Boris Nelson. Remember the name. You’ll not have heard of him before – but that’s because he only recently appeared in the UFC’s lineup, having romped his way through the Ultimate Fighter talent spotting competition and into the big time.
Sporting a flame-red Mohican and a long goatee, he stands 5’10” tall, weighs 170lbs and boasts a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting style that leaves allcomers in his wake. Besides the various tattoos that adorn his right arm, a picture of a screaming banshee is inscribed upon his chest, just above his six pack. Boris “Ghost Dog” Nelson is already a name that sends shivers down the spine of the likes of Josh Koscheck, Thiago Alves, Georges St-Pierre and even the legendary Bruce Lee (DLC)! Remember the name.
EA Sports UFC makes it all possible. Like me you’ll soon no doubt have a similar tale of an underdog coming good, creating your very own “Boris” to rise up the ranks and take the world by storm.
"There are various options available from the outset. You can opt for the Fight Now mode and dive straight into the action, choosing from 95 pugilists – including female fighters - across nine weight divisions, or get online for a few bouts."
This is the latest game to make use of the much vaunted Ignite Engine and it looks fantastic, oozing realism and perfectly capturing the essence of the sport.
From UFC owner Dana White and announcer Bruce Buffer, to Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg bringing their usual enthusiasm to the commentary, the scantily-clad Arianny and Brittany bearing the round numbers, as well as an absolutely huge lineup of the fighters themselves, this is the perfect package for any fan of the Octagon. For those new to the sport, it may prove a little harder to get to grips with.
There are various options available from the outset. You can opt for the Fight Now mode and dive straight into the action, choosing from 95 pugilists – including female fighters – across nine weight divisions, or get online for a few bouts. A series of challenges and tutorials can also help get you up to speed with the complex control system, or you can embark on the extensive career mode and work your way into the UFC Hall of Fame.
The latter starts you off in the Ultimate Fighter competition, and success soon sees you pitting your wits against similarly optimistic nobodies right through to the more competent fighters in the roster.
Creating a fighter like “Ghost Dog” is a simple but comprehensive affair, with loads of customisation options available. Choose a name and then select everything from eye colour and amount of chest hair to your protégé’s trademark theme song and their celebration pose after a win. Most importantly, there are 10 fighting styles available too: boxer, freestyle wrestler, Greco-roman, MMA fighter, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Karate, Kickboxer, Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do – each obviously having completely different characteristics.
"Presentation-wise, it’s top notch and well ahead of other fighting games. EA Sports UFC bears more than a little resemblance to the Fight Night series – crammed full of gloss and authenticity and clearly created by a team dedicated to replicating the thriving sport as closely as possible."
Should you fancy a starring role yourself then you can even import your own likeness into the game using EA’s trademark Game Face mechanic, and enter your creation into the lengthy career mode.
Get through the competition, earn fans, rank up, learn new abilities and get a place on the Undercard, working your way up the rankings until you start to make your name. Keep getting the wins and you’re on for a title shot. Fame and fortune – albeit with cauliflower ears – awaits. It’s quite a spectacle – and when you see the crowd cheering, and the arena filled with lights and music for your fight, it all becomes quite exciting.
Presentation-wise, it’s top notch and well ahead of other fighting games. EA Sports UFC bears more than a little resemblance to the Fight Night series – crammed full of gloss and authenticity and clearly created by a team dedicated to replicating the thriving sport as closely as possible. Body damage is quite impressive with the bruising and redness that appears making you feel like you’re really giving someone a good pounding – or are on the receiving end of one!
Visually, the game is spot on. You can almost feel every strike to the gut, kick to the thigh and smack in the face. Over exert yourself and your stamina bar will fall, making you fighter visibly slower and susceptible to a well-timed strike. All too soon, sweat sprays off your fighter and the arena becomes splattered in blood. Good stuff.
Each figher has been meticulously scanned, and their every scar and tattoo has been lovingly recreated. Their facial expressions are accurate, their build and stance is realistic. The fighters’ movements and physics are fantastic, although you do occasionally get a few screwy animations. Nevertheless, it bodes well for future games that make use of the Ignite Engine – a recent FIFA trailer has already shown how much it’s advanced visually from last year’s effort.
"Unlike other fighting games, button-mashing won’t help you much as you’ll quickly see your stamina bar deplete, which will probably lead to your untimely defeat."
But looks aside, we all know it comes down to accessibility… and UFC is not the easiest game to pick up and play. No matter which of the five difficulty levels you select from Beginner to Pro, you could argue it mimics its real-world counterpart a little too closely; a complex blend of stand-up fighting, ground-based brawling, clinches and submissions where novices will quickly face defeat.
To truly master each element of the game requires a degree of dedication and a fair understanding of the sport. Certainly the long list of moves is a little daunting but EA has done its best to make everything as easy to grasp as possible. Still, I’d advise starting out on beginner or easy mode to get accustomed to everything.
First up, it’s all about learning the basics. Standup and grappling skills are first on the agenda, with a series of kicks, punches and takedowns explained through various mini games. Before long the coaches will have put you through your paces on all the fundamental moves required to put up a good fight.
Unlike other fighting games, button-mashing won’t help you much as you’ll quickly see your stamina bar deplete, which will probably lead to your untimely defeat. Instead, a more strategic approach is required and well-timed button presses and stick gestures will reap rewards. Carefully timed counter attacks are invaluable.
While a single tap of X, Y, A or B prompts a simple punch and kick, holding one of the shoulder buttons transforms it into a more powerful strike. You can vary this again by pushing the left stick. You’ll soon realise that a good memory and dextrous fingers are imperative when playing.
"Meanwhile, EA Sports UFC tweaks the mechanic once again, and requires numerous carefully-timed button presses and lightening quick reactions for success."
Having played all the MMA games from recent years, submissions have without doubt been the most frustrating element. Infuriating and often un-necessarily complex, they’ve always jarred a little from other parts of a fight. Mastering the ground game and positioning yourself is one thing but the mini game that starts when you want to pull off the perfect Kimura, armbar or choke is key to victory. This latest offering seems to have made good progress, however.
EA Sports MMA from a few years ago (2010) really seemed to pull it off, with an intuitive way of achieving the submissions (using the thumbsticks to move round a circular indicator in search of a sweet spot for a choke, or using X-ray images to show tension on bones and joints). It worked really well and was easy to grasp. I thought the UFC Undisputed series proved slightly trickier in practice and I really didn’t take to it.
Meanwhile, EA Sports UFC tweaks the mechanic once again, and requires numerous carefully-timed button presses and lightening quick reactions for success. It’s definitely an improvement on the THQ offerings but again, it can be quite difficult to pull off for a newbie – many of whom will probably dispense with the submission battles altogether and try to stay on their feet, relying on a flurry of punches and kicks.
Pound for pound, EA Sports UFC is in many ways – and quite literally – the ultimate fighting game. From your favourite fighters to the strikes, takedowns, submissions and ground passes – it’s all there. It looks the business; you can almost sniff the sweat and soak up the atmosphere around the arena.
It boasts great graphics and presentation, combined with loads of blood, brawling and battery… but there are issues. It’s certainly a contender for one of the best of the genre on the next gen consoles but until the developers get a real stranglehold on the submission system, provide more game modes and variety, and make the game more accessible for those new to the sport, MMA titles may struggle to fight their way to the top of the sales charts.