Developer: EA Vancouver
Publisher: EA Sports
Genre: Sports Simulation
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: 16
Release Date: 14-08-2020
A code was provided for review purposes
Are You Ready?
It’s tiiiiiiime, to take a look at UFC 4 from EA Sports. As a longtime fan of sports games, it was an honour to be able to review of copy of UFC 4.
I put a lot of hours into UFC 4, and sadly never got a chance to play the third instalment but was all too eager to dive in again. I understand that sports games are not for everybody, possibly more so than any other genre out there. Yet, they do have a depth and a pull, but it is unlike many other titles.
So, what was it like stepping into the octagon again? Did I have fun slugging it out as Kimbo Slice or was I knocked down more times than Michael Bisping? Keep reading to find out.
The Sights and Sounds of Fight Night
As you would expect from an EA title, they have invested a lot in the realism of the sport. They put a lot of effort into making their titles realistic and as close to the real thing as possible. From my perspective, they have done a very good job of achieving this. I don’t know every single fighter on the UFC roster, but know enough to be able to recognize them from their images, or in this case, from their characters. The level of detail that has gone into the mechanics of the game is impressive.
The octagon has a look to it, and for anybody who has watched UFC, that panning view that comes in and over the top of the cage giving you a full spectrum view of the fighters is a classic shot and is captured well in the game. It pulls you into the fight atmosphere.
As always, I have one core gripe with any sports game, and that is the commentary and the audio sounds. It’s hard because well, the commentary is commentary, and crowd noises are crowd noises. It’s hard to get creative and keep it real. The more you play the game the more the commentary starts to loop and while it may be harsh to be critical on this point, it does need to be mentioned. Just understand that there is a limit to what can be recorded. Not including the work involved from programming specific phrases to different in-game events or moments. Things can get incredibly complex very fast.
Let’s Get it On
When it comes to a game like UFC 4 there is going to be a lot of repetition. After all, you’re playing a game that is centred around octagon fights. You get in the cage, fight, win, lose or draw, and then move on to the next fight. Very much the lather, rinse and repeat kind of video gaming.
Having put a lot of hours into playing UFC 4 I can say that EA Sports have done a very good job at keeping things interesting and entertaining. They do this through various means and game modes.
A Fighter’s Career is a Rocky Road
For the majority of my time with UFC 4, I was in the career mode. Why? Because I figured it would be the experience that gave me the most gameplay and continuity while still giving me the experience of the other modes. I did try them all and will mention them a bit further down.
So, I set about trying to create a fighter that looked like Minoru Suzuki because, well, it’s Suzuki and no more requirements are needed. However, I just went with some of the presets and after a while went in my own direction anyway. With my fighter, Justice Takagi, ready for action, he laced up his heavyweight boots and found a trainer.
No, it’s not Virgil from WWF/E fame.
A Career Mode That Just Fell Short
I liked the early part of the game, where you’re fighting these back-alley fights and grinding your way alone, just trying to survive. It was fun just being thrown into things – yes, there are tutorials and a training manual, but not for career mode itself. You load it up and you go straight into your first fight. This makes it tough for those just starting their UFC adventure. Sure, the basic buttons are simple. X & Y mean punch, A & B mean kick. But the game mechanics go much deeper than that.
I enjoyed the cut scenes with your trainer and the pep talks. What I dislike is how they just seemed to disappear. I wander the UFC challenger series and went straight into the big leagues. From that moment on there was no real interaction with your trainer. There was no real story, and anything to make you think your character was a real person. Yes, there are social media posts, and now and then, if you’re lucky you can respond to one, but that’s it. I can’t help but feel more could be done here to make things more interesting. Looking at the Journey in FIFA, there was more detail and more life to your character. If that same degree of story was brought into UFC, then the career mode will be all the greater.
Goodbye to Button Bashing
If you think you can get anywhere in this game by button bashing, then you are in for a rude awakening. You will find yourself getting knocked out quicker than Ben Askren. When it comes to an MMA game like UFC 4, you first need to understand that this isn’t like a boxing game. It isn’t like a wrestling game, and it isn’t a fighting game like Street Fighter.
You need to box, kick, grapple and submit your way to victory. Master different punches, kicks and combinations. Learn when to shoot for a takedown and what to do once you get to the mat. Move into position, throw hands, look to get them to tap? There’s always something to be aware of, and then, on top of that, there is a strong chance of a flash knockout. If you make the wrong move and your opponent counters perfectly, you will hit the deck and not get back up. It could be in the first or the last second. This game can be ruthless.
Multiple Ways to Grow your Character
What I did enjoy with UFC 4 were the undoubted RPG elements that filled the career mode. Ahead of each fight, you had a training camp. Within this camp you had to manage your fighter’s fitness levels, through sparring sessions, handle fight promotions, cultivate relationships with other fighters, research your opponent, and learn from other fighters.
Sparring not only brought up your fitness but rewarded you with XP points that could be spent to upgrade skills, from strike power and speed to grappling and takedown defence. You also gain star ratings for each of your strikes and combos, and to further add to the finer intricacies of character growth, you could learn new moves. This is done by studying against other fighters. You spend training points and money to invite them over and learn a single move.
I like how this worked and allowed me to build a fighter that fought to my strengths. I could choose the moves and practice them in sparring sessions ready to unleash in the next fight. This adds a degree of strategy to the game. Combine that with understanding the different styles and changing your approach from fight to fight based on the research you have done on your opponent, and you have a technical game with good depth.
Online and Offline Modes
Aside from the career mode, you have, of course, the standard offline modes, where you can pick from a roster of characters, featuring many big names from past and present. I enjoyed this but of course, not all fighters have the same move sets, so button combinations needed to be figured out as you went. I did like setting up my own cards and tournaments and enjoyed watching things unfold, but beneath it, the actual gameplay is the same as mentioned above.
Online mode is the one I played the least, not just because I got my ass handed to me a few times, but because I had some connectivity issues – on my side – that caused me a few headaches. I will go back and try my hand again but feel I lack the skill to survive in the online MMA world.
Not a Knockout but it Didn’t Make Me Tap Either
UFC 4 is a fun game. It is a good game, but it is not a perfect game. I had a few soft locks and a full crash at one point, but to be honest, I can overlook those things for the most part. They were few and far between. A larger roster of fighters would have been nice. I mean, over the years there have been a lot of men step into that octagon. Of course, there’s a balance, and perhaps some – like the Tyson Fury – Anthony Joshua pack – will be released as DLC content.
As mentioned earlier, a more interactive Career mode, a bit of story and character behind your fighter would be nice. You have to give interviews as part of your fight camp promotions, so why not give you some questions to answer and a few cut scenes? There’s a lot of room for improvement. That said, however, I enjoyed my time with the game and enjoyed mastering the different combat styles and move-set combinations.
If you are a fan of fighting games, then this is a title to check out. There’s a lot of fun to be had, and if you have a few controllers, there are hours of fun to be had unloading on your friends and seeing who can make who tap first.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can get your copy of UFC 4 from the Microsoft Store today.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.