I’ve played every single entry in EA Sports’ UFC game series that saw its first release back in 2014, and there are plenty of reasons why UFC in real life and this simulation game series attract a lot of interest year after year. Whether it’s knockouts, strategic wrestling, or the pure exhibition of martial arts, the no-holds-barred action in the octagon captivates your attention like very few other forms of entertainment. However, the reason I personally love this game is because the match can end almost instantly at any given point. While in other sports/fighting games such as FIFA (now EA FC), NBA, Madden, MLB, Tekken, Street Fighter, WWE, or even F1, there is a proper build-up that leads to a side’s win, in UFC, if you land a jumping knee or a punch to opponent’s face at the right moment, the game is done right there. This uncertainty and the variety in fighting styles make this sport unlike any other. So you can understand how excited I am now that UFC 5 is finally out and I have my hands on the game. Having spent some time playing this game, let me go through some of the aspects that make this game different from UFC 4 and whether you should buy this title right away or skip it entirely. Without any further ado, let’s dive in.
Arguably, this has been the Achilles’ heel for this game series in the past years as the game offers fairly limited game modes compared to other modern games in the combat sports genre. Sadly, there haven’t been drastic changes in this department and you still get the Fight Now (quick match), Career mode, Online mode (with online career, ranked championships, Blitz Battles (short matches where the rules keep on changing), and Quick Fight), and an option to create custom events.
The new addition here is Fight Contracts, which lets you play some interesting matchups with particular players to earn some in-game currency. These matchups are constantly updated and give you a decent chance of purchasing game items through the store. If you don’t want to go through the grind, there is always the option to splurge in real life as microtransactions are still part of the game. However, as these are mostly limited to cosmetics, the game doesn’t feel like a cash grab.
Coming to the Career mode, which will likely be the go-to mode for most people, the storyline takes you through the journey from backyard fighting to UFC. One thing you need to keep in mind this time around is your health condition in fighter evolution. Since I kept on increasing my stand-up attributes initially to improve my fighting game, I ended up retiring much sooner than I wanted to as my character’s body condition deteriorated drastically. In UFC 4, I didn’t face this issue but the longevity factor is key this time around. Apart from this, the career mode is largely similar to the previous iteration and your eventual aim would be to achieve the G.O.A.T status by completing certain objectives before retiring.
After completing the career mode, I was left with the feeling that the game could have offered other game modes that would keep players engaged for a longer time. While having a game mode like Ultimate Team is not entirely possible in UFC, there needs to be a game mode that can encourage players to keep coming back to the game. While Fight Contracts is a good addition, there isn’t a feeling of progression in this game mode that would encourage players to spend long hours playing this game.
While the core gameplay in UFC 5 remains similar to UFC 4, some tweaks enhance the overall enjoyment while playing the game. Let’s start with what I feel is the best new addition – ‘Real Impact System’. While in previous iterations of the game, the injuries were mostly superficial, this time around, the damage and injuries are more authentic and accurately reflect the physical toll taken by the fighters during the fights in real time.
To add to the authenticity, these injuries can directly influence the athlete’s performance and can even lead to doctor stoppages (more on this later) if one part of the body is severely damaged to a point where a fighter cannot continue. The damage taken by a fighter is shown in UI by ‘Damage Icons’ below the stamina bar. For example, there is a vision penalty icon that shows up when your athlete gets injured in the face where bleeding can directly impact your vision. This means that you will receive increased damage on the impacted side. If no further damage is taken in the next 30 seconds on that side or the round ends, this penalty is lifted. Similarly, if you get damage on the nose or mouth, there is a ‘Breathing Penalty Icon’ that shows up below the stamina bar and decreases your short-term stamina recovery. Again, if you don’t receive damage in the impacted area for 30 seconds or the round ends, the penalty is lifted.
There are other icons as well such as the arm health icon (depicts how severely your arm was affected during a submission attempt), heart icon (shows that your stamina was drained out due to a chokehold), and stun icons that show how a particular body part of yours was impacted deeply due to your opponent’s attack.
This system ensures that in every single match that you play, you are adjusting your gameplay according to the injuries and instead of engaging in a mindless brawl, you use calculated attacks to win the matches.
For the first time in this gaming series, doctor stoppages have been included in the game and if you get severe cuts in a particular place, the referee can call a doctor to check your injury. If the injury is not too severe, the match will continue, otherwise, it will stopped right away and your opponent will win. This adds a layer of authenticity and drama to the match, and as this is exactly how the real-life UFC operates, you get a more immersive experience than ever.
While UFC games have always looked great in terms of graphics, the developers have definitely upped their game with UFC 5. The player models look more realistic than ever and irrespective of how popular a particular fighter is or not, the accuracy in details is top-notch.
This means the entire roster looks identical to the real-life fighters and at no point do you stop and think that you’re playing with computer-generated models. Whether it is the in-octagon mannerisms or the entrances, the game behaves exactly how the real-life UFC works. And by this, I mean that even pre-match announcements and post-match theatrics are beautifully showcased within the game.
UFC 5 also comes with cinematic replays of knockouts, which look brilliant and give you a chance to boast about your great match-ending moves or annoy your friends by displaying every single angle of how you defeated them.
UFC 5 takes a lot of what made UFC 4 great and adds some layers on top to make it feel more authentic than ever. The gameplay changes elevate the enjoyment and you cannot brawl mindlessly in this game. The facial injuries and cinematic replays will make you enjoy the game more than ever and if you want to play as Israel Adesanya or Jon Jones, there has never been a better option. While I would ideally want more game modes in the next entry in this series, in its current state, it is worth your attention anyway.
Editor’s rating: 8 / 10
- Gameplay is better than ever
- Graphics are top-notch
- Presentation style is most authentic to date
- Game modes still lack enough variety
- Career mode can use an overhaul