Nearly two years ago, EA Sports released its first foray into the UFC Octagon with its amply-titled game UFC. A lot has changed since then for the better with names like Ronda Rousey and Connor MacGregor becoming household names within the sport, and the best part about it is that this edition of the game, UFC 2, reflects that very change in a positive way.
I struggled two years ago with UFC. Grapples were above me and I had trouble navigating as well as keeping straight the complex systems needed for playing the game. With different button schemes for upright and clinch play, knowing what to do and doing what you know seemed so far away from each other. Fortunately, UFC 2’s learning curve did not feel as steep as its predecessor; though I am not confident this is in part due to the game’s approach to teaching or if I just knew better this time around.
UFC 2 opens to a championship fight, the game throwing everything it has at you at the onset. Once victorious, you head right to the main menu, enabling you to dig right into every option that the game has to offer. I began with Career Mode, which in hindsight may have been the best thing I could have done, since it started with basic training regimens in all standard positions, so I became more familiar with the game by means of a more natural progression path.
While I spent significant time in every mode, I spent a great deal of my UFC 2 review digging into the Career Mode this time around, because it was exactly what I wanted when UFC released. Gone is the useless reality show narrative, replaced by a more simplistic delivery that favors the nitty-gritty. When not in the Octagon, you’re on menus jumping from training regimens to accepting challenges on your way to stardom, and that for me is the real way to deliver any sports game: Make it about the game without the politics or the drama. Information and statistics regarding your fighter is accessible at all times without having to jump into a plethora of menus, which is common to most other sports games. Fighter overall stats are on display almost all the time. Outside of player stats, the rest of the numbers involved in career mode are either indicative of overall career progress, like the amount of fans you have, or how many Evolution Points (EP) you’ve unlocked, which are used to unlock perks. EA made an impeccable decision to choose a more focused persona with Career Mode this year.
Fighter creation has a nice feel to it too, granting options to adjust nearly every aspect of each fighter’s facial appearance with traditional sliders. Tattoos are also a big deal, since a plethora is at your disposal for all but the face and stomach, allowing for a massive amount of adjustments to how they’re placed on the fighter as well. However, the fighter’s body is nowhere near as customizable as they’re narrowed down to weight classes and four body types for each weight class. It’s not terrible as it represents the standard form of the game, but some may wish to have their 6’6” fighter be a stick of a person instead of a wall of muscle (There’s always someone online who does something like this).
Perks add another level of customization to Career Mode that most other sports games do not or cannot offer. Purchased with EP, each perk grants a bonus or benefit to different actions, and each perk has a multitude of higher levels to buy. The only limitations to these perks are the amount of EP you have and only being able to have five perks equipped at any given time. Training allows you to develop your fighter how you wish him or her to progress, and perks help accentuate those focuses by either making them even greater or balancing out any weaknesses.
Ultimate Team offers what can be expected from a mode of this caliber: Earn or buy cards in order to harness your fighters into winning machines. Five different fighters are allowed on your team, and each fighter can be created from scratch; even better still is the option to import any Career Mode fighters—without their career stats, of course—to fight on your Ultimate Team. After playing a great deal of game modes of these types from multiple franchises, I learned the hard way that UFC has a very dedicated, meticulous, and unforgiving player base with the option to buy their way to victory with these cards, so be warned ye who enter the online octagon.
Back in June, one of the negatives I indicated for the first UFC game was that the addition of female fighters was more implied rather than implemented—more of a supplied novelty, if you will—since there were only eight female fighters in the whole game which were then limited to exhibition games, leaving much-more engaging modes such as Career and Tournament Modes to the male fighters. UFC 2 features all applicable weight classes for both genders, so there is as much representation in UFC 2 as there is in the actual UFC. This carries over into the multiplayer modes as well, with the only limitations being within each weight class in terms of multiplayer queues.
Commentating is a waste of time in UFC 2. Commentators read any text that may appear on the screen before a match with a little bit of filler dialogue connecting that most basic information, and there is no dialogue after that. It’s apparent that EA took the same focus here as it did with Career Mode and stripped it down to its bare essentials. Commentators give each sport a sense of connectivity with the viewer, which is something I took for granted until now (though, with my main sport being American football, listening to guys like Cris Collinsworth and Joe Buck for years explains why I would take commentators for granted), so the lack thereof leaves a rather hollow feeling overall.
Everything looks gorgeous and sounds great in UFC 2, with all 150 or so fighters’ likenesses mirroring impeccably. Faces ripple on impact. Mats rumble from slams. Fighters react to every little interaction; on occasion, though, a weird punch would fly up from my fighter while falling face first and deal major damage to the opponent, which both bothered and humored me. It didn’t happen often, but it happened enough times for me to change my view of it from an anomaly to a possibility.
Then there’s the ground game. Apart from strikes and kicks, all grapples and ground gameplay are handled with the joysticks, primarily the right stick. While they worked well enough, I had a few gripes and bad experiences with it. I began to anticipate grapple movement after an angle change, so I would move the joystick in the direction I intended to go in order to continue my grapple combo. My issue with this is that I couldn’t begin the next move until the prompt appeared, and the next move wouldn’t begin until I let up on the stick and redid it. This comes across as a programming choice, but I wish it were one that allowed a more pre-emptive approach; though I’m sure this would make playing online even more difficult than it already is. The other issue I had revolved around when the prompt completed its round and when the action took place. There would be a second delay between when I finished executing the prompt before the designated action would happen, and this was far more apparent when trying to recover from a knockdown. I would complete the rotation to recover (both online and offline) and nothing would change for my soon-to-be knocked-out fighter. These prompts take a decent amount of time, so having to wait longer than the designated time is rather frustrating when every second and every action is important.
These peculiar abnormalities aside, UFC 2 has in place the integral rooting that any franchise needs to establish itself. It missed the mark the first time around on a few counts, but UFC 2 has everything a fan of the sport would want. Career Mode offers a focused delivery and Ultimate Team grants a way to build a team to take down the online community.