EA Sports UFC 4 hit shelves worldwide on August 14th on Xbox One and PS4 consoles in conjunction with the UFC’s massive card they had last weekend, which was headlined by the conclusion of the heavyweight trilogy between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier. The fourth edition of the UFC and EA partnership released almost two and a half years after the third, which was longer than fans had to wait previously. With COVID-19 most likely to blame, the game filled a much-needed craving for fight fans, especially with champions such as Alexander Volkanovski, Weili Zhang, Deivision Figureido, and Petr Yan absent from the previous game. One week in here are my initial thoughts on UFC 4:
Lack of Fighters
Despite the game taking six more months to release than UFC 3, the game series still has the problem that there is a ton of top-flight UFC fighters that did not make it into UFC 4. Ranked fighters such as Calvin Kattar, Chito Vera, Dan Ige, Pedro Munhoz, and even newly announced next UFC women’s featherweight title contender Megan Anderson were all amongst a list of fighters who were left out of the new EA game. It is hard for the promotion to justify these exclusions because all three fighters have had multiple fights under the promotion since 2018 or earlier. It is disappointing as a fan that certain upcoming fights cannot be played out on the controller due to certain fighters not being available. Hopefully, there is an update soon because it is sad that boxers Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua were included, but some of the UFC’s up and coming stars were not. One thing I did like involving the fighters is that there were countless new model updates. Many fighters’ appearances were in good need of an upgrade and it was good to see fighters have their current hairstyles, or updated tattoos present in UFC 4. It showed a dedication to putting out a realistic product and they hit the mark regarding fighter appearance.
Target Audience Shift
It is hard for the UFC to be considered family-friendly due to the violent nature the sport possesses. It does appear though that this edition of the EA Sports/UFC seemed to be steered towards younger generations. New UFC 4 features were added such as goofy pre and post-fight taunts, more customization features such as masks, and being able to fight in a backyard brawl or at Kumite from the movie Bloodsport. To some, they have seen the sport of the game they loved turn into a WWE game with real fighting disciplines, while others could embrace the new creative freedom this edition allows them to have. I do not mind it all that much, as it seems like there is about a 50/50 split regarding realistic versus non-realistic character appearance options, which is a lot for a traditional sports game. The new fighting arenas add a new jolt to a game series that rarely changes and although some will claim its unnecessary, one can claim it was essential to differentiate itself from other reiterations of the franchise.
With a ton of eyes on the UFC in recent months, it was a smart move by EA and the UFC to make UFC 4’s gameplay simple for the newer and younger generation of fight fans. The improved clinch system adds another dimension to the standup of the game, making clinch work as a way to get off clean shots and adds the threat of the takedown present as well. Once on the ground, they simplified the ground transitions to lead to positions that either allow you to go for submissions, to return to your feet, or attempt ground strikes. The more simplified controls can turn UFC 4 into a fun game to play in groups and a game to settle feuds amongst friends. When playing solo, the game also has ranked online modes, new Blitz Battle mode, and a revamped career mode which could make UFC 4 a game worth purchasing to hold you over before the fall line of games start to come out.
The career mode in UFC 4 has brought us a new look into the life of an MMA fighter. UFC 4 takes you through the rise of a fighter on the regional scene looking to make his way to the UFC. Through the career mode, you can choose your fighters appearance, clothing, and even fighting discipline before attempting to make it in the UFC. Once you start the career mode you get introduced to Coach Davis. Your fictitious coach who leads you on your way to glory also teaches you through sparing sessions and is there just about every step of your career. Davis MMA is where you train throughout your career and one thing I do love about UFC 4 is the ability to train all the different fighting disciplines there. In UFC 3, you would have to consistently change fight camps depending on your upcoming opponent and would have to resort to training select parts of your fight game depending on which gym you were at. Additions to the career mode such as the ability to add performance bonuses to your fighters’ contract and the ability to decline fights make you have a ton of more control over your fighter’s destiny and can have you end up in different situations depending on the path you take.
The fourth chapter in the partnership between UFC and EA Sports showed some hope for the future of MMA video games. With the new and improved clinch mode, and entertaining additions to the career mode, this game does give you something that you can put some serious hours into. However, the tacky emotes and lack of fighters do leave me under the impression that the game was rushed and did expose some holes in the franchise.
(Cover Photo: nme.com & EA Sports)