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EA Sports UFC 2 (Xbox One) artwork

EA Sports UFC 2 (Xbox One) review

"Like a roundhouse kick of quality right to the face."

After managing a respectable-yet-flawed debut in 2014, EA has taken a second stab at crafting a licensed UFC game. The sophomore effort builds on the strengths of its predecessor to produce a much deeper and more satisfying experience.

The standing gameplay likely didn't require much work for the sequel, since it was the previous game's strongest point. Punches and kicks land realistically, inflicting visible damage. EA Sports UFC 2 may not be the most accessible game on the planet (because MMA is more complicated than it seems on the surface), but the core standing mechanics, at least, are easy to grasp. There's also a special Knockout mode that feels more like a typical fighting game, complete with a life meter that drains as blows are landed. Sadly, this mode is offline-only.

While the standing game was already strong, its initial appearance left much to be desired, thanks in part to a strange turn-based system that didn't make much sense. Now, fighters are free to input commands (shown on a HUD) independently of each other, with current positions, stamina, and stats all factoring into the odds of success. It's a welcome change from the simple-yet-obtuse Rock Paper Scissors gameplay of the past.

The polished core systems are supported by some truly excellent graphics and sound. Fighters are practically photo-realistic, at least if you don't look too closely during grapples (it's probably unavoidable, but every now and then you'll notice a hand sink into a chest like in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). They sweat, bruise, and bleed in real time. Even their hair tries its best to move realistically, though it doesn't always quite pull it off, occasionally moving like it's made of gelatin. The impact of fists and feet against skin sounds convincingly real, though "real" might sound somewhat weak to players used to the pows and smacks of a more traditional fighting game like Street Fighter. EA is more interested in realism and has worked hard to portray the brutality of UFC as faithfully as possible.

The revamped Career mode is a bit of a mixed bag, unfortunately. You create a male or female fighter using the character creator, set their weight class, and place them on the path to glory. Random events keep things interesting by giving your fighter temporary boosts (thanks to, say, a coach who drives them hard) or penalties (like lowered stamina after your fighter irresponsibly stays up all night to binge watch a TV series). You can build your character's stats by training, but excessive training also increases your risk of injury.

What drags the Career mode experience down is the way it feels like your odds of winning a title before you retire are stacked unfairly against you. You're forced to retire after you take a certain amount of damage, which makes sense, but it seems like that amount is unreasonably low. You have to practically dominate over the course of your entire career if you want to stand any hope of lasting long enough to earn a shot at a title.

If that's not to your taste, there's also the Ultimate Team mode, which is borrowed from some of EA Sports' other games. You create a team of five fighters and earn random card packs, which contain moves and other bonuses that can be applied to your team members to make them stronger. Performing well gives you more in-game currency to spend on extra card packs. It's a different kind of progression from the Career mode, with less at stake.

Of course, not every mode requires you to micromanage a fighter or group of fighters. There are plenty of options if you just want to step into the ring and get violent. Of particular note is the Custom Event mode, which lets you create your own fight night with your dream roster of fighters (with a staggering 250 fighters to choose from across all weight classes) and play through it like a virtual pay-per-view event. Speaking of which, one unexpected treat is the Live Events mode, in which you earn points by predicting the results of whatever actual UFC event is happening that week (if there is no event, a fantasy event will be created). The more accurately you predict the results, the more points you earn and the better the rewards.

EA Sports UFC 2 should be enough to satisfy people who weren't quite sold on its predecessor. It overhauls what needed overhauling and polishes and refines what didn't, plus it features a host of new modes that should keep UFC fans entertained for a long time.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (April 19, 2016)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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Never3ndr posted April 28, 2016:

Good News...You can fight as Joe Rogan...

Bad News...the cover curse continues...RIP Conor and Ronda.

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