long-haul.
For quicker experiences, I enjoyed playing the Live Events and Custom Events modes. Live Events scratches the pick ‘em itch by letting you choose who you think will win in the real UFC fight cards and seeing how you fare against other players and friends across the globe. I enjoyed testing my fandom of the UFC against others across the world and seeing how my knowledge stacked up.
Custom Events lets you schedule your own night of fights, customizing it down to how many rounds and the referee in charge of each match. It was always fun to stack a card with as many big name bouts as I could, then play through it in one seamless presentation that feels more like I’m watching a pay-per-view event than the single fight structure of other modes.
Fans of the series’ exemplary standup game will love the new Knockout mode. Fighters trade blows using a fixed health bar like in a traditional fighting game with no threat of takedowns. Every successful strike – save for leg kicks and jabs – drops your health bar, while defensive parries replenish a segment. One match saw me down to my last piece of health, while my opponent had three remaining. I parried his knockout blow, which gave me another segment, and then with the opening created by that parry, I landed a fast three-punch combo to comeback for an exciting victory that brought me to my feet. Moments like that are common in this mode, which makes it ideal for local play, but it is disappointingly unavailable online.
The online offerings of UFC 2 are fairly standard for a combat sport game, as you can choose to fight in quick matches or go for a title in ranked championships by stringing together wins. One good idea introduced is a dynamic list of featured fighters, which is designed to tempt players away from constantly using the five or six athletes you constantly run into through bonuses to your meter that determines what division you fight in. You can also initiate online rivalries, which track stats specific to the rivalry to provide a fun way to establish a long history against your friends.
UFC 2 improves over its predecessor in the ways it needed to. The improved ground game and deeper career mode are the biggest draws, but Knockout mode is a blast to play with a friend, and Ultimate Team offers a unique twist on the popular mode from other sports games. If 2014’s EA Sports UFC was a promise being made, UFC 2 is its deliverance.
EA Sports UFC 2 builds impressively on the foundation laid by its predecessor.