EA Sports UFC 2 Feels Great, But It Lacks Substance

EA Sports UFC 2 Feels Great, But It Lacks Substance

Meet Brock "The Problem" Kucao, AKA Spider "The Spider" Spider. He may not look like much with his neon wildman hairdo and 29 instances of the same tattoo, but he's gonna win the crap out of the UFC featherweight title. I've played about seven hours of EA Sports UFC 2 now, and I'm digging it... with a few reservations. For the most part, combat strikes the right balance between complex and understandable — and damn does striking ever feel good — but the game itself is a bit barebones. There's no better way to express the full spectrum of my emotions than through the lens of my gangly fight boy, The Problem.

The Problem is a lanky striker with dynamite fists. I created him in order to test the limits of EA Sports UFC 2's career mode character creator, to push outside the bounds of reason and return with an unyielding killer who reeks of KFC.

I found this goofy-arse cartoon chicken tattoo, and I was immediately transfixed by it. It was perfect. I started by stretching it across my character's left arm. It looked funny, so I thought, hell, why not do the right arm too? That's when I discovered the most versatile brush in my belt, the bellowing harbinger of my art: I could stretch tattoos more or less as much as I wanted. I proceeded to give my character the same chicken tattoo 29 times, some small, others large and one encompassing his entire torso and face.

Maybe it seems silly to you, but think about it this way: Would you want to fight a guy with the gumption to get the same chicken tattoo 29 times in various positions across his body? I wouldn't want to fight that guy. And I definitely wouldn't want to tell him he missed a couple of spots. NEVER tell him that he missed a couple of spots.

Somehow, though, he turned out energetic, fun-loving and weirdly likeable.

Look at how stoked he is about punching another dude in the face! That's my adorable nightmare frankenchild. I'm so proud.

The Problem's career began on The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC's reality TV show for recruiting up-and-coming talent. There, career mode's basic formula was established: play some training minigames, then fight. Here's the minigame for improving striking power:

It's pretty no-frills, and it doesn't really teach much (aside from basic dynamics of stamina and power) that you can apply to fights. Some training minigames are more useful than others, but that's kinda the gist: they don't really teach much. Learning the more complex aspects of submission offence and defence is especially unintuitive, a pretty big black eye on a game that's ostensibly 50 per cent about grappling.

On the upside, clinching and grappling are significantly less confusing than they were in the first EA Sports UFC game, with simple directional inputs and a handy HUD guide replacing the previous game's weird analogue stick twirling. Advancing position makes sense because the game straight up tells you what constitutes a better position and gives you a simple roadmap to getting there. It's tremendously satisfying to knock somebody down, dive into their guard, pass into half-guard and side control, and then rain down punches from full mount. There's victory, and then there's complete and total domination. Beating someone standing and on the ground is the latter.

But UFC 2's submission portion is a confusing and arbitrary. If a fighter attempts a submission, the defender pushes in various directions on a coloured four-quadrant menu prompt while the attacker moves their cursor to block the defender from holding in any single direction for too long. Submissions have multiple stages, and it's pretty easy for the defender to slip out at some point. The short version? It's fiddly, awkward and not much like actual grappling. The submission portion of the game isn't horrible, but it's nowhere near as fun, tense or dramatic as striking.

As a result, I ended up focusing most of The Problem's training on striking and takedown defence. He's a born out-fighter, given that his wingspan is akin to that of a Boeing 747, and shucking off takedowns in UFC 2 is pretty easy once you get into the rhythm of it. Focusing ended up being a powerful asset. As The Problem worked his way through the ranks, from The Ultimate Fighter to major UFC events to title shots, his strikes became devastatingly fast and powerful.

EA Sports UFC 2 Feels Great, But It Lacks Substance

The Problem does a flip, but it looks like he slipped on a banana peel.

Striking in UFC 2 is brutal, satisfying and sort of occasionally sometimes close to authentic. You've got to manage stamina while trading leather (and/or foot skin) or else your strikers will become sloppy and slow. Aiming for the body takes away opponents' stamina, leaving them more vulnerable than they'd be otherwise. And of course, as in an actual UFC fight, anything can happen. If you eat a solid shot to the head, you might end up "rocked", swimming through a pea soup pool of delirium on the verge of knockout.

Momentum shifts are thrilling. Early on in his career, The Problem came up against something of a dilemma in a striker far more accomplished than himself. I was on the defensive from the get-go as this bald bruiser battered The Problem's legs and body. I was overwhelmed. All I could do was retreat and feebly attempt to counter with The Problem's ridiculous aeroplane arms. As the first round drew to a close, he had me backed against the cage. I was rocked and woozy. My defeat was all but certain. But my opponent pushed too hard for the finish. He tired himself out wailing on The Problem's titanium cranium, and I flailed with a desperate uppercut. It was right on target. With seconds left in the round, my opponent crumbled. A few brutally satisfying ground strikes later, and The Problem was getting his hand raised.

Moments like that are what make UFC fights great, and they're abundantly present in EA Sports UFC 2.

I also have to point out just how authentic the game's presentation is. Here's a fight from early in The Problem's prestigious (and now, due to long-term wear and tear, sadly almost over) career:

Everything from the walk-ins, to the introductions, to the option to touch gloves at the start of the fight is spot on. It's like being part of a UFC broadcast.

Sadly, the game's career mode stops short of the truly interesting elements of The Real UFC Experience. Where other sports games offer RPG-inspired career modes rife with intrigue and drama, UFC 2 flubs it. You train and you fight. That's it. It's a huge missed opportunity in light of the burgeoning number of colourful personalities in the UFC these days, not to mention the role trash-talking, self-promotion, and out-of-cage antics play in modern day UFC success. Perhaps someday a game will fulfil my fantasy of a trash talk battle with Conor McGregor, but UFC 2 isn't it.

EA's flagship Ultimate Team mode expands UFC 2's career mode somewhat by giving you five custom characters to manage, online functionality, and of course, microtransactions that unlock new moves, but it's a riff on the same basic formula. I'm not bored of it yet, but I feel like I will be before long. There are a few other modes — knockout mode, inspired by more traditional fighting games, is a highlight — but nothing to keep me coming back for long.

The main attraction of EA Sports UFC 2 is the fights, and in the cage the game succeeds mightily. Combat's still got some rough edges, and submissions need serious work, but on the whole it's satisfying and loaded with tension. The game just feels like it needs more hooks, and not just the kind that hit people in the face.


Comments

    Damn, I've really wanted to pick up a UFC game at some point but what I really want is a fighter with a fully realised career mode. Looks like this one falls a bit short. :/

    Grappling is less like running in a straight line and more like trying to solve an all-encompassing 3D puzzle while immersed entirely in water. There’s stuff happening everywhere, everything is moving and you’re trying to control things based on feel more than based on what you can see…. If anyone can think of a way to recreate that experience in 3rd person using a stick and some buttons I’d love to hear it (and presumably so would EA).

    You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t when it comes to grappling. A player using Demian Maia should be able to get one takedown and shut-out the round against every WW- and it should be easy for the other guy to defend from his back…. if that’s all they do (which people won’t)…. And if Demian initiates a sub attempt, it should be all over….. except it should be hard to initiate a sub against someone defending…. But then people say starting a sub is too hard….

    So all things considered I’m very impressed with the game a lot so far. It’s easy to be critical, but it’s consistent, responsive and contains all the key positions you’re likely to encounter in MMA. The fights have a flow to them that’s much like watching an MMA match and the presentation is top notch.

    And MAN those knockouts! So visceral, so satisfying!

    It can be improved, but it’s a very impressive effort from EA as far as I’m concerned.

    Paid for EA Access just to get it early on the Xbox one - Digital DL came through on my PS4 last night so at 11:30 tonight ill be a happy boy!

    As above im very impressed with the game, my only issue is getting the timing right and being able to block transitions!!! The grappling seems to have become easier in some points and quite impossible to master the more advanced techniques which i like so far.

    See how i go once i complete a few careers - that always changes everything!

    Played a few games online on weekend and ended up 3-2 which i was happy with - the online gameplay has improved dramatically!!!

    It looks 90% the same as the previous UFC game and still has the same complaints (lackluster career mode, awkward submission moves), will pass. Hopefully the load times are at least half of what they were with the first game.

      LMAO load times arent an issue and i didnt perceive them to be much of an issue in EA UFC

      It does not look 90% the same mate - The graphics and physics are completely new - none of the floating feet like in EA UFC. Grappling system has had a revamp, timed parrys and ducking and weaving have been adjusted somewhat, and the submission system actually works really well - not sure what the writer was thinking but there is plenty of tension when locked in those sub battles, especially online!!!

      Online ranked championships are all new divisions rather than the season of 10 fights
      There are hundreds of fighters in this one - Knockout mode feels like an arcady version so when mates come or the fights are on soon, thats a great mode to get a few big hits in
      Ultimate team gives you something to do when you finish career and can take your own user created fighters online with this, as opposed to only being able to use real fighters online

      Your loss mate - you jealous?

        Load times are definitely an issue for the previous game, been multiple articles and reddit threads about it...... an easy 40+ second wait on xbox one for a match, unacceptable.

        I'm still interested but all the reviews/footage I've seen so far makes it look like an incremental WWE update. I'll jump onto twitch and see how it goes, still keen to check it out and potentially purchase.

          Load times or matchmaking issues?! When you say over 40seconds for a match, there is now way I have waited even close to that offline just loaing a fight. But then again i do have a 1TB SSHD in my PS4 which do improve loading times.

          I jumped in on EA Early access - signed up to it just to DL this on the Xbox one even though ive got it preordered on the PS4! My first impressions of playing about 6 hours over weekend is that it has vastly improved in the gameplay - feels more fluid and the fighter choice has a huge impact on how i want to approach online fights!

          Having said that - check it out yourself of course but i thoroughly enjoyed this upgrade - maybe a little incrememntal like WWE but why change the whole concept when most of it works?

            Yep straight up load times for a match in career mode is easily 40+ seconds, it's ridiculous. Sometimes the loading + intros were longer than the match. You'd end up spending 7-10 minutes for loading + training then about 3 mins on the match..... career mode felt like such a drag, I just want to fight and pick some stats ffs.

            I just did some quick reading and yeah, much quicker on PS4, and the SSD would smash it too.... load on standard xbox one is ridiculous.

            I've hated/been neutral about every WWE game since the N64 days, I loved that model so much more than everything on ps2/ps3/ps4 generations.... always feels heaps floaty whereas the n64 was solid nuggets and every move had a solid thud to it.

            Sweet, I'll jump on EA Access tonight and grab the demo if its still there.

              Yeah the trial should still be on EA Access - Ill be playing for a couple of hours before my ps4 version downloads at 11:30!!!

              Never realised people had such issue with the career loading times but alas it happens - Maybe i never noticed because i just LOVE fighting games lol

              I recently got WWE 2K16 and its good fun - sank about 10 hours into it over the past week or two and Im surprised at how far I HAVENT got yet!!! Havent even won a championship - I know their career gets deep but thats too deep imo

              I just like playing a few careers through make myself a few fighters in different weight classes and different styles then smash online. I used to build them up in career specifically for online back in THQ UFC 2 and 3 days but then they stopped people fucking everyone up online with 120 rated fighters lol

              Still love just playing a few campaigns and i reckon ultimate team will give another game mode to get into when i start getting bored of just building my record online

              Still - the divisions system like the other EA games is going to work better than the belted divisions - There are only 5 belts so to have 5 different divisions kind of watered down each div - too easy to get up to black belt and basically just stay there.

              I feel like getting up to division 1 will be a huge stretch in this one even though ive always ended up with a postive record online for the previous games, i just feel its going to take some good streaks and some title defenses to get the necessery points. Still - when thats boring you can create fighters to use in ultimate team - I like that idea instead of just opening packs for different players

                Mate, noone could ever accuse you of not loving your fighting games haha,

                Yeah I think I picked up WWE2k13 played it a bit, keep checking all the updates every year and so/so.... its been a while so ill probably pick up 2k16 when it drops a bit (or after Wrestlemania).

                  haha - yeah self confessed HUGE fight fan here... Been playing since the days of UFC Throwdown, disputed 1 2 and 3 but my favourite BY FAR was EA MMA - That game was the shit because it had all the strikeforce dudes in it, eg Luke Rockhold was a big player online lol

                  Ever since EA announced they were doing MMA again after their failed EA MMA venture (which i amassed a record of 1800-600 roughly wins/losses online... Damn i played a lot of that) I have been stoked as EA's touch can turn shit to gold!!

                  Disappointed with EA UFC as it was shit on release but they added a lot of elements through updates which made it quite fun

                  Cant wait to get some time on the weekend to smash down half a carton of pales and smash through a career ;)

                  I got WWE 2K16 the other week on PSN store as it was on sale - $40 or something... Otherwise i wouldnt touch it! LOVE wrestling games since the old royal rumble games but like you say they dont change much these days!!! Have been enjoying jumping out of the ring and taunting guys to come at me only to suplex them and leave them out there for a countout though haha!!!

                  You on psn as well or just xbox bro? I'm scarnonbloke on xbox one - but i only got it because i didnt have a PS4 preordered when they came out so now i barely play much on there! Thinking about getting UFC2 on the xbox as well just because the remote play feature with my Surface works BRILLIANTLY! Infinitely better than my PS Vita remote play so i could get some more time in like when the kids are watching tele ;)

    Sounds like it's just like the first three games. I like that. But I would like a more interesting and deeper career mode.

      Nah very different to THQs series - built up from EA UFC but still very different feel from those 3 games. Feels better, not as much an arcade game more of a sim in terms of movement speed etc

      Career schmareer - Seriously hate how much crap is being put into sports games! Like NBA 2K16 i was constantly skipping those shitty cut scenes because i play that game to PLAY!

      WWE fair enough - the whole sport/sideshow is built around the storylines, but in MMA, the other stuff is just noise - the main game is get your ass in the gym and get better. When you take your first loss, thats when the game really picks up because you yourself have created rivalries and there is every chance you will meet the person that beat you again - just gotta work on the right skill set to make sure they dont get you again!

      It is still deep - there are times you cant train a certain discipline because your coach is out of town training someone else, or there are times your training wont give as much impact as you are tired or drained. There are certain aspects that if you train too hard you will go into the fight with -10 strength/toughness/stamina etc etc (-5 or - whatever - it all varies)

      If you ask me this stuff is as deep as it needs to go - I dont want Spike Lee telling me a hood story when im trying to play me a game!

      Nah very different to THQs series - built up from EA UFC but still very different feel from those 3 games. Feels better, not as much an arcade game more of a sim in terms of movement speed etc

      Career schmareer - Seriously hate how much crap is being put into sports games! Like NBA 2K16 i was constantly skipping those shitty cut scenes because i play that game to PLAY!

      WWE fair enough - the whole sport/sideshow is built around the storylines, but in MMA, the other stuff is just noise - the main game is get your ass in the gym and get better. When you take your first loss, thats when the game really picks up because you yourself have created rivalries and there is every chance you will meet the person that beat you again - just gotta work on the right skill set to make sure they dont get you again!

      It is still deep - there are times you cant train a certain discipline because your coach is out of town training someone else, or there are times your training wont give as much impact as you are tired or drained. There are certain aspects that if you train too hard you will go into the fight with -10 strength/toughness/stamina etc etc (-5 or - whatever - it all varies)

      If you ask me this stuff is as deep as it needs to go - I dont want Spike Lee telling me a hood story when im trying to play me a game!

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