EA has been working on the UFC series for over six years now - and we have the latest offshoot with UFC 4. How good is it? We fought in the Octagon and put everything through its paces and tested it. UFC Style.
Let's start with the good part: UFC 4 makes some of the very, very, VERY complex in-game mechanics easier. Thanks, EA. In fact, it makes the game much more beginner-friendly - but that doesn't hurt the depth of the fight mechanics in any way. All in all, changes like a new grapple system, better career mode, and a better tutorial also make for a better game. Not perfect, but in the end we came to the conclusion that MMA fans can be happy.
Compared to UFC 3, the biggest difference is clearly the clinching game. It used to feel like ground fighting on two legs - but now it's its own thing. We like that! To break a clinch, you don't have to fight through a fixed number of animations anymore, you just move away from the opponent. It may sound too simple, but in the Octagon it's much more intuitive. Space management is now more important than dexterity: you can't let yourself be pushed against the fence, otherwise, it can get very dangerous in a clinch.
A lot has also changed in submissions. The mini-game system remains, but there are now two of them: A mini-game for chokes and a mini-game for submissions that go to the joints - knee, ankle & arm. In the end, the mini-games are a little duel: whoever fills the "submit-meter" or the "escape-meter" first. Granted, we haven't had much time to be annoyed by the new system so far, but unless it turns out to be like the old one we are in good spirits.
For everyone that finds "Full Guard", "Half Guard" and "X Guard" talk is confusing - we have good news. EA has integrated a new grapple assist system, so now you don't have to know in which guard position you want to get up. If you want to get up, you can simply press up on the right stick with grapple assist again and again until you do. If you want a bit of ground & pound, just press right until it's where you want it to be and if you want a submission: press left on the right stick.
Sure, with the assist system you can't work as precisely in the ground game as if you do everything manually, but for beginners, it's better than getting panic attacks every time your opponent brings you down.
Career Mode is ultimately a super introduction to the game, which is also fun to play. You fight your way through amateur fights all the way up to the UFC. The process is always the same: You get 100 weekly points, which you invest where you want. A big change, however, is the Fighter Evolution System - moves can be improved by putting them into sparring sessions and real fights. Some gamers might know this from RPG's -The more often you use a move, the stronger it gets. The great thing about it: Your fighter really reflects your personal fighting style. When a move levels up, you get evolution points that you can invest in other stats to round out your fighter.
There are several places in career mode where you can make decisions as a player, but unfortunately, they don't feel really important. EA makes the same mistake as many sports games and focuses on fake social media interaction - you answer to posts. This has never been fun in any other sports game and it's no fun in UFC 4. A pity!
Nevertheless, fights and sparring sessions are fun and, unlike in UFC 3, you can now set a difficulty level from the start that remains consistent. Title fights are not suddenly as difficult as the last boss fight in Dark Souls or the arcade end boss in Street Fighter. If you're very petty, you can even decide after each fight whether you want to fight again or accept defeat.
All in all UFC 4 is a lot of fun. It builds on the solid system that UFC 3 had established and changes things here and there. The career mode is fun, striking feels good and the ground game is now accessible for beginners. There is no Ultimate Team online anymore, which we think is very, very good. Good going, EA! Apart from that, we have to wait and see how the game performs in the long run in the online mode - but so far we didn't have any problems. The new Blitz Mode is also something special (with fighting rules that are always changing) and it made us shout "GG" online. Sometimes rounds only last a minute, sometimes it's a best-of-three knockout system. It always remains exciting.
We like UFC 4 and recommend it to all MMA fans, fighting game fans and sports game fans. You just can't go wrong with it.