EA SPORTS UFC 4 - PS4 Review

EA SPORTS UFC 4 by developer and publisher Electronic Arts (EA)Sony PlayStation 4 review written by Nick with a purchased copy.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

It can be easy to assume that a series of sports games is little more than a roster update, but making that assumption about EA Sports UFC 4 would be a huge mistake. The series has continued to play to its strengths while weeding out some of the things that simply did not work before to release a well-rounded and thoroughly entertaining mixed martial arts experience.

Right off of the bat, I noticed that Avatar trend that EA seems to be adopting this year (I had a very similar experience when playing Madden over the last week as well), and I think it’s a change for the better. It puts the focus on you – and the idea that this is your career, with an emphasis on narrative that makes the sporting experience infinitely more personal. While discussing modes, let me just say that I do not miss the Ultimate Team mode in the least. In fact, I’m sort of stunned that it’s gone. This has been an EA staple of sports games for a long time, and while my mileage varies on the mode depending on what game I am playing (it works better for me in Madden than any of the other titles), UFC was always the most awkward and frustrating fit for me personally. Glad to see it gone so the focus could be put into other areas. You can still spend real money, but it’s mostly just focused on cosmetics that are nice to have but hardly made me feel like EA was dipping back into my wallet a second time.

Fans returning from UFC 3 will spot many similarities in this release, but I like that the core experience is wrapped up in my avatar. There are a handful of modes that have both online and offline focus, but by far the career one was where I spent the majority of my cycles. Kudos to the development team for integrating the training and introductory story into a nice, clean package that teaches you the ropes while giving you some backstory at the same time. Once you graduate from that, you enter the career’s mode’s primary gameplay loops, and it’s an addictive one.

How addictive? Well, the first day I fired it up, I was playing until about 3am – about seven hours later with only a handful of breaks. Essentially you sign a contract for X number of fights, and you can select a promotional reward with goals to try and meet above and beyond that. Some of these are easier than others, such as making sure you’re in peak condition for all of your matches, while others are more challenging such as getting three wins by knockout or submission in the first round. Fulfilling these contracts gets you more money and fans. The fans come in useful, because they make it easier to hype your matches up. More hype means more spectators when the time comes, which means more money. It’s all very cyclical.

Once you iron out your contract and select your opponent, you go into a camp that lets you have 100 points per week to spend on activities as you see fit. Want to spar with a boxing partner? That’s going to help get you in shape for your match as well as boosting your abilities. The first time you do it during a camp, it will chew up 40 of your action points. Want to do it again? No sweat, but it’ll cost you 45 points this time – assuming you don’t injure your sparring partner and force them out of the camp for the rest of the duration. There’s some risk and reward to these sparring sessions as well for you, as you could sustain an injury that impacts your health, your available action points or your money (if you decide to spend top dollar to heal up as quickly as possible).

There are some other ways to spend you action points, as you can do events that boost your popularity as well as the upcoming match hype. Some of these are ‘required’ events by the UFC (such as a photoshoot). You can skip those, but expect to take a hit to your wallet if you do. You can also study film on your opponent, helping you to gain an upper hand in the match against them. One of the more interesting subsystems in place is also the primary way you learn new moves – by inviting other fighters to your camp. If you have a healthy relationship with them (usually done by being pleasant via social media engagement), they will charge you less money to come to your camp. If you have a tense relationship, they’ll charge more – but hey, if you even wind up fighting that person, the bad blood only helps the hype of the match. Once they’re in your camp, you do a sparring session where you execute said move so many times and unlock it. Generally speaking, the striking moves are easier to learn than the wrestling, at least for me – but that has always been the way of it for this series and me.

When creating my new fighter, I went the kickboxer route. I like the flashy kicks, and admit to trying to set them up for big knockouts, but the meat and potatoes of my gameplay style is the boxing.

I will use this moment to make a plug for another Fight Night. I really mix good boxing simulations and that series was always one of the best. Anyways…

I will say that wrestling is improved this year, at least from my standpoint. It still has some rough edges, but significant strides were made in making it more approachable, and the results show. If you go for a joint submission, you have a fairly simple-to-do, but hard-to-master mini-game with your left and right triggers to line up a bar of yours over the bar of your opponent. Meanwhile the defender is trying to get their bar ‘away’ from yours to escape. It is a similar principle on the choke-outs as well, but using a stick to move your bar around instead of triggers. The stick manipulations for the ground game in general have seen streamlining as well that makes the whole process a lot less confusing than it used to be. I still prefer the striking of the standup game over the ground game, but I no longer feel like a paralyzed crab on the mat either, so I appreciate that.

The way characters progress however, was where the dangling carrot was at for me. Don’t get me wrong – I loved working up the rankings and earning Scrooge McDuck levels of money to swim around in, but the hook that kept me coming back were those improvements in my fighter. There are multiple systems at work simultaneously. For one, the more you use a particular move, the better you get with it. That creates a leveling system within those moves as you attempt to five-star them and then prestige them (by knocking out one of your opponents using it).

Additionally, there’s the aforementioned invite a fighter to your camp to learn new moves. In addition to that, you earn Evolution Points that you can put into perks suck as reduced stamina consumption on strikes in the first two rounds, or faster and more dangerous use of elbows and knees. These points can also be put into numerous fields on your character, from strike accuracy to kicking power or kicking accuracy to submission defense and chin health. One interesting change is the aforementioned injuries that can occur in a spar or match. You might wind up with something small – you could wind up with something major. Take a good enough hit to the chin, and your chin rating will drop half a star and force you to put precious Evolution Points back into it to recover.

The presentation is cleaner across the board, with character models looking better than ever and arenas feeling alive with activity. There are still some odd moments as a fighter hits the mat and their limbs flail about a bit oddly, and while the commentators were solid enough, there was a ton of repetition in what they said. Maybe that was partially my own fault for playing seven straight hours, but I was hearing the same lines over and over again about midway through the experience – to the points where I generally just tuned them out.


EA Sports UFC 4 didn’t reinvent the wheel here – but it did a nice job of making sure that it was as round and smooth as possible. The end result was an experience I found hard to put down as I binged it for hours on end and appreciated the improvements that have been made. I still think more can be done to improve the ground game, but I appreciated the improvements that were made and am hopeful for the future of the series.

Score: 8.25 / 10