EA Sports UFC 4 Review
Making its way to the octagon is EA Sports’ next iteration of the famed mixed martial arts simulator: UFC 4. Unlike other sports titles published by Electronic Arts, the UFC games have opted for a bi-yearly release giving EA Sports time to make significant changes and these are evident in their latest release. However, the question still remains, has EA worked out the perfect game plan in order to finish the fight, or should you tap out before the final bell?
When starting UFC 4 you are thrown straight into the Career mode. Your goal is simple, work your way up to being the UFC Champion. Following each step and giving you guidance along the way is Coach Davis, who helps to tell the narrative and anchor the game in reality. Previous iterations were rigid and linear, but UFC 4 puts choice at the forefront. You no longer have to fight whoever is put in front of you and due to this, you can pave your own path to victory. However, with choice, comes consequences. Fighters like Conor McGregor have become infamous in mixed martial arts due to how he exploits social media, and if you wish, you can do the same too. Be respectful and build relationships with fellow fighters or taunt and disrespect them to build hype for your upcoming fight and potentially earn more money.
The career mode does a great job of documenting the UFC journey but also acts as a deep tutorial allowing you to learn, develop, and perfect each discipline. Gone are the minigames and in its place are training sessions that help you in the octagon, but be careful, as over-exerting yourself in training can be disastrous. Suffering an injury during your training camp can result in missing weeks of training or even the cancellation of fights.
Building on UFC 3’s stand up game, UFC 4 refines and tweaks an already incredible system. Punches and kicks are more fluid than ever making combinations feel natural. With the addition of Dynamic Striking, players can now alter their attack with either tapping of holding the button. Not only does this mechanic make the game more accessible, but it also improves the variety of combos. The sheer range of striking animations is incredible and helps to make each fighter feel authentic. Fighters have their own style, strengths and weaknesses which have been expertly implemented into the game. From the speedy jabs of Connor McGregor to the deadly leg kicks of Jose Aldo, selecting the right fighter for your style is vital in order to succeed.
Movement, range, and timing are key. Throwing wild overhand punches and hitting nothing but thin air will have a detrimental effect on your stamina as it will slowly reduce during the entirety of the fight. Missing more shots means that later rounds will be tougher as your depleted stamina makes it harder to string a series of attacks. Timing your shots is essential. Considering your opponent’s movement can maximize the damage of those head kicks and earn you those prestigious flash KOs. As a result, you will need to not only learn the game but also your competitors fighting style in order to become the Ultimate Fighter.
UFC 4 has made many significant improvements but its complete rehaul of the clinch system is one of the highlights. Transitioning from standing to the clinch is realistic and helps players to maintain control when chasing down opponents. When tied up, movement is no longer robotic which makes these parts of the fight unpredictable and exciting.
Whether it’s a double leg takedown or an uppercut, at some point you’ll end up on your back facing the rafters. Due to this, you need a good understanding of the ground game. Mat work on previous titles has largely remained the same and was in need of an update. UFC 4’s new Grapple Assist option allows newcomers and those who aren’t familiar with the ground game a way to quickly engage. With a quick flick of the left stick, you can get up, ground and pound or attempt a submission. Veterans fear not, legacy controls are still available so you can move to specific positions in order to bring down the pain in the manner you wish. But that’s not all, EA Vancouver has also included Hybrid controls which uses the simplified controls on the left stick and the legacy controls on the right. For me, these controls were perfect. Being able to use both methods on the fly meant that I could tailor my experience and dominate on the mat.
Submissions have also been revamped, taking inspiration from THQ’s UFC Undisputed series, when attempting a choke, a circle appears on the screen with two bars that represent each player. You are required to keep your opponent in your shaded area in order to successfully sink in the submission and finish the fight. For limb submissions, the principle is the same but on a horizontal bar using L2/LT and R2/RT to manoeuvre. Although this is a vast improvement over its predecessors, it still doesn’t nail the feeling of cranking someone’s neck until they have to tap.
Focusing on game modes, UFC 4 has a plethora for you to sink your teeth in to. From Stand and Bang to Knock Out mode, you have a range of options to customize your fighting experience. Want to throw down in a suburban backyard or under the bright lights in Madison Square Garden? The choice is yours. Maybe you’d prefer to be the next Dana White and organize your own event or relive the Pride Fighting Championships by creating your own tournament. The options are endless.
Thankfully, EA has stopped trying to shoehorn the ‘Ultimate Team’ into the franchise and have replaced it with the thrilling Blitz Battle. In this unique take on the Battle Royale genre, you have 1 minute to kick the crap out of your opponent. If successful, you progress onto the next round. Starting with 64 players, the numbers dwindle until only one remains and the Blitz Battle champion is crowned. As well as this is the Online World Championship mode where you climb through divisions in order to become the UFC champ. With weight classes being regularly altered and daily challenges, there’s a wealth of content that will keep gamers coming back for more.
The UI has also had a facelift. Separating itself from the plain white panel menu of other sports title published by EA, UFC 4 has adopted a black and neon colour scheme which is more suitable for the gritty sport. Another improvement is the character selection screen which is now similar to a regular fighting game. Gone are the days scrolling endlessly through the alphabetical list, now you can select your fighter quickly and easily.
EA Sports UFC 4 is the best MMA game to date. With an improved career mode, robust online options and significant updates to the core combat, fans of the franchise will be in awe at what steps into the octagon.
***PS4 review code provided by the publisher***
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- The Clinch System
- Blitz Battle online mode
- Updates to the Career mode
- Submissions still need work
- Replays can miss key points
- Load times