I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for fighting games. It was Tekken on the original PlayStation that reintroduced me to video games way back in the day.
But despite great 3D graphics, inspired – but questionable – body physics (I’m looking at you Dead or Alive) they never seemed to transcend their arcade origins.
EA Sports Fight Night Round 3 on the Xbox 360 finally gave me a fighting game with two feet firmly planted on the grown. Realistic, visceral, and brutal. Fight Night Round 3, its successor Fight Night Round 4 and 2011’s Fight Night Champion broke the barrier from fighting game to fighting simulator.
Later this year I think EA Sports are going to break that barrier some more.
If ever there was a game that reaffirmed my belief that the Xbox One analogue sticks are cheese graters on my delicate thumbs it’s EA Sports UFC.
I was recently invited to an EA Sports UFC preview event at Sydney’s UFC gym for a session with a UFC trainer and a preview of the game.
After a couple of hours with EA’s upcoming mixed martial arts extravaganza it was time to bust on the Nivea and nurse my weathered thumb back to health.
UFC is a tough game. This spiritual successor to Fight Night has an almost unfathomable amount of depth to it.
Sure you can sit there spamming punches and kicks – a practise which I’d certainly recommend when you start out, to be honest; but there’s so much more to just hitting your opponent.
In UFC you want you be grappling your opponent rather than trading blows that will eventually beat you down. This is where a relatively short session with the game got a bit overwhelming.
The ground-based combat, grappling and holding your opponent until he passes out or getting him into a very punchable sweet-spot, is what separates UFC from every fighting game that you’ve seen before. But in order to provide a convincing wrestling-style gameplay dynamic – and it is convincing – there has to be a degree of complexity.
You have an attacker using carefully positioned arms and legs to bring down, and keep down, their opponent. The defender who must avoid the throw or, if downed, try to turn the situation to his or her advantage.
Cue lots of floor-based twisting, writhing and counter-moves.
Putting in all in perspective, these preview events usually have a one-page hint sheet sitting on the console. UFC had a multi-page booklet detailing the moves and buttons depending on the situation.
The game has in the region of one hundred UFC fighters to choose from- including New Zealand’s own Mark Hunt, each with their own styles, strengths and weaknesses. The legendary Bruce Lee is also available as a pre-order bonus and to those that beat the game.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the game is going to take a while to master. But don’t be put off, though.
The game comes with a Challenges mode that helps players focus on areas where they are weak, such as take-downs or Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, and improve those skills- all away from the competitive environment.
EA Sports UFC looks stunning and whilst, yes, you will be just kicking, punching and blocking at the beginning; suddenly you’ll put a move that gives you a little WTF moment. And then you’ll do it again. And again.
EA Sports UFC will be released in Australia on June 19th, 2014 and in New Zealand June 20th, 2014 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.