"Where do we go from here?" EA Sports was probably asking itself after it plucked the UFC franchise from THQ's hands before its bankruptcy-driven closure. Indeed, that company's Undisputed brand reached a certain peak by the third chapter, throwing everything a die-hard fighting fan could possibly want into its digital folds. EA Sports now finds itself with a hard legacy to overcome, especially given the debut on the new generation of consoles. Fortunately, EA Sports UFC is a step in the right direction, and well on its way to becoming a contender like the one THQ created.
You'll go through a tutorial when you first get started in the game. This'll walk you through the general fighting and ground-and-pound game, as well as how to make your opponent submit. The only downside to it is that you're then thrown into a fight against an opponent who's (usually) too good for you to practice your wares. EA Sports probably should've skipped this step, but all is not lost.
After going through the basics, you'll want to step into the Career Mode. It's here that UFC's fighting system really comes together, and you begin to realize what works so well about it. EA Sports managed to dial in most of Undisputed's fighting system on its own terms, and it shows in the general combat. The punches and kicks, combined with a power modifier, really show some impact here, and the ground-and-pound game isn't bad either, although, with its icon system, it's not difficult to take advantage of a weakened opponent and earn the quick tap-out. (Plus you can get revenge on the doofus who kicked your butt earlier.)
Modes aplenty, and let's go online
The career mode isn't heavily deep, and I prefer Undisputed 3's open league set-up over this routine one, but it is a good starting place for the plethora of online options that await. Here, you can set up dream matches and take on players either locally or online. I had no problem getting into skirmishes with other players, with no lag to speak of. Kudos to EA Sports for getting this part of the game right, because, honestly, this is going to be the whole world for certain players out there. Especially those playing as Bruce Lee once he's unlocked. Who dares defeat the dragon?!
One other mode players will want to take advantage of is create-a-fighter. Here, there are a number of modifications you can make to your warrior, giving them a bizarre look or going for something a bit more legendary, like your own version of GSP. It's certainly suitable when it comes to recreating yourself, although it can be a long process if you want something specific. To some, though, it'll make all the difference.
It's all in the presentation
EA Sports really shines with UFC when it comes to presentation. This is a mostly solid representation of the sport, from the cheering crowds to watching a fighter wince in pain once he takes too many hits to a certain area, such as the head. Sometimes the hits can look a bit weak (particularly in the ground-and-pound), but overall, this representation of the sport deserves a thumbs up. Plus, those replays could probably even fool Dana White.
During some renderings, the fighters can look a little weird (like GSP if you get too close). Still, this isn't a mistake that happens too often, and most of the time, the fighters don't look half bad. Plus, the animations, particularly the flying kicks, are pretty beastly. The deformations when delivering a punch looked realistic enough.
With audio, EA Sports decided to go with a somewhat lackluster soundtrack ("Dragons" again?!), but make up for it with running commentary with Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan. Like with their past games, these guys provide operating chemistry that works, right down to the surprise "OHHHHHH!" reactions from a quick knock-out. There are times it can wander off course, but it never gets to the point of annoyance.
A good starting point
EA Sports UFC may not be as fully fleshed out as UFC Undisputed 3 was, but it's a splendid starting point for what could be a powerhouse franchise for the team. The gameplay dials most of the right numbers, even with the simplified ground game, and the presentation nails the sport's authenticity, right down to that painful tap-out. It'll obviously get places in a few years, but for now, it's got just the right amount of appeal to knock fans out.
RATING: 7 (out of 10)
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 retail copy provided by the publisher. EA Sports UFC is available now for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It is rated T for Teen.