Unintentional Frustrating Consequences

EA finally gets their hands on the UFC franchise. Will they make their rivals submit?
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: June 29, 2014
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I should start off by coming clean about my association with Mixed Martial Arts. I’m a “casual” fan at best, one who understand the basic tenets of the sport and I’m aware of the brightest lights in the circuit, but you probably won’t find me out a B-Dubs checking out UFC 1XX every month. As a father I’ve become less enamored of “blood” sports but as a male there is always that testosterone-driven side that appreciates the test of combat.

The question I asked myself going into this review of EA’s UFC on the PS4 was whether or not they were making a game for the casual fan like myself or if they were targeting the hardcore audience who know every fighter and how their various styles interact. MMA is a far more complex beast than the pure science of boxing or scripted sequences of “professional” wrestling. There are tactics and lingo that aren’t easily grasped by the casual fan and those that see it as just “two barbarians pawing at each other” are failing to grasp the nuance of the sport.

So how did EA handle this, the first iteration of a new series debuting on PS4 this year? Well, when I first fired up the game I was taken to the tutorial area to learn the basics. Two dozen or so lessons later I had at least some grasp of punching, kicking, grappling and ground combat. Simple combat strikes were mapped to the face buttons while grappling was easy to initiate with a few button presses. Once you get on the ground it becomes a bit more ticklish, requiring some fancy maneuvering of the analog sticks at specific times. In some ways it seemed pretty fluid, but by the time I had completed the tutorial the controls were a bit of a jumble in my head. I figured a few rounds in the octagon would straighten things right out so I headed over to the main game.

You won’t find the wide range of modes you may have come to expect from an EA game in UFC, but that is hardly a surprise when you look at other first iterations of EA Sports games. They generally spend the first year working hard on the tech then slowly expand on the options as the years go by. Thus you can choose between either the old standby of “fight now” or jump right into a career. Being the career-oriented fellow that I am I naturally chose to take the career path which first tasked me with creating a character. Our old friend the “import your face” option was alive and well but I eschewed it in favor of making someone a bit more intimidating looking than myself. In no time at all I had a rugged looking fellow with mild cauliflower of the ears and I was about to embark on my UFC journey.

Those that follow the sport should already be well aware of its iconoclastic front man, the inimitable Dana White. Part Vince McMahon, part Evan Handler the man resembles a sneering fire hydrant and never shies away from putting himself front and center at any UFC event. It should come as no surprises that short video clips of Dana pop up extolling the virtues of coming up through “The Ultimate Fighter,” the UFC’s reality show that helps to develop new talent for the circuit. Naturally that’s where you start out, having to claw your way through three or four fights to beat out the other wannabes before you’ll be set loose on the big boys. Between each fight you’ll be treated to Dana popping in to tell you how good you are doing and you’ll also receive advice from assorted famous fighters. For a rank novice some of this advice can be very helpful indeed.

While the videos are helpful, they come with a price. Due to the arcane licensing agreements in place with regards to streaming, every time Dana White pops up on the screen the PS4 you’ll see a large popup window informing you that streaming has been disabled for this portion. This pops up regardless of whether you are currently streaming or not and very rapidly becomes an annoying distraction. As soon as Dana disappears (usually 15-20 seconds after appearing) a new window pops up telling you that streaming is good to go again. It might seem like a small thing, but after the fiftieth time that window pops up you’ll wonder why the game bothers with streaming at all.
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