EA UFC 4 Review: Pleasing Changes, Although Not Enough Changes

It was overdue for the UFC to have a new video game. The previous game, “EA Sports UFC 3” grew out of the UFC, and it completely ran its course. Just a look at the cover, which showed now-retired Conor McGregor and the old design of the UFC Championship gave this away.

So, two-and-a-half years after it’s predecessor, “EA Sports UFC 4” was released in August. The game was one that sprung onto the scene quickly, with its first trailer launching just around a month before it’s release. When the trailer marketed backyard fighting and competition in a “Kumite” cave, it was clear that the game would have big changes involved. Here’s a look at what was brought.

Gameplay Changes Improve Game Greatly Without Complicating

The biggest change of all isn’t the most marketable to a larger audience, that being the changes in the gameplay. While the game doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it makes a good effort to make the fighting modes understandable yet also more complex.

Big changes came to their grappling and clinching, two modes in the game that saw a complete overhaul. While it took a few minutes to learn how to grapple and clinch in the game, once it was learned it felt like the game allowed much more creativity and options in fights. These changes felt easy to learn and offered more options in fights. If anything, the longevity of the game will not come from the new modes or presentation styles it unveiled, but the gameplay changes and the new possibilities that it allows in fights.

Career Mode Offers Changes, Although Nothing Major

The most pushed mode in the game this time around was the career mode. A loosely followed storyline guides a player’s character from the amateur MMA scene to the UFC. The mode gives much more freedom to players.

The mode is lead by “Coach Dave,” a character that guides the player through their career in MMA. Very often in the mode the player is given the chance to influence their career. Opportunities arise to enter the UFC earlier or later than some might, with the options presenting pros and cons. Also, relationships with fighters are more in-depth, with interactions between the fighters even influencing how often a player’s character could work with them.

The additions to career mode are positive, although not huge changes either. The career mode offers a fair amount of flexibility, but when comparing to career modes in sports games like FIFA or NBA 2k, the amount of depth is much smaller.

Expectations of a career mode should be up to that level of other high level sports games, since not only does MMA offer a lot of options in a storytelling sense, but the game had almost double the development time that competing sports games often get.

Fun Additions, Weird Exclusions

The fresh scenery in the games “Kumite” and “Backyard” modes felt like nice additions, and ones that broke from the previous games and their tendency to provide a clean and generic professional MMA look. The “Backyard” mode very much explains itself through its name, being a gritty and unprofessional setting where fights compete within a DIY octagon that uses grass as it’s floor. The “Kumite” mode is an interesting one, as it provides a movie-esque setting of a dark and underground fighting arena that is surrounded by drums, fire and golden snakes. The audio sound effects played throughout the rounds feel like a throwback to the legendary Mortal Kombat voiceovers.

The buildup for the game smartly used it’s cover athletes, Jorge Masvidal and UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya to promote the respective modes, likening a fighter to one each (Masvidal being the backyard brawler and Adesanya being the “stylebender”).

While the UFC games tend to try to lean into realism and an immersive experience, it’s nice to see that they’re willing to throw stuff in which is just pure fun. 

On the flipside, there were parts of the game that were oddly changed or left alone. Offline modes like custom events or tournaments were left in, although disappointingly hardly changed at all since their previous version in older games. A slight toggle of even allowing new venues introduced in UFC 4 were not done in the modes. It was puzzling to see a complete copy and paste in the game which had no regard for the changes around it.

A complaint by many is that the game is missing many names in the UFC roster that are big and rising. While this is true, some slack must be cut for the team as fighters cannot be added into games overnight. It’s worth holding out optimism that the game will offer updates later on with extra players like they have done for the games before.

It’s About What You Want And If You Got It

“EA Sports UFC 4” offers a wide array of emotions. While there’s surprise and delight for changes in gameplay and fun small modes in the game, there’s disappointment that some things were left alone and others were “what could have been” stories. At the end of the day, it is a fun game, but, it’s hard to weigh whether purchasing the game at its release value is worth it. To many it will come down to what matters the most in the game for them and if that criteria was met for them.

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