Stemming from some reporters, YouTube videographers, and notable players getting access to an alpha build of EA Sports UFC 2 in the last couple weeks, a lot more information is starting to trickle out about the game. There was a brief glimpse of gameplay in the above video, but the most in-depth and high-profile coverage so far comes in the form of Mike Bohn’s hands-on article at MMA Junkie.
As Bohn notes, the first game, released in June 2014, was flawed and subject t very mixed reviews. A lot of that stemmed from being the first game and having to be built entirely from the ground up (other than the occasional animation, not much was recycled from 2010’s EA Sports MMA). It did improve with patches, though, which included smoother striking with better combinations, new moves, new positions, and free roster updates. It was still far from perfect, though: The striking still wasn’t as smooth as EA Sports MMA (which was based on EA Sports’ Fight Night engine), the ground game was overly flawed, the AI had major issues, and it lacked variety in terms of both how fights feel and the lack of modes.
According to Bohn, a lot of that has changed, with the headline calling it “a vastly improved gaming experience.” So, what are the biggest changes?
- The roster tops 250 fighters, more than doubling even the post-updates roster of the first game. There are at least 41 fighters in the lightweight division alone. Aside from recent signings like Sage Northcutt (who will be in the first free update), it looks like everyone with any kind of following (including CM Punk) will be in the game, plus lesser names like Alexandra Albu.
- Grappling has been completely overhauled and “can only be described as a step forward.” The old stick rotations to transition (which were rough on the analog sticks and their rubber toppers), “users are presented the option to hold the joystick in a certain direction to load a bar to achieve a desired move.” Grappling is no longer turn based, as both fighters can move independently and try to advance position simultaneously, and “success is determined by speed and timing, as well as the strength of statistics for a given athlete.”
- Striking is more realistic and less arcade-style in terms of speed and pacing, “feels far more realistic than before,” and button mashers will now be punished by more patient players. “[F]or those eager to use foot movement, a mixed offense and perfect timing to score slick and rewarding knockout, the tactical and strategic side to the striking game is more alive than ever before.”
- Leg kick TKOs are in a EA game for the first time.
- As previously hyped by EA Sports, knockouts are now animated using a realistic physics engine and no two knockouts should ever be the same, so the game feels less canned.
- Mode-wise, event mode from THQ’s UFC games is back, and Ultimate Team from EA Sports’ other games will be adapted to the UFC. Career mode is being overhauled in various ways, including not having to repeat exercises you’ve already aced.
- In an effort to up the presentation quality, Bruce Buffer’s intros are now taken from actual event audio, similar to how real UFC event commentary was mixed in with studio recordings in the first game.
So, what else is there besides what Bohn covered?
The release date is apparently not the March 21st date that is on the UFC website right now, so that’s presumably a placeholder. In a thread as Operation Sports’ forum, Aaron Holbert, who writes for the site and played the alpha at EA’s “Gamechangers” event, posted that “I know the current tentative date (its not [March 21st] unless they changed it) and I was shocked. When I went to see the game the first time I was expecting a Summer release.” So it’s still coming out earlier than we anticipated (like the first game, the announced window is “Spring,” but the first game came out on the last Tuesday of Spring), but not literally the first day of Spring.
Holbert also wrote that:
- The roster includes “some BIG surprises that I cant talk about yet but I think everyone will be excited about them.” (For what it’s worth, Bohn wrote on his Twitter that Brock Lesnar, who was an added legend in the original, has been removed, so he’s not one of them)
- Having played every MMA game going back to Crave’s original UFC game for the Dreamcast, “this is the most natural [grappling] system I’ve seen” and and “[t]his system feels like grappling.”
- AI, move sets, and fighting styles are much more distinct, especially in terms of distinguishing fighters who prefer grappling vs. striking.
- Visual damage is improved: It’s more detailed and lasts longer, plus blood stays on the mat (including throughout the card in Event Mode).
- Cage walking, which was previously only in THQ’s UFC Undisputed 3, is in the game.
- Fighters’ different moves all have ratings/levels, so fighters who are especially good at certain techniques (Luke Rockhold’s body kick and guillotine, Conor McGregor’s straight left, Jose Aldo’s low kicks, Tony Ferguson’s D’Arce choke,and so on) will have that reflected in the game.
Finally, as with the original, the game runs at 1080p 30 frames per second with motion blur. This was a controversial choice given how much gamers favor 60 frames per second, but creative director Brian Hayes told Gaming Bolt that “We’ve found that going to 60fps doesn’t have a hugely beneficial impact, and people in testing have told us that the game actually looks better at 30fps with motion blur.” The faster frame rate also has a benefit to controls, though, and some gamers felt that the first game tended to lag a bit, so that’s a complaint that won’t go away until the game comes out.
We’ll keep you updated in the coming months about any new developments.