Previous UFC games have had their issues when it came to balancing the realness and unpredictability of action inside the octagon. They also had a complex minigame system for submissions that always made me tentative when it came to taking an opponent to the mat, as well as rolling my eyes whenever I was dropped because of how frustrating it was to succeed on the ground. With three years to refine and improve certain features, EA Vancouver has done a fantastic job of tweaking submissions to simplify them, and the striking has also been improved to make gameplay in UFC 5 its crowning feature.
Putting UFC 5 out on current gen consoles was a bold move, but one that EA will hopefully benefit from because it looks incredible. Fighters are incredibly accurate, and that big fight feel is recreated with stunning detail. From the roar of the crowd and the presentation, to the animations of fighters are their closeness to actual appearances is uncanny. When you see the beads of sweat fall off a fighter, or blood gush from their wounds as you continue opening up a cut, it’s impressive how vivid these smaller details come alive. There’s also a new KO replay feature that highlights those impressive winning blows.
As silence falls on the arena, these replays focus in on the strike that leads to the knockout, with sound focusing on the connection of the hit. If it’s a punch, you’ll see saliva and blood fly from their mouths, and a trail of crimson soar through the air as the loser crumples to the ground. It’s satisfying to see someone fall in a heap, however, you still get some awkward falling as limbs bend the way they shouldn’t and there’s a lack of fluidity in the way bodies fall. Regardless, it’s still a cool feature that I never skip or stop watching, adding to the care put into improving the feel of the fight.
In the striking game, it doesn’t feel drastically different to UFC 4. One thing that has been implemented is how injuries gained in a fight can have a huge impact on the result. For example, if a fighter gets cut above their eye, it will affect their vision, or if their legs take a significant amount of damage, you’ll slow them down. These change your approach to the fight on the fly, leading you to change how your gameplan evolves. If you continue to work on their injury, you’ll be quicker to get a knockout or gain a doctor’s stoppage which could lead to a fight being called off, yet I only saw this a few times in my time with UFC 5.
The way injuries get worse is pretty impressive, and this change to gameplay elevates UFC 5 high above its predecessor. One thing it doesn’t capitalise much on is the rather dull career mode. It follows a much similar formula to previous titles by having you go from amateur to signing your UFC contract, and fighting until your body can’t take anymore. You’ll manage each week by training alone across categories like boxing, Brazilian Jui Jitsu, and wrestling (which can now be simulated depending on the objectives and grades completed prior); attempt to build hype via social media and other activities you’ll never actually see happen; and study your opponent’s style, attributes, and tendencies.
One cool feature is having the ability to train with other fighters to learn their moves, and you’ll also earn Evolution points to upgrade your own statistics. There’s a few extra cutscenes sprinkled around, but there’s no real story, so to speak. You make your own by starting rivalries with other fighters, and when you take another match with them after some back on forth online, your hype metre reaches its maximum and you feel that pressure going into the fight. Visiting the Performance Institute is pretty cool, and meeting various UFC athletes as you progress to GOAT status is a nice inclusion, but it all feels similar overall.
While much of UFC 5 does feel somewhat the same in terms of content, The Fight Week Contracts will help those who keep coming back for more over the course of the year. They add various challenges such as increased difficulties and different fight rules, along with Alter Egos for certain fighters available down the line. Fight Picks return, so you’ll be able to play upcoming cards (to a point, as there are some omissions from the roster), and the online career is a cool feature because you can build your own reputation online by beating real world players in an attempt to be the best.
UFC 5 evolves the franchise inside the octagon with incredible visuals and a streamlined submission system that strips away the complexities of progressing holds in favour of using the analogue sticks in a similar way to transitioning. The KO replay is cool, and the blood and injuries has evolved to impact matches substantially, making you change your tactics on the fly for a faster win as opposed to going for the full three or five rounds. While the career mode feels fairly unchanged, and the lack of any other bigger modes apart from online career, there’s still a lot of enjoyment in the actual fights themselves.
Presentation is excellent
Fighting is fantastic
Improved submissions system
Career mode is pretty similar
Not a ton to do outside careers and fight week
Some awkward animations when falling