Art of War.
Two years ago EA Sports jumped on the scene with their own game rendition of the popular UFC fighting brand. Through and through, it was a decent fighting game. Not to say it didn’t have its weak points or lacked the polish other titles in the genre had, but still, it gave fans an exciting first installment and showed people the open possibilities of future title in the franchise.
With growth in mind, EA Sports UFC 2 has looked to give off the persona of badassery, and rightfully so. Mixed martial arts and the interest surrounding it have grown substantially over the years—bigger contracts, more pay-per-views, ultra-mega-hyped fights, athlete crossovers, the works. And now that the foundation has been laid, these next steps forward are crucial.
From the most minor of details, presentation has been thought out fairly well. From fighter to fighter, pre-match introductions mimic player likeness almost to a tee, making the experience feel authentic as if you were a part of the action for real. Coming down the ramp with that swag only a competitor on a mission has, as someone with only one thing in mind—total domination of an opponent. All the while, the commentators hype the fight play by play, the crowd fuels the fire, and your trainers bark instructions from your corner, adding to the physicality of the octagon.
Battle animations are well crafted as well, helping keep the flow of action moving. When transitioning from the stand-up game to a ground attack, movement still stays fluid. On occasion, though, movement is hindered by the targeting system; when landing a big kick to the head, the player’s foot can sometimes partially stick to the opponent’s head, as if attached by superglue. Also, there are times when a replay is shown and the slow-motion mechanics can’t quite capture the highlights as well as they should. Punches turn into this clicking, robotic animation and leaves you yearning for a better illustration of your latest magnificent knockout.
Still, when dishing out proper punishment to an opponent, there’s a satisfaction you get when landing perfectly timed strikes and watching your foe wince in pain. Or when targeting a particular area on the body, watching as that specific area begins to drip blood or become bruised. Visual cues like these will tell you what is and isn’t working; you must feel and physically see the action being played out.
Some matches, especially when fighting against A.I., can turn into a game of duck, duck, goose. I swear there was one time I chased my opponent around for 15 minutes, trying to land punches to no avail. It drove me nuts. I was hoping for more of a slugfest, but the opponent had something else in mind for the fight. Still, I felt I should at least be able to actually touch my opponent more than just couple times a round.
Typically when learning a game, sticking to the basics is preferred. But along with the tricky button layout, strategy will play a large role in the outcome of fights. As always, there’s a learning curve for those new to the system. Most people figuring out the layouts typically stick to the stand-up boxing style, slowly incorporate kicks, and then finally move to the ground, taking on submissions and transitions. Finding that balance may take some time but, when mastered, can be utilized with deadly results.
With the many skills one can choose to attack with, finding the right style of fighter is important. And with the bevy of game modes, fine-tuning and practicing your craft is possible. Of course there is an actual practice mode along with skills challenges but most of your fighting will come battling a range of opponents.
One mode that shall be bolstered for the months to come is EA’s Ultimate Team. Here, you can build your team of up to five fighters, customize their looks, skills, and moves, and pit them up against other players from around the world. It’s all about earning rewards to further your fighter’s abilities and move up in the rankings. The more you win, the more you earn. Points are available for everyone on your team, not just the fighter you are currently using, so team success is in constant progress. There is a single-player option as well if you don’t want to fight others online. But just like real life, you have to train and keep an eye on your selected fighter’s health and stamina. Don’t lose sight of these conditions and enter a match unprepared, or you'll likely face the consequences.
In Career mode, you can either create your own fighter or select a current fighter of the game to take on your path to greatness. Regardless of your decision, every fighter starts off at a low base skill level and will require fight rewards to further their attributes. It’s much like a season mode with end results geared toward winning championship belts and earning the rights to be called champ.
One of the cool features of the game are the Live Events. Whenever there are real-life UFC matches scheduled, you can attempt to predict the outcome of each fight on the card. Not only do you pick the winner (result) but also when it will end (round) and how it will be won (method). Once again, as a reward, it is about earning points that can be used to better your created fighters. Extra points are earned if you play the match you have predicted by selecting the fighter you have chosen to win and finishing the match in the way you believe it will end.
Most recently, a match that has been hyped for weeks, Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor got underway and to many people’s surprise, Diaz pulled out the victory. So in this case, if you had chosen Diaz before the fight and won via rear naked choke in the second round, a bonus in rewards would have been given to your account. It’s almost comical that the two fighters who share the cover of this year’s release have both lost in their most recent fights, with Ronda Rousey suffering her first MMA loss against the ageless Holly Holms and is still licking her wounds.
Still, there are plenty of other fighters in EA’s UFC 2 to take into the octagon, just mentioning the huge selection of available fighters. And there are a lot of fighters—just to name a few, Ashlee Evans-Smith, Jon Jones, Alistair Overeem, and for you WWE fans, CM Punk. But not only are there current or semi-current stars, there are past greats like Bas Rutten and even a few guys who weren’t even MMA fighters in their careers. Making such an appearance is the one and only “Iron” Mike Tyson, both the 23-year-old, hell-raising Iron Mike as well as the older shaved-head, face-tattoo-wearing Tyson.
EA Sports UFC 2 has shown its improvements over its former self and continues to play the part. A mix of power and finesse, both in ring and out, there’s no doubt this is a solid pickup for folks interested in handing out beatings like their favorite MMA fighters do. With the Live Events regularly updating and Ultimate Team keeping a steady dose of online competition rolling in, this simulation will stay relevant over its life. As Bruce Lee, a DLC character for the game, would say: “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” For EA Sports UFC 2, it certainly seems survival is imminent.