|System: PS4, Xbox One|
|Dev: EA Canada|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: March 15, 2016|
|Players: 1-2 Players|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080i||Blood, Lyrics, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Sean Engemann
With MMA overpowering boxing as the predominant form of fighting on display, and the UFC becoming the new staple on the Pay-Per-View marquis, it made perfect business sense for publishing giant Electronic Arts to bite the bullet and buy the brand from THQ - an investment they initially dismissed when approached by UFC president Dana White. Their initial product was a spectacle to behold, with a visual prowess that truly showed the potential of our current systems. However, the simulation style of fighting came with its share of gameplay flaws. Now round 2 is here with EA Sports UFC 2 and, well, it still has some flaws. But it does boast a severe increase in content that is sure to please fans of the sport and keep them entertained for a long time.
It takes a discerning eye to mark the visual improvements from its predecessor, so let’s just agree that it looks absolutely gorgeous. Your mind will be easily tricked into believing you are in control of a real life title match, filled with all the pre-fight spectacle as well as the perfect transitions of animations within the fight itself. From Conor McGregor’s beard to up-and-comer Cody Garbrandt’s lavish tattoos, and the authentic personality showcased with each fighter, the attention to detail developer EA Canada put in deserves applause. The realism dissipates, however, when you watch the same entry animations and hear the same fighter introductions. The play-by-play commentary is a solid delivery, but when you hear the same “boom” sound bite at almost every knockout replay, it tends to pull you away and make you realize that you are indeed playing a game filled with scripted action. The lack of detail on the spectators, some of whom are given an odd close-up during the post-fight sequence, also shows a clear separation of care given to the fighters as opposed to the rest of the cast. Still, unless you settle for a singular fighter amongst the hundreds available, there’s enough variety to keep things from getting redundant. And besides, it’s more about the fight, right?
In that case, you’ll be pleased to know that UFC 2 has no shortage of action. You’re immediately sucked into a match before even hitting a menu screen, taking on the role of Robbie Lawler against Rory MacDonald in the final round of the welterweight title fight of UFC 189. This tutorial takes you through the very basics of strikes and blocks against a mild adversary. It is a deceiving ego boost, however, as diving into the Fight Now mode, which takes you straight to the Octagon, will quickly hand fresh players a KO within a minute of Round 1. The game allows you to improve your skills through the Practice Mode and Skill Challenges, but again the pace belies the intensity found during a real match, where the adrenaline soars and the finger muscles tighten against your controller.
Players must quickly understand that this is a simulation fighter, and be prepared to accept the time and energy required to truly master the craft. Button mashing will only get you a victory in the Beginner difficulty class. Making a statement in the harder modes or against proficient human opponents requires patience. This is a game of inches, where knowing the exact distance to throw a rear overhand hook or land a switch leg kick is the difference between setting your opponent up for a takedown or exposing yourself to a similar fate. Keeping a close eye on your stamina bar, blocking, and timing parries just right allows your defense to unleash into a sustained attack. Again though, it’s about timing. There are virtually no tells as to which hook, cross, or roundhouse is coming at you, and which part of the body needs to be blocked. It’s a guessing game at first, trying to discern attack patterns and preemptively counter them. Don’t get too comfortable with your own patterns though, as the dynamic computer AI will pick it apart in mid-match and erect a stalwart defense.
The back and forth punches and kicks keeps the action moving, but a large portion of a match is made up of grapples, a ground game, and submission attempts, and it is here that the format falters. In an attempt to appeal to casual gamers, the close quarters combat is sliced into a quadrant of right-stick options, either to break the grapple or switch to a different type of hold. Attempting a game winning submission is reminiscent of a game of Simon Says, with the defender trying to keep up with the direction the attacker is pushing. It successfully simplifies a set of move options too vast for face buttons, but it also forces you to keep a focus on the selection wheel rather than the more interesting techniques being showcased.