It only seems yesterday when EA showed off that wildly popular trailer of Fight Night Round 3 at E3 2005. It was essentially our first look at how game animations will look like in the future. Fighters would react realistically to their opponent’s punches; their faces will change dramatically whenever a punch connected and so on.
After Fight Night Round, EA started taking interest in the UFC franchise and released EA Sports UFC on the PS4 and Xbox One back in 2014. It was somewhat of a mix bag but graphically it was a pleasant game to look at; and we are pleased to report that EA Canada has upped the ante with the sequel. Graphically speaking, EA Sports UFC 2 is an odd game to analyze. It doesn’t feature flashy visuals and it by no means is a system pusher since it only takes place in an octagon shaped stage. But what is there is truly special and it’s the attention to detail that really sets it apart from other fighters out there. Let me just get something out of the way, EA Sports UFC 2 is by far the most realistic looking fighting game we have ever played and we mean that not only in terms of visual aesthetics but the way each fighter has been animated.
Before we jump into what makes the game a visual stunner, it must be noted that the title is running on the Ignite Engine, an impressive framework of game development tools that has powered many of EA Sports’ games in the past. The engine has been improved in the last few years and its latest build integrates a full physical based rendering pipeline along with better lighting rendering and physics toolsets. The Ignite engine is compromised of several sub-frameworks which pertain to different sections of the game. One of the modules that is utilized by EA Sports UFC 2 is Human Intelligence which allows the AI opponent to make smart decisions based on how the player is performing. This enables the AI to take quicker judgment calls resulting into a realistic fighting experience. Secondly, the True Player Motion framework allows for various parts of the character’s body such as limbs, legs and even the clothes to simulate in a realistic manner.
So coming back to what we briefly mentioned before, the game is a unique fighter due to its attention to intricate details. The characters exhibit real world properties such as sweat being thrown off when they land a hard punch or the waves in their hair as they jump around or move around quickly. And did we mention how cool the blood effects are? During intense fights, character faces will have blood pouring from their forehead, nose and cheek; and during this moment if you are able to land a punch or two on the face, blood will fall and start spreading on the octagonal stage.
Furthermore, the character’s body and facial animations are a sight to behold at times. Usually most fighting games don’t have any issues in rendering the correct animations when the player lands a punch or a kick but in this title the developers have also added the correct facial and body animations for missed shots. Furthermore, whenever you land a shot, the muscle area of the impacted body will undergo a temporary displacement effect. This is a very subtle effect but you can clearly observe it in the slow motion replay.
Performance is pretty much identical. Both versions are capped at 30 frames per second and the game manages to keep it locked at almost all times with minimal drops. Now some may question the lack of 60fps in a fighting game but unlike other games in the genre such as Tekken, UFC isn’t a fast paced fighting game. Of course, we have always maintained that 60fps is a game changer but the 30fps doesn’t really hurt the experience here.
We also wanted to briefly talk about the AA solution the game integrates. EA Sports UFC 2 utilizes 4 X MSAA which helps the image quality to really stand out. We have mentioned the importance of MSAA in many of our previous analysis and how it helps reduce jaggies drastically. We witnessed next to no jaggies during gameplay as well as during the game’s cutscenes. Kudos to the developers for utilizing a resource intensive solution instead of using something simpler such as an FXAA solution. Other post processing effects such as the skin shaders, lighting tech, cinematic motion blur and depth of field are identical across both versions.
Other add on effects such as complex skin shaders, shadow quality, depth of field and others remain consistently similar across both platforms. In the end, EA Sports UFC 2 is a technically amazing fighter. The developer’s focus on attention to detail makes it a must play game. Now, only if there was a PC version to drool at as well.