By Dean Moses
Game: UFC 4
Platform: PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Rating: T for Teen
With all the obstacles we have been facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it may seem like a mild loss that sports fans have been missing out on cheering for their favorite teams and professional fighters. Still, it can also be the littlest things that can make the biggest difference. So, if we can’t watch or play sports in real life how about we play them virtually? Thanks to the release of UFC 4 from EA Sports, we can relive classic bouts from a time when fans packed arenas.
Rinse and Repeat
While I am not a big UFC fan, nor am I very knowledgeable when it comes to the organization’s roster. However, the concept of creating your very own warrior from scratch and rising up the ranks from the local indie scene to a big-time UFC champion took my fancy. Moreover, the possibility of engaging in Rocky-esque rivals and backstage drama did more than just take my fancy, it captured my imagination. Leading up to UFC 4’s release I caught sight of videos that showed heated press conferences and fighters getting weighed in before Pay Per View battles. I began to ask myself just how deep will this sport simulation go? How much of the ultimate fighter’s life will we be able to lead? The answer is, unfortunately, very little.
After making your fighter you will be treated to a few cinematic scenes as a manager scouts you out then runs you through what is essentially the game’s tutorial section before throwing you into the rest of the game. You run through some training sections and then fight, rinse, and repeat. Unless you are truly enamored with the gameplay itself, the tedium soon sets in, which leads me to the biggest downside of all: the story. For the simple fact there really isn’t one. But what about the press conferences and weigh-ins I hear you ask. Well, they are simply the loading screens, that’s right… the loading screens. During my playthrough I only experienced cutscenes at the very beginning of the game and before I won a championship.
Bringing an RPG to a Fist Fight
This is the fourth outing in the EA Sports UFC franchise, so the gameplay from the last three installments remain pretty much intact here. If you are new to the series, the controls could take some time to come to grips with. There are two main points to focus on here, standing strikes and floor grapples. Strikes such as jabs, uppercuts, roundhouse kicks, and even flying kicks are the easiest to master, as long as you mix some blocks into your repertoire. The ground aspect can be a little bit more complicated with advanced button presses requiring you to prevent your opponent from gaining the upper hand in wrestling exchanges. Although the career mode is mostly disappointing, one nice addition is that the more you use a specific move, the more powerful it will become. This almost RPG like mechanic forces you to focus on takedowns, submissions, and strikes if you want a well-rounded fighter.
In terms of representation, EA has the UFC down to a tee. Character models are stunningly realistic, representing their true to life counterparts seamlessly. The arenas crowd, cages, and lighting are almost indistinguishable from the real thing. The only telltale sign is that fan-favorite Joe Rogan does not reprise his role on commentary (instead being replaced by Daniel Cormier) after he stated that he does not enjoy the recording process. Although we don’t have this classic voice, we do have realistic damage. Attack a body part enough times and you will see bruising and even blood that will spray into the air and even cover the mat.
The fighting system in UFC 4 remains as fun and as deep as ever. Still, the lack of a compelling story with the addition of a boring career mode makes this a disappointing experience unless you are a hardcore fan of the sport.