Back in 2012, the UFC announced their partnership with gaming giants EA. With THQ losing the rights to the UFC product, EA would go on to produce, as of right now, three UFC titles. With EA Sports UFC releasing in 2013, the sequel in 2016 and the most recent instalment of the franchise in 2018.
It’s no surprise that EA took the popular series to new heights, with groundbreaking visuals and a quintessential presentation that captures the atmosphere of a real life UFC event. With each game they are learning from their previous mistakes and creating a complex yet accessible engine to replicate the unpredictable thrill of the sport of MMA.
However, there’s always room for improvement. And with the fourth game likely to come within the next year, here are 5 things that we want to see in EA Sports UFC 4.
MULTIPLE VERSIONS OF THE FIGHTERS:
In THQ’s UFC Undisputed 3, many fighters featured multiple versions of themselves that the player was able to choose from. Rather than having just one form, some fighters would have separate characters that would be based upon them from a previous year. After all, fighters can go through many images during their career.
This would be a nice little feature for the next instalment of the EA franchise.
You want UFC 205 Conor McGregor? Maybe 194? Maybe a version based upon his Cage Warrior days? The more variety the better, and this could be applied to more than half of the fighters on the roster for sure.
In 2011, EA Sports surprised everyone with Fight Night: Champion’s story mode. With what was formerly known just seen as a fun, competitive sports game, EA’s most recent Fight Night game managed to pull off an engaging narrative, with gritty characters and storylines that fit the genre perfectly. Despite being a bit predictable and corny here and there, the story mode was actually really enjoyable as it had you follow the rollercoaster career of the protagonist Andre Bishop.
Fight Night isn’t the only EA Sports title to feature a story mode either, as the FIFA franchise now tells the story of Alex Hunter in ‘The Journey’.
Without a doubt the could pull off an MMA storyline, especially with how popular the sport has become in recent years, no doubt a Conor McGregor inspired storyline would be enjoyable to play. Rising from the lower organisations to the pinnacle of the sport. Whatever approach EA would take, we’d love to play it.
CAREER MODE REVAMP:
Over the course of three games, EA has featured the essential career mode with each entry in the sports series. With each one having quite a simple, classic approach to a career mode. Create your fighter, pick your weight class, and off you go. Building your way up to the top with simulated training sessions and negligible training games to prepare you for each bout.
Despite this format being built upon and definitely being improved since their first game back in 2014, they seem to be tied down to the repeated, mundane career mode that lacks any real engagement to your fighter’s progression. THQ’s UFC Undisputed series featured many great approaches to your career. With a wide variety of fun training games that actually make it feel like your fighter is getting better, to interactive weigh-ins and post-fight interviews with Joe Rogan, it’s the little details that count sometimes, and the Undisputed series blended together the excitement of MMA with the enjoyment of a career mode well, and we’d like to see EA take a page out of their book.
PRIDE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS:
Once again, we’d like to see EA take a page out of THQ’s book with this one. In 2012’s UFC Undisputed 3, the series introduced PRIDE mode. A mode based upon the popular MMA organisation that spanned from 1997-2007.
The organisation competed with the pinnacle of the sport of the UFC, with a stacked roster full of some of MMA’s all-time greats while offering an entirely different set of rules from the UFC, with PRIDE notoriously allowing soccer kicks and a variety of other strikes that would be classed as illegal if thrown in the octagon. THQ perfectly captured PRIDE Fighting in UFC Undisputed 3. With the full PRIDE soundtrack, commentary, announcers, an exemplary recreation of the Saitama Super Arena, PRIDE variations of fighters and even a screen filter to make it look retro, it was a well accomplished reproduction of one of MMA’s best eras, and EA must feature it in their next title. It would be a crime not too.
A NEW GRAPPLING SYSTEM:
One of the biggest problems facing the franchise currently, is the grappling system. Other than the odd tweak here and there, EA has practically kept the same flawed grappling system since their first instalment.
Over the span of 3 games, the grappling has grown more and more stale and frustrating. While the striking system has evolved significantly throughout the series, it manages to capture the thrill of an all out brawl as well as a technical chess match, whereas once the fight turns to grappling the game fails to capture the reality of it.
It’s slow, it’s sluggish, and it just doesn’t feel fun or fair. Picking grappling oriented fighters doesn’t seem to have the right benefits to it other than your transition speed being quicker than your opponent.
This shouldn’t be the case.
When I pick Demain Maia, I want my opponent to fear going to the mat with me, rather than embracing it and being able wriggle out of a rear naked choke as CM Punk. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but there are times where your fighter doesn’t feel justified. And the clinch system is the same.
Not to sound like a repeating record, but THQ’s grappling system, despite being a bit out of date now, had the right idea. It felt fast, fluid and fun. The submissions didn’t feel over-complicated and unfair, the clinching was explosive as well as calculated. Ground and pound was fast and brutal and initiating and defending transitions was simple but effective. It just felt perfectly balanced. Like they did with the striking in UFC 3, EA need to rebuild the grappling system from the ground up and hopefully take some inspiration from THQ.
If they tweaked the striking in some aspects while adding some nice fresh animations along with a whole new grappling system, we could potentially have the best MMA gameplay we’ve ever had.