EA Sports UFC 5 Review

EA Sports UFC 5 by developer EA Vancouver and publisher ElectronicArtsSony PlayStation 5 review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

EA Sports UFC 5 finds its way to the current gaming console generation and makes good use of the improved technology. The formula is tweaked, not overhauled, but it still creates a satisfying fighting game. Those looking for massive changes from UFC 4, however, may be disappointed that more chances weren’t taken with this iteration of the series, but overall, EA Sports UFC 5 is an excellent game.

I’ve been a long-time fan of both the UFC and Fight Night games (they have some similar DNA in how they work, despite being very different games and experiences), and I’ve been excited to see where things would go using the new hardware. Most of these changes and improvements show up during the actual gameplay. For me, the meat and potatoes of the series is always found in the career mode.

Here you create a fighter (with both male and female options). There is a pretty robust set of options available at this stage of things, which is great for making fighters that are different from one another. Once the character is created, your character finds themselves in a backyard battle with a relatively no-talent opponent that gives your character a bit of a social media buzz as people recorded it and shared the fight enough that the UFC takes notice of your character. Early on, the proceedings are a bit more story-heavy, which I found quite welcome. I enjoy your coach’s interactions, and the early stages do a great job of teaching you the basics. Frankly, I’d recommend starting up in career mode if you’re new to the series, if only because those early stages will teach you pretty much everything you need to know about the gameplay.

However, once you get through the story nuggets during the early segments, the career mode becomes a pretty standard gameplay loop of sign a contract with incentives, pick an opponent to fight, enter a training camp for a handful of weeks, improve your character’s skills, fight your opponent and then lather, rinse and repeat numerous times. This allows you to carry on a career arc from backyard fighting nobody to future hall of fame champion.

Additional modes including Fight Now (basically, set up a quick match, including a Bloodsport / Kumite style endurance match), Contract matches (generated battles that you can complete for bonus rewards) and an online career mode. This one’s an interesting take on multiplayer with the progression elements found in career mode. If you have a good internet connection, this can actually be a lot of fun. Even at higher difficulties, the AI tends to be pretty predictable, but human opponents? They have a way of keeping things fresh.

Where EA Sports UFC 5 might frustrate fans is in how little of the framework has changed. I was a big fan of UFC 4 when I reviewed it, and by and large the way career mode advances, the way you build your characters up and so on hasn’t changed a whole lot. Given that this title isn’t subject to the same yearly release cycle that games like Madden, FIFA and NHL are, it would have been nice to see a few more chances taken here. Some old annoyances are still around from before, like trying to learn a new skill without realizing you don’t have the base skill without any kind of a warning that you are about to waste your time and points. Also for some reason there were numerous instances of me trying a match or training session and the camera inexplicably would pan back just a bit, outside of the ring, putting the fencing of the octagon between the camera and fighters. This was really distracting when it happened, and it happened about a third of the time I did a fight retry. Still, most of what made the last UFC game so enjoyable is still here and with enough polish that I still enjoyed what EA Sports UFC 5 had to offer.

Where this iteration really shines is in the actual gameplay. For starters, the visuals have received a tremendous boost on a handful of fronts. Bringing EA Sports UFC 5 into Frostbite engine has made for some fascinating moments during the game. There’s always been a sense of risk versus reward when playing, as going in for strong blows can leave your fighter tired faster or even exposed to a powerful counter attack that ends the match prematurely. These physicals and collisions are well represented in the Frostbite engine.

I really appreciate the new cut system. You won’t get much out of this if you have the difficulty set low and you’re just pounding your way through opponents in the first round, but for those who have an appropriate challenger that goes multiple rounds? The hundreds of variations of bruises and cuts a fighter can receive is truly impressive. The variety of injuries that can show up, and the way they can continue to worsen throughout the match while impacting your fighter’s health feels very authentic. There’s even a cut doctor who can come in once in a while to make sure that the fighter’s good to go after sustaining too much damage to the face.

Not everything has worked out perfectly in the transition to the Frostbite engine, however. It’s not incredibly common, but every now and again you get some really kind of goofy limb animations. Not so much during the fighting itself as in the aftermath. There’s a fantastically cinematic replay that happens at the end of matches that really show off the engine’s visuals. You get a slow motion look from multiple angles that show the last blow of the match. These feel appropriately weighty and devastating. However, there are times when the player lands in a decidedly unrealistic way when they ragdoll to the mat. The most egregious example that comes to mind was when I put an opponent out on their back, and somehow their arms both folded up under his back. It looked really weird and I’m pretty sure shoulders don’t move like that without getting ripped out of their sockets first. It was a strange ending to what had been a satisfying flying knee to the face that ended the match.

Another area where EA Sports UFC 5 feels improved is the ground game. The controls are more streamlined and reactive, and feel less like a button mashing mini-game that always seemed out of place within the rest of the fighting. Upright clinching could probably use more love, as there’s not a whole lot of depth to it, but I really appreciated how much better the ground grappling felt. One more slight tweak from before is how the spin attacks work, using two buttons to start a spinning motion and then the right sequence of follow-up button presses to pull off the move. It makes sense to me that they would make this aspect of the gameplay a bit more challenging to pull off, as everyone seemed to love those flashy, powerful spinning kicks and backfists in the prior game and they felt a bit overpowered as a result.

The good news for fight fans, is that EA Sports UFC 5 is the best sports combat game on the market, and it’s not even close. It’s benefitted from the improved tech of the current consoles and both the gameplay and presentation are improved in multiple areas. However, it would be nice if this felt a bit less like a next generation update of UFC 4. Sure, that was also a really good game, but I would have enjoyed seeing a bit more done with some of the modes, especially the career one. Maybe there’s some actual storytelling that could be done with the Kumite battles, some decisions to be made along the way, I don’t know. It just felt as though the story got off to a fairly strong start and then sort of evaporated in favor of the contract, train and then fight gameplay loop that hasn’t changed much from the last release. Those quibbles aside, EA Sports UFC 5 is an easy game to spend a lot of time with, as the core fight gameplay is truly enjoyable and has me lowkey holding out some hope that we get a new Fight Night in the somewhat near future as well.

Score: 8 / 10



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