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Big Bad T-bone Tony steps into the ring in EA Sports UFC

EA have got their hands on UFC, and for their first release have promised to deliver a complete revamped engine; from the physics to damage modifiers, the fatigue system to the artificial intelligence. This game packs a serious wallop in terms of its features!

It should be noted that I’m not the greatest fan of fighting games/beat ‘em ups in general. They’re okay for a while but then they get repetitive and lose that “edge” that hooked you to begin with. With UFC this doesn’t seem to be the case, the game remains dynamic, fast and fresh throughout, and no two fights are the same.

1920x1080_antoniosilva_june20_06_wmThe games “story” sees you take on the role of a cage fighter as you work your way through your career, from humble beginnings to a UFC Champ. It’s a nice idea, and is done in a way that makes you really connect with your player, and make you want to win. Strange to say, but the game also feels a lot like an RPG in many regards. You start the game with a few sponsors and the basic clobbering techniques needed to succeed. Throughout your career you use the points gained from winning a fight to buy more moves and gain sponsors whose brands you can wear in terms of kit. This is my first issue with the game, when you buy the moves, it simply tells you the combo, which is often in itself a ludicrous mixture of buttons and analogues. This is all well and good, but throughout the career there is no option to have a free sparring session to practice these in; so it’s often a case of (during a live match) pause, check and instigate, which jars the tension and pacing of the game.

original_tufgym04_june20_wmBack to the career, a unique addition to this game, which had me sold from the off, was the addition of live action pieces featuring interviews and fight highlights as cut scenes. If you’re a fan of UFC, and get your jollies from seeing two men knocking each other out, these scenes make you want to go into the octagon and recreate these moments. Again, subtle things like this draw you into the game, and make you really connect with the character. I mentioned the lack of sparring sessions, there is in fact, mandatory training between fights to recreate the real lifecycle of a cage fighter. These sessions are usually subtle hints as to what to expect from the next fight, but actually have the opposite effect and break the immersion.

Firstly, these sessions are fixed, you can’t decide what you want to train in. Giving the player the choice would be useful if players feel they need to work more on a certain area of their game, rather than being forced to work on clinching. However, the major issue with these training sessions is the truly awful trainer voice acting. As you perform your training he offers words of encouragement and motivation to help drive you on. Okay look, this game is trying to be a simulator and make you feel like an ultimate badass. It provides you a snapshot of what a cage fighter’s regime and career is like, and I’m sure they don’t get berated for the whole training session; but being overzealously congratulated on every punch made me feel patronised and childish.

1920x1080_brucelee_june20_01_wmThat said, these sessions are useful, and often make you learn combos and techniques you didn’t know existed. Moreover, the better you perform in training, the more points you get which subsequently go to upgrading your characters massive list of attributes; allowing you to focus on wrestling, boxing or an all-round mix. Another odd addition which has leaked into the game from FPS games, is a sort of perk system to improve your fighter in certain areas. Each “gameplan” allows a finite number of attributes to be added to your character, buffing the character on the ground, in his stand-up ability and their overall physique. Although usually associated with FPS’s, this clever addition allows you to set your character up for whatever the game throws your way.

Now let’s step into the Octagon and let the show begin. This is where the game, as expected, truly shines. Each fight is genuinely a unique experience, and one false move can easily be your last, thanks to the games clever AI. You can stand centre ring and go hell for leather on the opponent, but watch that guard, and be wary of your stamina. The opponent will block and wait and just when you think your safe he’ll clobber you with a meaty whack which rocks your character and makes you more susceptible to a knockout. The AI is just nice, it feels like it’s responsive to the game and not just following patterns. The AI changes from round to round based on what could arguably be the coolest part of the game.

UFC_THROWAnd that is the damage modifier; in EA Sports UFC the damage is beautiful. Every blow to the head, body, shin or wherever leaves red marks, bruises and cuts. Not just that, but the skin and the characters expression change and reflect the pain, making the whole thing that bit more realistic. Add to that the damage modifier which stacks up based on the amount of damage taken and it affects the whole fight. Keep kicking a leg the fighter will slow down, punch a cut and blood will fly and the gash will grow. All of this viscera makes you feel like you’re a part of the match, and really fires up a primitive bloodlust to go in for the kill. But, like a real UFC match, let your small success get to your head, and the AI will punish you.

UFC_GIRLSOf course, sometimes the best tactic in a cage fight is to go to ground, and punch the opponents face into the mat, to let him know your there. The ground wrestling is fun, a constant battle of wits and trying to second guess how the AI intends to wriggle free. Perhaps my only gripe with this is how quickly they succeed in wiggling free. Again, if the game’s attempting to be a simulator, its unlikely a trained wrestlers grip/control would be so low the opponent could just wriggle free almost immediately. All in all, the fighting feels fun, real and dynamic enough to keep you on edge for the duration of the match; add to that the commentary which picks up specific damaged parts and round highlights and it really is an engrossing experience. The last real stickler for this game has to be the post match “pep-talk” videos, wherein real UFC fighters read scripts of inspirational comments, which feel contrived and completely cheesy. Not to mention pointless.

All together this game is a nice package, with enough variance to make you want to play each match, knowing that the next will be different from the last. Couple this with truly lovely graphics and smooth animations and a cracking damage system and EA Sports UFC is a solid fighter. It has the potential to be perfect if they smoothed out some of those niggling issues and dropped the after-fight videos. That said, a word of caution to all who wish to enter the Octagon, this game is not to everyone’s taste. The amount of concentration and effort required to memorise all of combos is out-with what seems possible when playing such an intense style of game.

4 spinning heel kicks to head out of 5

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