We live in strange times; times in which if you’re a fan of something like the UFC, you can’t go and watch it live.
What you can do, however, thanks to EA, is actually take part in it. Virtually, at least. UFC 4 is the latest game based on the franchise, which is available now on PS4 and Xbox One. And because there’s no risk of Covid-19 in the world of video games, it has full audiences that might just perk you up a little. Although if you’re a fan of the sport, UFC 4 probably will in general; it’s a rather good sequel.
Much of it is familiar though. Once again it features a brilliant fighter creator, first allowing you to define how your character fights, then determining how they look. You’ll find most of the clothing options locked until you’ve played a chunk of the game and levelled up your profile, however. New this year is the option to set one of your created fighters as your avatar, too, making them available across all weight classes in many of the game’s modes.
“Significant work has been done to make UFC 4 more authentic and dynamic”
Of course, the main thing you’ll be wanting to do with your favourite created fighter is tackle UFC 4‘s career mode. It’s not much different from UFC 3‘s, but it still manages to grab your attention as you vie to become a champion and then defend your title from all who oppose you. To do that you’re going to have to train a lot between fights, build up your stats and repertoire of moves, and also engage in the odd bit of PR. It can all sometimes feel a bit like busywork at times, but ultimately you’ll be so invested in your fighter’s career that you won’t let it spoil your fun.
Outside of career, there’s all the complementary modes you’d expect and perhaps a little more. You can jump into a quick fight if you want, and also one that eradicates grappling, ground work and submissions. If you want something more meaty to sink your teeth into offline, you can also create your own events and tournaments. Take the action online, and as well as the usual ranked and quick match offerings, you’ll also find a new Blitz mode, in which the rules are constantly changing to keep you on your toes.
One of the rules that might pop up in Blitz is one of the best new additions to UFC 4: Knockout mode. In this mode, the game becomes a straight-up fighting game like Tekken, with both players gaining health bars that don’t regenerate and victory generally decided by the best of three fights. The fights themselves are over quite quickly too, making it a great mode in which to settle scores with your friends or just when you want to waste five minutes or so.
“Forget all the modes, it’s the gameplay of UFC 4 that makes it a worthy sequel”
A couple of new outlandish stages have also been added to UFC 4, which can totally transform the feel of the game. Taking the action into a backyard makes it feel more raw and rugged, but it can’t compare to the Kumite arena. Presented like shady underground fights, battles that take place in the Kumite arena are accompanied by a cheesy Mortal Kombat-like announcer, while strikes dished out by you and your opponent have sound effects that make the whole affair a lot more arcadey. Not everyone will appreciate it, but it’s a fun little addition.
What you won’t find in UFC 4 is Ultimate Team, the card-based mode one would presume is EA’s cash cow. It’s a shame there’s nothing else as meaty put in its place, but its microtransaction-laden nature means I certainly won’t lament its loss. If you did use to like it and was expecting it to make a return in UFC 4, however, keep its absence in mind before parting with your cash.
Forget all the modes though, it’s the gameplay of UFC 4 that makes it a worthy sequel. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but significant work has been done to make UFC 4 more authentic and dynamic. Strikes are still performed with the press of a face button, corresponding to each of your arms and legs, with shoulder and trigger buttons being used as modifiers. But it no longer feels like a game of two halves when you or your opponent wrestles the other to the mat or grabs them in a cinch.
For a start, the action transitions much more naturally. It no longer feels as jarring when you go from fighting while stood up to being sprawled out on the mat. And once you are down, a new simplified control system means you can quickly and easily achieve your desired goal, whether that’s to get back up, put your opponent into a submission, or simply gain a dominant position for some ground & pound action. The submission system has been made simpler too, on both offence and defence, making UFC 4 the most accessible entry in the series yet.
“UFC 4 is undoubtedly the best representation of the sport yet”
You do, of course, miss out on some of the intricacies of the ground-based systems if you opt for the simplified control option, but those who are used to them can revert to the old control methods if they wish. Essentially, then, UFC 4 has more depth than ever if you want it to, but it’s also more welcoming to those who were previously left bewildered when a fight was no longer just a striking game. It’s a win-win situation.
UFC 4 is undoubtedly the best representation of the sport yet. It may not have a great deal more content than previous offerings, but what has been added injects a lot of fun into the game, and the removal of Ultimate Team isn’t likely to be a great concern. It’s the improvements to the game’s actual combat systems that make the most impact though, giving the action a more authentic and dynamic feel while also providing a much-needed lifeline for those who previously struggled on the ground.