EA Sports UFC 4 is set to release on PS4 and Xbox One on August 14, 2020, and in the lead up to launch EA has been showing off a huge collection of changes players can expect to find. I recently had a chance to sit down and talk specifically about gameplay changes with Creative Director Brian Hayes, and the common themes surrounding those changes are accessibility and intuitive controls.
I’ve played every EA Sports UFC game released and, in one way or another, enjoyed them all. Typically, I spend most of my time in the Career Mode, but I always dabble with the online components when I get a bit bored of fighting the AI. As an average player at best, this never lasts and ultimately leads to me putting the game down for good. I’m usually comfortable with stand-up fighting, but I’ve struggled against the Khabib’s of the video game MMA world in the clinch. I can get up off the ground, or defend a submission, but the wrestling and BJJ specialists in that space snap my limbs like twigs.
The problem isn’t that I don’t know what to do; I’ve been watching MMA as a hardcore fan for more than a decade and can tell you what guard someone is using, identify submissions by name, and explain the importance of under hooks in the clinch. What I struggle with is the connection between my brain and elaborate button inputs previously required to be successful online. Well, if the developers deliver on their intentions, things should get much better for the average player come August 14.
Take the clinch for example. Previously, getting out or even maintaining a clinch required pressing certain buttons to try and escape, and if you wanted to maintain the clinch, timing a block properly. As Hayes explains, this will be replaced by the Real Player Motion technology from EA that utilizes locomotion.
Although I’ve yet to go hands-on with UFC 4, this sounds like a major improvement. When you’re in a fight the last thing you should be doing is overthinking. That’s how you get punched in the face. With more intuitive controls, players should now be able to focus more on striking or blocking in the clinch, and less on spamming button inputs to get out or block escapes. This intuitive design extends to the ground game and submissions where the developers have overhauled the previous system with two new submission mini games, one for chokes and one for joints.
This solves one of my major complaints about the old system that would see players chaotically spamming inputs in all directions. As Hayes pointed out, this is the opposite of what an actual BJJ instructor would teach someone.
As I outlined previously in my EA Sports UFC 4 preview, even getting up off the ground or initiating one of the submission mini games will be easier, only requiring a single button to kick things off. This should help players who struggled with the clinch and ground game feel more at home with the controls and keep them from getting frustrated, but it doesn’t mean that inexperienced players are suddenly going to come in and start tapping the game’s best and most experienced virtual fighters.
Everything I’ve heard about UFC 4 so far has me hopeful average players will find a less frustrating time when they play each other, but elite virtual face punchers shouldn’t worry. As Hayes says, “It’s an ocean and they’re the sharks.” Thankfully, flash knockouts are still a thing, so you could always hope to pull a Michael Bisping when he snatched the Middleweight belt from Luke Rockhold, right?
EA Sports UFC 4 will release on August 14, 2020 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and Shacknews will post a full review of the game.