Sweat! Testosterone! Joe Rogan yelling at you!
Enter EA Sports UFC 2, the second entry of the MMA fighting series. Electronic Arts took the series over from THQ and I have to say I miss THQ, at least a little.
Graphically, UFC 2 is great. The Octagon is detailed, the crowd is dynamic, and fighters show damage to the body, legs and face as the fight progresses. Everything looks and feels realistic, with exception given to some odd moments. For example, if you throw a weird spin kick with Bruce Lee and your opponent does a leg kick, Lee might flop and spin around as the animation goes a little haywire. It’s amusing and spectacular when it happens, but uh, not exactly what EA was going for.
THQ’s UFC games played like arcade fighters; spam buttons, do special attacks, beat the living piss out of your opponent until Rogan screams “IT’S ALL OVER”. UFC Undisputed 3 was the best of that franchise, featuring a detailed career mode complete with small fighting organizations and the inclusion of PRIDE, the Japanese version of the UFC.
While THQ’s offerings weren’t the most realistic, they were fun to play. UFC 2 is realistic, and the result is that it plays like a simulator. Fighters get tired quickly, one punch can change the fight entirely, the ground game is frustrating and sometimes rewarding… I have mixed feelings about the style. It is a lot less pick-up-and-play than other UFC games, and while hardcore fans don’t care, I think that can harm the franchise. Casual fans would likely buy these games, except they are daunted by the learning curve.
Take the style and complexity of the controls out of the equation completely, and you are left with a series of small annoyances that detract from what would be a stellar game.
Take for instance career mode. In Undisputed 3, you would do post-fight interviews and your character would have dialogue. There would be cut scenes where you got to decide how your fighter acted, crafting a more compelling mode. This was absent from EA Sports UFC, and it is absent in EA Sports UFC 2. You can’t customize trunks, banners, post-fight gear, anything. You get a choice of white shorts or black shorts, basically.
That might seem like a small thing, but the game taunts you. After a carer fight, the game will tell you “You said a funny thing at the weigh in. +3000 fans!” What the fuck did I say?
Another annoyance is the ground game. Players use the analog stick to decide which transition by holding it in a single direction. The opponent can stop their transition with a stick move of their own. The annoyance, at least vs. AI fighters, is that the ground game will sap your stamina, while somehow, the AI, who has been break dancing around on your back for three rounds, still has stamina to spare.
Also, the judges suck. No, really. I landed 100 more strikes in a fight, had 3 more takedowns and somehow Anthony Johnson walked away with the decision. Here’s a SquidThroat tip for you; don’t let it go to decision. Judges are more corrupt than a billionaire’s cabinet picks.
Stand up is where the game shines, truly. There’s a new lean feature similar to the Fight Night games (please come back Fight Night, please?) and the fluidity of strikes is really quite dazzling. Knockouts are surprising and brutal, and the game engine does a good job of never giving you the same look twice; each time I kicked my friend David’s head in, he fell down different!
Another cool feature is the Ultimate Team mode. Similar to Madden’s Ultimate Team and MLB The Show’s Diamond Dynasty, UFC 2 allows you to collect cards and build a roster of created fighters, with the cards unlocking moves and perks to benefit your team. I would have liked to collect actual fighters for my roster, like Diamond Dynasty, but whatever.
There’s also a live event mode, in which you pick the winners of the coming live UFC event. You pick who wins, what round, and how victory was achieved. Then you have the option to fight out the situation.
Look, I really like UFC 2, but it’s an odd game. It’s meaty in parts and lacking substance in others. It’s a game that will appeal to UFC fans who want to put the time in, but new players will likely get frustrated with grappling and opt for spin kicks (David).
Closing thoughts? Joe Rogan really likes leg kicks. Also, the game is pretty okay.