EA Sports has a lot to live up to since taking over the UFC license from THQ. The first entry into the EA Spots UFC series built a great foundation for the future of the series but even though they took a step forward into making EA Sports UFC as beloved as their fight night series. They ended up also taking two steps back.
The visuals in UFC 2 are top notch, and it is what we’ve come to expect from the EA Sports fighting sims. Spot on facial animations and muscle movement bring these characters to life. Seeing your opponent wince when he or she is being choked out or getting staggered from a crushing blow is immensely satisfying. The bruising on the face and body look very real, and when the fights get intense, the blood and sweat start flying. EA Sports has added a myriad of animations and fighter personalities into this year’s entry allowing for a more fluid and realistic experience. The robotic feeling from the last entry is greatly diminished but is still there in the standup game. The occasional glitches causing fighters arms and legs to contort or bodies to twist unrealistically pull you out of the experience.
The standup game is very similar to the last EA Sports UFC, but it feels tighter. As I mentioned before the robotic fighter feeling has been greatly diminished. The strikes you land feel and sound more impactful, and the various fighter’s styles, strength, and weaknesses keep fights from feeling repetitive. Every strike or grapple a fighter has is on a level system. So, for instance, Quinton Rampage Jackson’s left and right hooks are leveled very high, but his head kicks are leveled low, so you’re expected to fight to his strengths when using him in a match.
The clinch and ground game have been completely overhauled. Gone are the days where you would attempt to transition to the full mount but end up spinning in circles around your opponent because the directional transitional system didn’t work properly. The new regime clearly states which shifts are available to you from your current positions. It does this for the player on top position as well as the bottom position. Instead of mainly a turn by turn transition system, you can now attempt transitions at the same time as your opponent, and this made the ground game feel more fluid and gives you a more accurate portrayal of the struggle for positioning. The new system also applies to the clinch aspect of the title. The submission system is essentially the same. The only addition is an improved submission chaining system. I’m glad they did not change the system because in my opinion it is the best submission system of any of the MMA games.
The new transition defense system is tedious and frustrating.
Defending said transitions is the Achilles heel of this game. The new transition defense system is tedious and frustrating. Even after the training in the practice modes, I have found myself completely forgoing the defensive system and instead trying to transition faster than my opponent and judging from the opponents I’ve faced online I’m not the only person who’s decided to do this. Even on the hardest difficulty playing the toughest fighters out transitioning your opponent to gain a better position is relatively easy. The difficulty of the game has been scaled down this time around, but that’s not completely a bad thing. The normal mode and down are essentially the same, but the difficulty of the hard and pro difficulty have been scaled down. They still offer a challenge without the constant parrying by your opponents which felt like a cheap way to add difficulty to the last offering.
The career mode has been streamlined. You can begin a career with either a created character or import an actual fighter from the main roster but their stats and move set do not transfer. You can also now have a career with a female fighter which was a huge missed opportunity in the last iteration and is a welcomed addition. Once you have completed a training activity once, you can simulate it. Doing so with anything less than an A completion rating means you’re not maximizing the benefits gained from the training exercise. The career mode lacks character. It is just “train” or “simulate training” and fight over and over again. There are no dramas or conflicts or options to improve your gym or anything else, and that leaves something to be desired. It starts you off the ultimate fighter TV show but the only thing it does is judge what pick you will be depending on your first fight on the show. This feature didn’t work very well because even if I finished a match with a dominant victory, the coaches might say I’m worth a middle pick or back 6. After each event, there are awards for submission of the night, fight of the night, and knockout of the night. These awards are entirely broken. Even with an undefeated career with all knockouts and some amazing wars I only earned two KO of the Night awards and one fight of the night award. The only reason I won the KO of the night awards were because it just so happens there wasn’t any other KO’s in the event. You can finish a career within 4-5 hours and afterwards you unlock unique fighters to use in the main roster.
You can also now have a career with a female fighter.
The career modes default difficulty is an adaptive AI system. It’s a good idea but it’s poorly implemented. You don’t face a challenge until late in your career. I’ve played through 5 careers and have only lost 4 times. Essentially the higher you rise in the ranks the more difficult it makes the game. I found it difficult to improve my character to statistically match up against my opponents later in the game. Almost everyone you face once you break the top 5 is level 96 and up. The main issue that arises from this was by the time you got to the top 10 rankings all of your opponents are so over powered that each opponent didn’t require its own strategy anymore. The highest I ever got my character leveled up to was 92 and that was a few fights before his retirement.
The character creator which can be used in the career mode, my ultimate team, and to just create fighters to add to the main roster hasn’t changed much but has added more options for your character. The biggest addition has been to the facial sculpting system. The new tattoo system is an improvement and the import facial capture system still works. They have included the ability to pick between various personalities and walk out/end of fight animations for your created fighter but there isn’t enough options. I would have liked the ability to choose a different walk out animation and a different end of fight animation but the two are linked to the same choice. Also the character creation system could use more hair and facial hair options. The biggest negative continues to be that you cannot directly control your created fighters reach and considering that is a very important part of your fighter and how they will fight. Even if you make your fighter max height and give him the body type with the longest arms the fighters reach isn’t known until you use him in s fight and his or her reach is seemingly random.
You Cannot directly control your created fighters reach.
The new knockout mode is a welcomed addition. There is no ground game or clinching; it’s just stand up and strike. It is the best of three rounds, and each round doesn’t finish until someone gets knocked out. It is a lot of fun, and it is a great mode to play with people who are unfamiliar with the game. It doesn’t use the traditional health and damage system it gives you and your opponent life bars like an arcade fighter. When your health bar starts getting low, you start fighting like a karate master trying not to take a hit, and it can lead to some fun times. I hope this is a mode they continue to improve and iterate on.
I was very skeptical of the Ultimate team mode that EA Sorts decided to put into all of their sports games because of its success, but I was pleasantly surprised. How can a mode that was all about finding the right players to build the roster to create your ultimate team translate to a one-on-one sport? The answer is you create (or import) a created character, and you collect cards to improve your fighter. Instead of trying to find the best playbooks and landing a top Wide Receiver, you try to find cards that enhance your fighter stats or to give him a flying knee. You can either fight a computer-controlled character, or you can take it online to fight other people’s ultimate fighter. You can make several fighters to build a team, and you earn currency to buy fight packs (or pay real dollars for them) to find cards to improve your fighters. I found this loop to be pretty engaging, and I loved taking my fighter online and trying to win a championship and hold it. You can also do this offline.
The new live events feature is a fun betting system that can earn you credits to put toward the ultimate team mode. The live events consist of the upcoming UFC event or a UFC fantasy live event. In this mode, you pick who is going to win each fight in the upcoming event. You decide how they will win the fight (KO, Submission, and Decision) and in which round it will occur. Once you’ve made your decision, you play out the match and try to make your prediction come true. Depending on if you successfully make your prediction come true and your predictions were correct in the real life event you earn a varying amount of credits. This mode was done very well. It makes the actual events more exciting because you get to see if your predictions come true.
My favorite mode from the old UFC Undisputed series has finally made its return with the custom events mode. In this mode, you create your custom fight cards. You can pick who fights who, how many rounds they fight, who the referee is, whether it is for a title and the location of the card. They very intelligently added the addition to include non-strict weight classes. This means, for example, you can put a light heavyweight against a heavyweight or a welterweight against a middleweight. The only negative I found with this mode is that there isn’t a way to set up random matches. In case, I just want to have some entertaining fights but didn’t want to go through the hassle of setting it up. Other than that I am very happy it is back, and this is where I will be spending most of my time with this game.
Create your own custom fight cards.
The online system is much improved. No longer do you have to go on major win streaks to advance in colored belts in ranked play. In the new regime, you earn points to move up divisions. The other major thing to do in ranked online is how you work your way towards winning titles. Winning fights in fight now will move you closer to contender status. Once you’re a contender, your next fight is for the title. The online is stable and works well. The new system works much better than in the last iteration. Every day there are featured fighters and if you use one of these fighters you get bonus points but only once per day. This encourages you to play around with new fighters and keeps things more interested. You are much less likely to run into the same fighters over and over again.
EA Sports UFC 2 has made some significant steps forward in this entry into the series. Improved visuals and improved animations make the fights feel more lifelike. With the improvements in the stand-up, the strikes are more fluid, and you can feel the power of massive hits. The career mode leaves much to be desired but does a decent enough job for a second attempt. The arrival of the new knockout mode, ultimate team and live/custom events are welcome additions that give EA Sports UFC 2 more depth than its predecessor. If you’re someone who loves EA’s fighting sims, then there is some fun to be had here, but if you’re new to the genre, you might be better off waiting until the next iteration. UFC 2 had many things going in its favor but with a dysfunctional defense in the clinch and on the ground UFC 2 doesn’t yet live up to its potential.