Oh EA! In a move that will surprise absolutely nobody, EA have once again released the newest iteration of a popular franchise with minimal improvements. UFC 5 is, much like their recent EAFC release, a fantastic example of a great game, which feels very much like a missed opportunity.
Unlike the football game formerly known as FIFA though, the UFC franchise does not get a yearly update. You would imagine that this would give the developers a chance to add new features and reinvigorate the game. But it does not feel like they have.
The roster is identical to the previous game released over 3 years ago, the career mode is a carbon copy of UFC 4 and the gameplay, aside from a few decent tweaks, plays remarkably similar to the older version.
Despite these criticisms, it would be unfair to say that UFC 5 is a bad game. It really is not. It is fun to play and does a wonderful job of recreating the big match feel of UFC events.
The graphics resemble the real-life counterparts and the introductions are realistic and you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish the presentation from that of the actual shows. But given the time between releases, the graphical improvements are not much to write home about.
Stand-up fighting is undoubtedly the strongest aspect of UFC 5. The combat feels weighty, with each punch and kick feeling like it should. The damage system too feels realistic with the fighters reacting how they should. You can do some considerable damage and that is reflected noticeably on how your opponent moves and looks. It can get quite gruesome at times. It’s gloriously violent.
Kick, Punch, it’s all in the mind
There is a new ref stoppage feature, meaning that if a fighter takes too much damage to one particular area of the body, the referee will be called to the octagon to assess if the match can continue. This changes the dynamic of a match, forcing the player to delicately balance their defence and offence in order to avoid defeat. You cannot just haphazardly go on the attack and leave yourself exposed to repeated haymakers.
The different weight classes all feel unique to each other. There is a telling difference between controlling a featherweight and a heavyweight.
You’ll do nuttin’
The weakest part of the franchise has always been the ground game. It pleases me to say that there has been a very noticeable improvement in that area. It has been simplified enough to appeal to the pick-up-and-play gamer but still has enough nuance for the hardcore UFC fans who want to maul and twist their opponents like a pretzel.
The grapple assist feature prevents newcomers from being manhandled as soon as the fight is taken to the ground. In previous games, it was so convoluted to escape a submission and would mean that the bout would be over as soon as a more experienced technician got you in a choke or a leg lock. It still is not easy to escape, but it feels more natural.
UFC 5’s career mode is similar to what has come before it. The first few fights in career mode are more like tutorials helping you come to grips with the basics before you get offered a contract with the UFC. Then it goes back to more familiar territory, preparing for an upcoming bout via training, promoting your fight and securing lucrative sponsorships.
The training consists of a round of fighting where you need to achieve specific targets such as landing a certain attack on your partner to proceed. The risk-reward factor is that while you gain XP points when you succeed if you take damage within the session, this may affect your ability to recover in time for your match.
You will never get injured if you train on the heavy bag. The trade-off here is that you will not gain as much XP. So you need to decide for yourself which you prioritise on a week-to-week basis.
Who da fook is that guy?
Promoting the fight comes in the way of sending social media messages. You get the option to choose respectful or inflammatory posts. If you choose to be respectful, your relationship with the opponent will increase. This allows you to invite him to train with you in the future. You can then learn their signature moves.
If you go the other route, you will negatively impact your relationship and increase the hype. As you progress you will get offers of sponsorship which will increase the fight purse. To maintain the partnership, you will need to spend time away from training to do promotional events. It is important to find the right balance.
As career modes go, it is fine. But it should be better. It is initially fun but does become repetitive very quickly. The Online mode is standard. I’ve experienced some lag when matched with an online opponent but for the most part, it has worked well. When there is lag though, it’s pretty much unplayable due to the split-second timing needed. You can now add your fighter to online competitions. This allows you to earn in-game currency to upgrade appearances and attributes.
Feels like a rematch
In summary, UFC 5, is a typical EA release. What they do, they do very well, but they are content to offer more of the same. It’s hard to present this as a completely new release. UFC 5 could have easily been a DLC for UFC 4 and nobody would have noticed. If you are a newcomer to the series, you will have an exciting time with this. But if you do own UFC 4, you will only notice minimal improvement.