Sitting down to write this review of UFC 2, I have conflicting thoughts about the game. Compared to its rather hollow predecessor, UFC 2 is better in almost every way but it's hard to tell if the previous games lack of depth makes this one look much more impressive than it actually is.
It's clear that the creators of this game want to make a good UFC game. They took a bit longer than average compared to other sports titles to put a new game out. UFC is unique in that way though. There is no seasons so there doesn't need to be a new game every year. Big improvements have been made to the ground game and career mode, and there are some new modes added as well. The big addition that EA seem to be focusing on is the inclusion of Ultimate Team in this year's game. A mode that makes them a ton of money so it isn't all too surprising they would try to jam it into all their sports games.
First, let's talk about the career mode and the improvements made there. Gone are those terrible videos that the first game treated as some sort of reward for you as you made your way through the career. The way you train your fighter has some welcome changes. You can now choose specific aspects to train for upcoming fights. There was nothing more infuriating than finding out your next opponent specialized in jujitsu and having the previous game force you to run punching drills. Being able to practice and have your fighter improve in areas you choose allows you to become more familiar with aspects of the game you are having trouble with and makes it easier to create a fighter with the stats you want. As you make your way through the career mode you get points to buy moves for your fighter and fight to try to get the belt. The longer your career goes on the more chance you have of getting injured during training. There is a graph that shows when your fighter will retire, the better you do in your career the longer you can prolong it. You can also import your EA game face when creating your character, but for some people the service has been completely busted since a plug-in required to do this is no longer supported on some browsers. So unless your face is already uploaded to the service, you might have some trouble.
Ground game has also made some strides forwards. Prompts now appear on the screen letting you know your options for any given situation. Fights can now end up on the ground for a much longer period. When all goes well, it becomes a back and forth between the two fighters, fighting for positions as they try to work a finish. It sometimes doesn't go smoothly, defending position changes feels clunky and now and again it seems as if your button input for a ground transition doesn't register. When a fighter manages to get up and off the ground or gains a better position, it occasionally feels more like luck than skill. The ground game in real MMA is incredibly complex, and it would probably be impossible to do it real justice in a game. A good step forward has been made in this game, but the ground game still isn't fully there yet.
The stand up is pretty much unchanged, kicks sometimes get caught on opponents leading to some wonky looking physics. Knock outs look a lot more impressive now, the fighter will rag-doll and slam into the ground, making for some very satisfying KO's.
The roster for the game is also much improved from its predecessor, going from 97 up to 250+, allowing for a much bigger variety in match ups. With a much higher roster though, it's jarring when you come across so many generated fighters in your career mode.
You can play online against other players using UFC fighters in ranked and unranked fights. In Ranked if you win enough fights you can go up a division. If you manage to do well you can fight an opponent for a belt, if you win, you will be fighting other players who have managed to get themselves into a position of a title shot. It makes for some tense fights.
Now we get onto the other online mode. EA's much touted Ultimate Team. Having a mode that focuses on a team is a strange one since teams don't compete together on the UFC. The inclusion of this mode seems as though EA have something that works well in their other sports title and have tried to cram it in here. You earn points to buy cards for your team. You then use these to improve your fighters. Some cards will allow you to improve your fighters in specific ways. Some are moves, like a certain punch or kick. All this does is limit your ability to create the fighter you want. Grinding out currency (or buying it with real money) to buy packs of cards isn't what I want to do in an MMA game. Adding in that your fighters get tired after a few fights and you need to use a fitness boost card if you want to keep fighting with them just makes it feel like a mode designed to take money from you.
There is also a Knockout mode where each fighter has a health bar and if they are hit eight times, they get KO'd. It's a fun distraction for a little bit but there isn't much to it. It does allow people who aren't familiar with all the games mechanics to play against each other since it's purely striking focused.
With all the improvements made, it is clear the development team are passionate about creating a good UFC game. Definite strides forward have been made. However, things like Ultimate Team seem unnecessarily forced in and feel out of place. More improvements to the ground game would also be welcome, as it definitely flows better but can sometimes feel unresponsive.
When all the elements of UFC 2 come together it makes for a very fun back and forth between the two fighters and the ability to choose from so many fighters is a delight for fans. It does feel as if EA are still trying to figure what they want to do with the franchise when it comes to the game's other modes.
UFC 2 was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the publisher.
EA have attempted to fix a lot of mistakes made by the game's predecessor, ending up with something much improved and fun.