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Media Reviews: UFC by EA Sports

Grade: B

In the past few years, the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) has taken the world by storm—WWE wrestling’s blood and mayhem met the strategic and tactical art forms of traditional boxing and other forms of martial arts.

On June 17, 2014, EA Sports released its first UFC game, a game so realistic in its graphics and mechanics that it offers gamers an avid MMA fans alike the closest experience yet of what it’s like to fight in the octagon.

In 2009, THQ released its first of several installments for UFC games. Although I relatively enjoyed playing these games, I must admit they all fell short in one way or another. The majority of the games had decent graphics, at least for the time, but they were just too simple to play.

Anyone who could spin the right analog stick and mash buttons on either the Xbox 360 or PS3 controller were essentially masters of the game without diving into the nuts and bolts. This became increasingly annoying when losing fight after fight to some screaming 12-year-old who mashed the square button long enough to knock your fighter out.

People bought these games to play something that took real skill and strategy, tactical and impulsive decisions, as well as real-life movements and gestures.

In other words, the key is realism. Although the first installments attempted this feat, they fell short; but after selling the license to Electronic Arts, EA Sports UFC finally lives up to the hype.

I’ve been playing the game for a week straight now and it’s all but perfect.

The game not only contains practically any fighter in any weight class you can think of, but each fighter is nearly identical to their real-life counterpart. Clay “The Carpenter” Guida fights and stands with his hands by his side as he does in real life, Jon “Bones” Jones utilizes a series of endless and unorthodox kicks as well as punches of which he also displays in real life, and Ben “Smooth” Henderson’s angel wing tattoos look just as smooth in the game as they do on his back in real life.

These characters look so real it almost feels as if I’m controlling a living, breathing fighter. By the way, you can actually see the characters’ breathe, contract their muscles and even wipe the blood and sweat from their brows.

To add further realism to the game, almost every sound one would expect in watching a real-life fight is also in this game. With every punch thrown and every kick landed, you hear the full contact of either pad against flesh or flesh against bone. Even with the roaring cheers from the fans and the shouted directions from the coaches, you can even hear the cage rattle when the fighters crash against it.

This game looks and sounds better than almost every Rocky Balboa slow-motion scene you’ve ever witnessed, and the graphics aren’t even the best part.

As I said before, the previous games were good, but they lacked the complexity of the sport displayed in real life. In this game however, like its graphics, the mechanics and movements of each fighter are nearly the epitome of realism.

EA Sports UFC has an entirely innovated but similarly new button scheme.

This new approach allows gamers to maneuver, transition, strike and submit in virtually any way the gamer can think of. The first time I saw Urijah Faber leap from the cage into a devastating superman punch to knock his opponent out cold gave me reason enough to scream and yell about my victory for the next three matches (two of which I lost). Every seemingly endless string of combos I put together was delivered with such fluidity that I could almost feel my punches and kicks connect before I even hit the buttons.

The game also includes a downloadable bundle that allows the user to play as—wait for it—Bruce Lee. That’s right, Bruce “The Dragon” Lee is available for play in any weight class possible if one is willing to pay the fee of $5.99.

As I said, this game is nearly perfect … nearly. Although I heavily enjoy the realism of this game, I’m afraid there are elements of the game that are far too complex to make it realistic.

For instance, when playing the computer, especially if the difficulty is set on hard or pro, it seems almost impossible to escape the clutches of your opponent if he or she takes you down—and trust me, they will.

I should note here briefly that this is the only UFC game I know of to include both male and female fighters, a change that I’m sure was made when the addition of female fighters such as Ronda Rousey emerged in the UFC.

If the computer manages to take a player down, that gamer will more than likely spend the next three minutes of the round and the rounds that follow desperately spinning the right stick and blocking inevitable transitions and submissions. Unless the user spends hours mastering the series of half-circle rotations, plays on an easier difficulty, or is playing another user who doesn’t know how to work the ground game either, then they will surely lose. Users are just no match for the complex and never ending transitions both on the ground and in the clinch.

EA Sports UFC is a fantastic installment in the realm of fighting games. It is the most realistic game I have played to date and really stands as a testimony for the wave of games coming out on the next-generation consoles this year.

Like any game, it has its flaws; but I see myself playing this game for hours, days and even months to come.

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