EA delivers a real knockout

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First Posted: 7/14/2014

I don’t usually play sports games, but I am a big fan of fighting games, including boxing games. One of the best was the “EA Sports Fight Night” series. Though I haven’t seen too many UFC – or Ultimate Fighting Championship – matches, I was eager to try “EA Sports UFC” when I heard it was made with the same technology and team from “Fight Night.”

If you are unfamiliar with UFC, it is the biggest mixed martial arts competition in the world. The point is to identify the best types of martial arts and the best fighters in the world. Over the past decade, UFC has become one of the most popular new sports, spawning several pay-per-view events, movies, TV shows and now video games.

The first thing you will notice is the incredible graphics; everything looks very realistic and you can even see little details in the fighters’ skin, which reacts in accurate ways when it gets hit. The only weird thing is the lack of detail in the audience.

The gameplay is very different from any fighting game I have played. It is much more complex and has a huge learning curve in order to improve your skills. Unlike traditional fighting games, you can’t just come out of the gate swinging, as your character will get tired quickly. Bigger attacks do more damage, but they reduce your stamina faster. If you try to play more cautiously that doesn’t always help, as the more you block the less effective it becomes. Therefore, you have to be very strategic and mix and match blocking and different fighting styles.One of the things that makes it difficult is that there is no on-screen health bars or meters, so you really have to pay attention to subtle movements of your opposition to determine when they are about to be knocked out.

One of the most important thing to master is the ground game; just like in real MMA there is a lot of grappling that is done when the fighters are on the ground. They try to put each other into hold moves and make them submit from the pain. The grappling is very complex and took me a long time to figure out; even after a while I still mess up some combos, leaving myself open to huge damage.

The bulk of “EA Sports UFC” is the career mode, where you compete in a series of matches as you make it into the UFC reality show “Ultimate Fighter.” You then compete to earn a contract to be a real UFC fighter. Once you are in the UFC, you have to fight your way to become the number one contender and earn a chance to fight for the championship belt. As you fight, you gain new skills and your stats increase, letting you get stronger strikes and improved stamina. You can also do training exercises to increase skills and interact with other UFC fighters. Even though the offline career mode is nice, online is where it is at. The fights are lag-free, and you are paired with someone of similar ability so the fights feel much more balanced.

In all honesty, the biggest reason I wanted to try this game was the inclusion of a very special fighter, one of the most respected martial artists in the world: the icon, Bruce Lee. Every fighter wants to be Bruce Lee, and now you can. He isn’t as adept as an on-the-ground grappler, but when standing his strikes are awesome and he is really fast.

If you are a UFC fan then you are going to really like this game. The look and feel is as close as you can get to the real thing. The controls might be a real turnoff because they are so complex, but if you are willing to put the time in the action can be really satisfying. If you are used to traditional fighting games you might not like this game because the fighters are slower and methodical; it plays out more like a chess match than a fight. Don’t get me wrong, the fights can be brutal, but you have to really plan what you are going to do.

– Robbie Vanderveken is the digital operations specialist at The Times Leader. Email at rvanderveken@timesleader.com.