EA Sports UFC 2 Review
Player(s): 1-2 Extra Features: online multiplayer (2 players), leaderboards, download content
EA Sports UFC 2 is a mixed martial arts game based on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) sport. The game is developed by EA Canada, the same developers that made the first UFC game. UFC 2 is my first time experiencing a game based on the sport and I have to say that I walked away extremely impressed with what we have here. The game improves upon the original game with extra modes and an enhanced grappling system.
The overall fighting engine in UFC is incredibly deep thanks to the amount of variety that each fighter possesses. Being a fan of many fighting games, I compare its depth equal to that of Virtua Fighter 5. The game requires commitment and precision to play well. UFC has a health bar that is shared as a stamina gauge beside a picture of your fighter's full body that represents body damage that has taken place during a fight. The goal of a fight is to knock the opponent unconscious or gain a submission to call off the fight, and of course there is a timeout that gives the judges the decision as to the winner. Matches can end in under 20 seconds or they can last up until the final round - just like the sport.
Each fighter is set into several different categories based on their body size and each fighter has their own unique style(s) of fighting. All fighters have strikes, parries, grapples and submissions that differ based on their style of fighting. Strikes can be blocked or parried and the same goes for grapples. You can turn the tables on your opponent once grappled by transitioning them to a more advantageous state for yourself or the grappled opponent can block an opponent's attempt at a transition and then go deeper into another hold. You can also parry a clinch to stop the grab altogether. Learning how to perform every opportunity available is the key to victory and survival against online opponents. It's a very impressive fighting system overall.
Grapple transitions are displayed in a circle once you grapple your opponent and you can transition to another hold by simply holding the right analog in a certain direction after a clinch - this will build up a time bar that will complete the transition once filled. Transition times differ based on the complexity of the hold and your fighter's overall stamina and I'm sure there are some other factors that decide the length as well. Transitions in the original UFC required a roll of the analog in a quarter circle motion to a certain position but they have been changed to single taps and holds for UFC 2 - the same goes for submissions activated from clinches.
The main modes to the game are the Career mode and the Ultimate Team mode. The Career mode allows you to choose one of the established characters or create your own character and go through fights to reach the top as the champion of your division. You'll go through several opponents and have training routines (skill challenges) in between each fight. The training consists of focused training on strikes, grapples and submissions. While the training challenges do teach a little on the overall techniques with each category, they feel rather useless, even with higher difficulties. Challening me to enter a certain command to hit a punching bag and grading me on how fast I enter that command when it appears let's me know some of my options for striking, sure, but it does little to improve my striking game. With guarding, the opponent seems to enter periods where it won't attack and that causes the score to suffer since you can't actually block an attack - I get the same type of problem while trying to escape from holds (the CPU won't try for a grab).
You'll gain evolution points to upgrade your fighter's moves and add additional perks and attributes. Moves can be leveled up to take off more damage and they can be switched out for other moves, so that you'll have a different move for the same command. Each fighter has five available slots for perks that offer a variety of different enhancements to your fighter or the perk might reduce the effectiveness of your opponent's moves. As you win each match, you'll gain a rise in your fanbase and get fight awards. Career is all offline, so you'll face AI opponents per bout. Each bout is set up like a UFC main event and you're placed in one of several matches for that night. The AI difficulty can be changed between several different difficulties and there is a difficulty for an adaptive AI that changes based on the way that you play.
Ultimate Team mode allows a player to create up to five fighters that function as your team. You can pick one of your created fighters then fight through AI opponents in the single player portion of the mode or take the fight online and battle other created characters from other players. In single player mode, you'll fight created characters, but the AI will control them. At the end of each fight, you will level up your team division and you'll gain coins. Coins allow you to buy packs of cards that will give your fighters enhancements. Through cards, you can get move upgrades, attribute upgrades, perks upgrades, fitness boosts and training boosts. You exhaust some of your fitness level per fight and eventually have to use a fitness boost card to replenish it or suffer from a loss of stamina during your next bout. Training boosts allow you to enhance a certain form of defense on your fighter, such as leg or body. Cards come in categories just like fighters so you might receive some that are universal (all fighters) or some that are just for a specific class. You can sell off unwanted cards for extra coins.
The store has all sorts of cards that you can purchase for coins or UFC points (real currency bought online). Leveling up your division will allow you to fight opponents in a higher division. Your constant goal is to fight through opponents to work your way up to the title bout and then beat the champion to gain the current category belt. The belt can be lost, so you have to constantly defend it once you gain it. Ultimate Team mode is a lot of fun whether you play online or offline. The Title Chase (for the belt) and the divisions are separate between online and offline, but your leveled up fighter is the same in both modes, so you can basically build up your fighter offline before you take him online. The online portion of the mode has daily objectives that you can perform to gain more coins and there are accolades that can be won based on certain objective that a player has performed (most fights in a week, fights won in a week, etc). My only little nitpick with this mode is that you can't use the likeness of one of the established fighters and you are forced to create your own character. It's more of a personal nitpick since I don't really care for created character and don't really enjoy creating more fighters when I get tired of one.
Along with the main modes, the game has a new knockout mode that functions more like a standard fighter. Each player has a health gauge that is split apart based on hits taken and you fight with an opponent to see which can drain the health gauge of the other first in "best out of three" rounds - you can change the options to change the health gauges or rounds. This mode has no grapples, so it's all about strikes. Knockout mode is a great idea, but the mode lacks overall depth for replayability. The mode is not online and there is no sort of arcade mode with several challengers that you have to go through. It's all over after one match. It's fun for fighting a local friend, but it really needs some depth to it to make it last longer and feel more worthwhile to play. Hopefully this mode will be expanded upon in a later update to the game since it is a good break from the grapple gameplay in other modes.
In the Custom Events mode, you can customize your own events so that you control who fights in an event of up to 11 fighters, similar to the UFC TV show. You can control the fighters, location and referee. The fighters can be controlled by the AI or you can pick up the controller and take control of one of them - this can be changed mid-fight and you get to choose the who controls each fighter before each fight. There is also a Skill Challenge mode that lets you go through the same training routines found in the Career mode. The game has a practice mode where you can learn more about the game's fighting engine. The practice mode is great for learning about grapple transitions since it has tutorials that appear to the side and give you information about the holds and their transitions as you work your way through transitions. You can change how the AI will attack through strikes or holds, but there is no option to set up specific situations, which could really help out in a game like this. You can't record an attack and then play it back to see the timing needed in order to counter it and you can't start out fighting against a grounded opponent or ground yourself to see your options in those circumstances. This game really needs options such as this.
The online modes outside of Ultimate Team battle have a good amount of variety to them. There is a Quick Fight mode that allows you to battle against a randomly chosen opponent for a quick unranked fight. There is also an Online Rivalries mode that allows players to fight against friends on their friends list. The Ranked Championship is your online ranked match option. This mode is set up similar to the Ultimate Team battle mode but it only brings over the divisions and title chase found in that mode. You level up your division by playing online opponents and eventually get to higher divisions and gain the attempt at fighting for the belt in your division. Just like with Ultimate Team mode, you have to keep winning to keep the title and not lose division points.
The game features a cast of over 250 UFC fighters throughout all of its division, so there is a ton of variety to be found in the cast. UFC 2 brings in women fighters along with their two respective categories as well. The referee list has also been expanded since the first game as well. The game has some very impressive graphics throughout fights. Each fighter bleeds and gets bruised in between fights. Hair flies to the side with punches and blood covers the floor just like in the actual sport. I did notice some strange clipping issues such as a fighter's fingers going through the bodies of an opponent during clinches at times however. The openings for each character play out much like the entrances in the show. Commentation in the fights seems to have a lot of variety - you can actually get some phrases where the commentators bring up past events that compare to the fight going on and there are several other extras. As expected, the game has several licensed tracks as its main soundtrack in between fights and on menu screens. I'm not really a big fan of licensed tracks in games, but this one seems to match the game rather well with the songs chose and lyrics they have.
As much as I love this game, I have to tone down the score because of some of the disappointments in a few of its modes. If the modes had more depth to them, I could see giving this game within the 90% range easily. The combat in the game is absolutely fantastic and really captures the feel of the UFC. For a fighting system with such depth and needed commitment to fully understand your options with each situation the game really needs to help a player out more with some worthwhile challenges compared to what it has. The practice mode does help a good bit, but I feel it could have more options for situations that you'll find yourself in throughout the game. If you're a fan of UFC or just have a love of 3D fighting games, EA Sports UFC 2 is definitely a game to consider trying since it is a lot like the sport and it has some great depth with its fighting engine making for an overall fun experience online or offline.
+ Much depth in the fighting gameplay
+ Knockout mode is a good change of pace from all the grappling
+ Ultimate Team mode is a lot of fun
- Training (Skill) challenges lack usefulness
- Knockout mode needs more depth to it
Final Rating: 82% - EA Sports UFC 2 has a lot of depth to its fighting gameplay and feels very close to the sport.