Sports have always had a halo of fervour and elan attached to them, and it is a daunting task to emulate the same flair in sports games. Nonetheless, several developers have been successful in making it big with their sports titles like Football Manager, NBA, Out of the Park Baseball, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater et al. The new title in the line of such games is from the deep chasms of EA, named EA Sports UFC.
The first game under the tag of UFC since the rights were sold not long back to EA, and so far it has more than just a little potential to be a solid franchise in the extant market. The game is only available on the new gen platforms from Sony and Microsoft and thus ensures fair grounds for comparison between the two, with nothing holding both the consoles back.
" Also, sports game tend to have a uncompromisingly solid pace to them and thus are played best with high frame rates. Being a sports game, it was very much expected to have the game run at 60 frames per second."
The developers of the game, EA Canada have gone with IGNITE game engine which was specifically built for sports game and has helped churn out games like FIFA 14, NBA Live 14 and Madden. EA Sports UFC follows along the same lines and delivers the same brilliance of graphical beauty as the aforementioned games. Interestingly, the developers have gone with a 900p/30fps configuration for this game which is in stark contrast to most games – especially on the PS4 – which run in full HD at 60fps.
The decision of having the game run at the said resolution is still unclear; probably to save on the resources and have the pixel shaders do more work on making the game’s visual quality better, but the current graphical performance isn’t upto snuff and doesn’t offset the decision to go with 900p.
Also, sports game tend to have a uncompromisingly solid pace to them and thus are played best with high frame rates. Being a sports game, it was very much expected to have the game run at 60 frames per second. It most certainly IS a disappointment but the developer’s saving grace is that they haven’t tapped the full potential of both the consoles as of yet. But this won’t save them for long.
Being a sports title, the game has nice fluid animations that almost perfectly imitate the real world mixed martial arts fighting style. There’s’ much to be done, but there should be not many complaints anywho. The animations do happen to get a little odd when the fighters are entangled are groping each other to land a punch.
This is where the erstwhile fluid animations pave way for clunky, toddler like movements. The punches seem slow and awkward; it’s as if the players’ senses are numbed or they’re just jaded.
Bokeh depth of field and the crowd looks good and the motion blur is nice and refined. (PS4)
" The PS4 does employ bokeh depth of field while the X1 seems to be falling behind on that in comparison. The result being, that the PS4 makes far off distances seem as they should be, whilst adding to the overall charm of the game. "
The game utilises high resolution textures which both the consoles render effortlessly, the result of which is a very slick looking screen with nicely detailed polygons and set pieces. The crowd has been kept in the dark with the spotlight on the ring, but the developers haven’t ignored the crowd completely.
The spectators can be seen cheering and waving their arms about, turning their heads and shouting, each with their own set of (mostly) differing clothes. The actions of the crowd look natural enough. The PS4 does employ bokeh depth of field while the X1 seems to be falling behind on that in comparison.
The result being, that the PS4 makes far off distances seem as they should be, whilst adding to the overall charm of the game. The game has excellent reflections and there’s a nice use of ambient occlusion and ambient lighting, which together highlight and suppress the right areas of objects and characters with varying light and directional light sources.
These elements are most visible on fighters bodies. While elements like referees’ clothes ignore the appropriate reflections and AO, the fighters have the light being reflected off them perfectly.
Light can be seen glistening in sweat or being softly given off otherwise. Various contours across the body cast varying shadows that change with the movement of the fighters at every instant. Needless to say, you’ll be more than just appreciating the use of ambient occlusion and lighting in the game, even though it may not have been universally implemented.
Motion blur and depth of field are a bit off. (Xbox One)
" Motion blur is of the utmost quality, but if you pry about closely, you'll notice that the PS4 seems to have a smoother, more defined motion blur in effect, while the X1’s motion blur seems to be smudged out as if a painting gone bad. The X1’s blur is not bad, only that the PS4’s blur is better. "
Other post processing effects in the game are not excellent, but they’re definitely up to the mark. Shadows are apt and defined with the right amount of anti-aliasing. Soft shadows work wonders in accentuating the look of the game.
Motion blur is of the utmost quality, but if you pry about closely, you’ll notice that the PS4 seems to have a smoother, more defined motion blur in effect, while the X1’s motion blur seems to be smudged out as if a painting gone bad. The X1’s blur is not bad, only that the PS4’s blur is better. That may be because of higher sampling for the same, on the PS4.
There’s also the use of bloom in the game but it’s not recklessly implemented everywhere. The AA techniques is where there’s a difference between the two consoles. Both the consoles have well defined objects and characters with hardly any smudged edges.
This means that FXAA is not in place. Multisample screen anti-aliasing (MSAA) seems to be the technique that has been utilised since that is what would go best with the high-res textures. Now the X1 at times shows unrefined edges, which are mostly apparent when observing curved surfaces like the heads of the fighters/referee, or their calves and shoulders.
This may very well be the difference in the number of samples taken per pixel, with the PS4 visibly taking more samples for the anti-aliasing technique.
Good AA and SSAO do a nice job of concealing the 900p downside of the game. (PS4)
" The PS4 seems to contend with the X1 on grounds other than AA and motion blur. The game is nigh on identical on both the consoles otherwise, but the X1 pushes the competition further with slightly better performance. "
The shadows in the PS4 version of the game are neatly defined. A bit too defined actually, which makes it seem almost unnatural. The shadows of objects and characters falling on other polygons are very neat and precise with little to no blur. The X1 here scores over the PS4 by having smeared shadows which present a more realistic outlook.
The PS4 seems to contend with the X1 on grounds other than AA and motion blur. The game is nigh on identical on both the consoles otherwise, but the X1 pushes the competition further with slightly better performance. The frame rates are more consistent on the X1 while the PS4 is afflicted with occasional screen tearing. The screen tearing is not game breaking, but it’s enough to make you have second thoughts. The ground of contention ends here itself and it comes down to how the game is otherwise.
As I’d mentioned earlier, players grappling each other can have odd animations with the players switching between fast and slow animations in a jiffy. The main focus of the game is on the ring and it has been nicely done. The set pieces and paltry few characters in and around the ring are all good, but the fighters are the ones who stand in the limelight.
Their clothing reacts to movement; players’ shorts can be seen flailing this way and that and tights develop different folds as the player moves. Character designs are excellent; fighters’ bodies are well crafted, muscle and sinew all moving, contracting, expanding, wobbling or dissipating the force of a punch are a sight to behold and admire the work of the devs.
A few well placed punches would make the players bleed and the gore looks excellent with all its bright reflections. The model design coupled with the lighting effects lend the game a touch of reality.
The AA isn’t as good on the X1. Notice the left legs of the players.
" Even though the fighters may have been well crafted and animated, other characters like the referee, the announcer and the team members seem to be lacking the appropriate detail and have sketchy designs. "
The players have varying expressions but they lack unique skills and attacks. Even though the fighters may have been well crafted and animated, other characters like the referee, the announcer and the team members seem to be lacking the appropriate detail and have sketchy designs.
All of the said characters have stoic expressions which seem like animated puppets at times, their clothes and bodies (except faces) do not react to the lighting system as they should. Granted that the main focus of the game is the ring, it;’s almost unforgivable to ignore things like these so blatantly.
The game is super fun for fans of fighting games as well as other sports; it promises a gritty experience. And though you may have a few gripes with it, it’s not all that bad. While the PS4 seems to have better effects and visual quality, I’d still prefer to have the better performance of the X1 to go with the game, no matter how marginal it may be. Other than that, it’s just a matter of personal choice. And there’s Bruce Lee in the game too.