Let’s get stuck into the cold hard facts: UFC 2’s combat is excellent, the visuals are stunning, and like many other EA games of the last two years, it’s incredibly accessible. Recently I got to spend some time playing the game at the O2 Arena on the eve of Anderson Silva and Michael Bisping’s main event bout. I dabbled in some of the modes, but it was stepping into the virtual octagon that really surprised me at how impressive the game was to play.
After an introduction from UFC 2’s Creative Director, Brian Hayes, I was allowed to get stuck right in. One of the new modes in UFC 2 is Knockout mode, and I think this is the best place to start. Each fighter has a set amount of health points (which can be altered in the pre-match menu) which the opponent can take off with every successful strike. There is no ground fighting, allowing players to just jump in and beat ten barrels of crap out of each other without seeing the action slow down through takedowns and submission opportunities.
On the surface it may sound like it’s trying to please casual button bashers, and in a way it is, but there is a great deal of enjoyment to be had in its simplicity. It is still necessary for you to block (there’s an option to regain health points for successful parries), but the real fun comes in a string of precisely thrown kicks and punches resulting in your opponent falling to the mat.
Each Knockout in UFC 2 is unique, meaning every time you feel the force of a McGregor KO, you’ll never see the same fall twice. EA has done something never before done in a UFC title by creating procedurally driven falls; whether you play in Knockout mode or a standard UFC match, you’ll see different results and occurrences in each fight. As Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic, I landed a multitude of punches to my opponent’s chops and depending on the angle I was in or the position of my opponent at the time of the knockout blow, they went down in gloriously brutal fashion. For at least the first ten or twenty times I saw someone get knocked out, I couldn’t help but smile. It was refreshing and impressive, and EA will get a lot of praise for this when the game is fed to reviewers.
Another question I had about the combat before I jumped in was how would the unpredictability of actual UFC matches translate to video games? I played three separate matches as Amanda Nunes against Ronda Rousey in the game’s standard fight mode, complete with all the rules and grappling mechanics included. In the first match, we both went to the final round and Rousey ended up winning on points; I took a hammering and she deserved the victory. In the second, I landed a clean punch to the face and it got me the win. Just like that, a well-placed shot to the face dropped Rousey to the floor and I reaped the rewards. By the third match, I’d started to become more familiar with the controls and the grappling came a lot more natural to me, allowing me to beat Rousey on points.
EA has made it much easier to learn the ropes this time, adopting some of the ideas other EA Sports titles have featured in some of their recent titles. New players can jump into the practice mode and learn the basics of how to grapple on the floor (probably the game’s toughest challenge to overcome) and how to get your opponent to tap out. You’ll also be shown how to trigger submissions and when to do so, adding to the unpredictable nature of the game.
The game looks great too, and the fighters have been crafted to perfection. Every tattoo and haircut looks realistic, and even the fights themselves start to provide bruises, cuts and swells to the injured parties involved. If you land a devastating blow to someone, they’ll bleed all over the place, and as the fight goes on that blood will remain on the mat. It may not sound like the most interesting of things, but it’s a testament to the effort that the team has put in. Even the arenas are heavily detailed. The O2 Arena looked exactly the same as it does in real life, and whilst watching the PPV the following day I could see how the smallest facet was added to match it visually.
When the game is released it’ll be interesting to see how gripping the career mode will be. I dabbled briefly in the career mode and it reminded me a lot of EA’s Fight Night albeit fleshed out. You train, select an opponent, and prepare for the fight. I got about two matches deep and it felt almost identical to Fight Night, but that’s not a bad thing.
I didn’t really get a chance to try out the intricacies of the creation mode or the new Live Events section, but from what I’ve seen so far it does have plenty of potential in creating an authentic experience for those Dana White wannabes and MMA fans alike. UFC 2 has so much going for it and when the game is released next month I shall definitely be spending a lot more of my time taking on the world’s greatest.