After a brief hiatus, this year marks the return of mixed martial arts to gaming consoles. It’s time once again to immerse yourself in all the intense action that the Ultimate Fighting Championship has to offer. Create your avatar and begin your pursuit of international glory with EA Sports UFC 4 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
EA Sports UFC 4 Details
Ready to rumble
With so much disruption of sports overall in 2020, there’s no doubt that MMA fans are spoiling for a fight. Admittedly, I do not follow the Ultimate Fighting Championship that closely in my day-to-day routine. Last I heard, head honcho Dana White had set up some manner of “Fight Island” somewhere in international waters.
It’s an intriguing prospect to be sure. In particular with a massive fan base no doubt thirsty for some significant action amid a global pandemic. However, I can’t decide if it sounds more like a legitimate sporting event of the plot of an 80’s Jean Claude Van Damme flick.
Unfortunately, “Fight Island” does not make an appearance in EA Sports UFC 4, at least this time around. Nevertheless, for fans eager to consume an original storyline, the game does center around a robust career mode. This comes complete with a narrative campaign that takes players from the parking lot to prime time championship lights.
Create your fighter
EA Sports UFC 4 leans into a trend that seems to be growing in recent EA Sports releases. Rather than sticking to just career mode, the avatar fighter you design will instead follow you throughout the game across multiple modes.
For the most part this comes across as a bid to tie players more thoroughly to their in game identity. This of course leads to an increasing interest in cosmetic upgrades and—you guessed it—the microtransactions that come with them. These aren’t overly aggressive in EA Sports UFC 4 thankfully, but they are there.
Shaping the path to victory
EA Sports UFC 4 clearly builds around its career mode (and its narrative storyline) first and foremost. That means (unlike perhaps other EA Sports franchises) it isn’t just a collection of brief snippets of gameplay with story beats in between, meant to springboard players into lengthier franchise modes or seasons. Instead, the lion’s share of overall content works itself in here.
This means you won’t just bounce from match to match. Rather players are introduced to a well-rounded system of training, interaction with fans and media, superstar collaborations, and more. You’ll spend as much time in the gym as you do in the octagon.
As someone who enjoys when a sports title incorporates some RPG elements into it’s career mode, I like what EA Sports UFC 4 does here. Everything you do in between matches will shape your fighter, many at the cost of a finite amount of training points. It’s up to you to determine where and how your energy is best spent.
This isn’t simply leveling up stats however—it’s choosing whether to spar, watch tape, or any number of real-life activities an MMA fighter might participate in. The best part is that you can even overdo it in some areas, and too much of a good thing can actually be detrimental to your performance. Thus, you can’t simply phone it in—players must calculate the optimal training path to become a true legend in their chosen style.
Complex button training
Many of the training portions of EA Sports UFC 4 center around increasingly complex button patterns. Naturally mastering these combos and moves will translate into real success in actual matches. Thus training your fighter and training yourself truly go hand in hand.
One thing I did notice in reviewing the game on Xbox One X is the merit surrounding the Xbox One Series 2 Elite Controller. A number of moves in the game concentrate on pressing multiple inputs at once, including more than one letter (or symbol on PS4) input. Now perhaps the fact that I wouldn’t consider myself a fighting game aficionado shows here, but these don’t necessarily come naturally to me.
However, I did find executing them to be much easier when taking advantage of the backside inputs on the Series 2 Elite. Of course this isn’t an option for everyone. Nonetheless I’ll point it out as it is an interesting approach for those who want to gain a potential edge. Of course on PlayStation 4 a similar option exists in the Dualshock 4 Back Button Attachment.
Limited content beyond career mode
While career mode is a mostly satisfying journey, I struggle to see much else that would keep me around upon completion. The rest of EA Sports UFC 4 depends on a combination of offline or online tournaments to engage players.
A “Blitz Battles” mode offers fast-paced online matches for those looking to compete in multiplayer events. Outside this however there isn’t much in the way of compelling replayability unless you really just want to participate in endless matches or tournaments.
EA Sports UFC 4 notably lacks an “Ultimate Team” mode this year. Now don’t get me wrong—I’m not necessarily lamenting the departure of the always microtransaction-heavy Ultimate Team. However, the fact that there doesn’t really seem to be any major development taking its place does make the game feel a bit emptier than previous iterations.
EA Sports UFC 4 delivers a compelling career mode but few other options
With EA Sports UFC 4 you can expect a satisfying campaign with more to do than bounce between matches and story beats. There is a deeper progression system with some RPG-like elements that add to the immersion of training as an MMA fighter. Overall it’s certainly the most compelling aspect of the game.
The downside is that it doesn’t have much competition in that regard. In the absence of Ultimate Team mode there isn’t much else beyond a few tournament modes and a rapid fire online multiplayer event in “Blitz Battles”. As a casual fan I don’t see anything compelling me to stick around beyond the narrative storyline.
+ Enjoyable career mode
+ Immersive training and development elements
– Sparse content outside career mode
– Lacks compelling replayability
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF EA SPORTS UFC 4
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3/5