EA Sports UFC 4 (Xbox One) Review

By Josh Di Falco 07.11.2020

Review for EA Sports UFC 4 on Xbox One

After a couple of years, EA Vancouver is back with their latest iteration of the mixed-martial arts sport with EA Sports UFC 4. This year's release contains mechanical adjustments to the controls that allows for a more streamlined approach for newcomers to compete in the digital octagon. In addition, there is the updated roster, an offline career mode to put plenty of hours into and some online modes for those who are looking to take the UFC challenge to the next level by competing against the rest of the world. While fans of previous UFC titles may jump into another year of digital MMA-fighting, does EA Sports' new title do enough to reel in newcomers? Forge a brand-new career and begin the meteoric rise to G.O.A.T. status now.

The major difference with UFC 4 and the previous titles is the new 'assist' control scheme that's designed to make it easier for newcomers to jump in and learn the controls. However, for those who have mastered the previous control scheme, 'legacy' controls do exist in the settings to revert back to a more comfortable control scheme, while a 'hybrid' scheme also exists for those who want to blend both schemes into the one. Being a newcomer to the UFC series, the 'assist' controls are fine and easy to pick-up and learn - though the in-game tutorial does leave a lot to be desired and a lot of the help with figuring out the controls came from external sources. In terms of a straight-fighting game, the controls are easy enough to grasp - it starts to get trickier once the clinch and grapple controls come into the equation. Again, the in-game tutorial does an OK job of teaching the basic controls - though the offline career mode is where the bulk of the education comes into play.

Taking the fight to the ground, the default mechanics is a simple grappling system, where the fighters can choose from three options. Rather than throw confusing technical terms out there, in UFC 4 the three options instead are labelled as the end result of that grappling chain. For example, once initiating the grappling on the ground, the left stick can be flicked in one of three directions that are displayed on-screen and marked as 'submit', 'ground and pound' or 'get up'. Basically, there is no need to learn about which positions lead to specific mounts or holds for example. Rather, if the fighter aims to win by submission, then continuously flicking the left stick into the direction of the 'submit' option will ultimately lead to a submission. Transitioning from one hold to the next is the tricky part - and it's the source of frustration for multiple reasons. For example, playing the game on 'Medium' makes the transitions easy to do with hardly any pushback from the opponent. Playing on 'Hard' mode makes the opponent refute almost every single transition attempt.

Screenshot for EA Sports UFC 4 on Xbox One

With submissions, there are two different types: joint or choke submissions. Both of these submissions rely on a "cat and mouse" mechanic where the attacker has to try and get their tile over the opponents - though the only difference between the different submission types is that chokes take place on a full-circle, whereas the joint submissions take place on a semi-circle. Like the grappling system, the ball seems to always be in the court of the defender, as it's far easier to get out of a submission than it is to make an opponent tap out. Even when an opponent does tap, the submission wins rarely feel satisfying. Knocking out an opponent with a well-timed punch or kick to the head is the best way to win in terms of satisfaction.

The career mode begins by creating a fighter and choosing one of the five fighting styles: kickboxer, boxer, wrestler, jiu-jitsu or balanced. Despite the varying advantages of each fighting style, the styles themselves don't differ that greatly from each other once the match starts. Especially once the levelling up process begins in career mode, boxers don't seem to have that much more of a chance of knocking out their opponent with an overhand punch than a wrestler for example. It would've been cool to see some sort of "rock-paper-scissors" implementation with the different fighting styles; or some purpose behind choosing a specific fighting style.

Screenshot for EA Sports UFC 4 on Xbox One

After creating a fighter, there's a couple of amateur fights that serve as a tutorial for learning the basic fighting mechanics of UFC 4, under the watchful eye of Coach Davis. After making it through a series of amateur fights and some hopeful victories, it's then on to the UFC for the bigger stage, the bigger fights, and a bigger cash payout. These fights have a 4-6 week lead-in, where a range of activities can be undertaken. From hyping up the fight with social media posts or attending sponsored events to undertaking training regimes in any of the various fighting disciplines - there is a bunch of activities to do. The best part about this lead-up is that it doesn't take long to get through and there is a lot of reward for partaking in it. Hyping up the event to the maximum can lead to more eyeballs watching the fight and ultimately more money down the track, and doing enough training drills allows the fighter to be at peak fitness for the big fight. With only 100 points to spend each week, and the various activities costing from as little as 10 points to as much as 80 points - it's a balancing act of determining where exactly the priorities should lie - though to be fair, there are enough points to get most things done prior to the big fight.

These various events and training drills are quick 2-minute drills that are fast-paced, and doing them can provide bonus experience boosts to specific moves. Levelling up these moves is paramount to crafting a better fighter moving forward. Slowly progressing moves from 1-star to 5-stars is a work in progress over the length of the fighter's career - and the only way to continue levelling them up is to use them in fights. Outside of these, the fighter can also earn 'evolution points' which are used to upgrade things like health regeneration, kick or punch speeds as well as increasing their damage output. The levelling system is quite dynamic - because any injuries sustained during training or in matches can also have a negative effect on levelling progression - adding a lifelike realism to the battles.

Screenshot for EA Sports UFC 4 on Xbox One

The only gripe with the levelling system of moves or abilities is that most of it seems to be cosmetic - in other words, a level 4 overhead punch doesn't seem to do any more damage than a level 1 overhead punch. Increasing the resilience against getting taken down with a grapple doesn't seem to make the fighter any better at blocking a takedown attempt. There probably are stats and numbers that are increasing when certain aspects of the fighter get levelled up, but from battle to battle, it really doesn't feel like anything is actually improving, which is quite a bizarre feeling. Or if there are visual or mechanical improvements, they must be so subtle that only those with a keen eye would pick up on them.

Outside of career mode, there are the online modes that consist of the fast-paced 'Blitz Battles' that can be fun for those who wish to delve into some short and quick fights with a rotating roster of rules, while the typical ranked mode also remains. Though outside of competing for daily challenges and building up online rankings, this mode will only really appeal to those with a deep-found love for the sport and the patience to wait for the next UFC title.

Screenshot for EA Sports UFC 4 on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

This year's iteration of UFC from EA Sports looks good, and feels good in parts - though the submission system just doesn't appear to be as much fun to play. The best parts of this game are the boxing and kickboxing elements, and the offline career mode is a fun mode to build and forge careers in. With really no other fighting titles to purchase this year, EA Sports UFC 4 will be unrivalled for those looking for another sports-like fighting game - and while UFC 4 is not a bad game, it doesn't do much to appeal to those who don't already have a love and appreciation for the sport or the brand.

Developer

EA Vancouver

Publisher

EA Sports

Genre

Sport

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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