The popularity surrounding UFC and MMA hasn't been lost on game studios.
However, it's a shame that very few haven't really capitalised on the intensity and drama of it all. So it goes with UFC 2, a surprisingly clinical approach to the world of MMA. The game's mechanics do have a certain rigidity to them that makes the real-life combos, blocks and grapples feel more dictated than fluid. It's a shame because the game doesn't capitalise on the excitement of the real thing. Fair enough, no game can truly capture it, but FIFA '16 and the various racing games do go a long way to putting you in the hotseat.
The on-screen directions for grappling, though easy to pick up and follow, don't necessarily give you a real sense of just how tough it is. You've got time to think about what you're doing whereas, in reality, it's split-second decisions that carry weight to them. Here, it's forgiving and the game suffers as a result. Although it has the option to play in real-time and you can up the difficulty as you get more experienced, it still feels like it's taking way too long to get going.
That said, the punches, kicks and throws do feel convincing and there is something satisfying about slamming your opponent down and raining blows in on top of them. The huge roster of fighters is brilliantly realised and the visuals are impressive, especially the damage system and how it captures their various ticks and mannerisms in the octagon. But when it's all said and done, it does feel like the fighters are sponges - rather than actual beings that respond to the damage. You can rain blows in on a fighter's head, but it doesn't do you any good. The game is really played on its submissions. Once you lock it in, it's less about button-bashing and more about struggling out of it. Again, it's just too mechanical to make it convincing. The strategy elements of the game are far more advanced than you'd expect, but that doesn't give you a sense of excitement when you're playing. You can switch to KO Mode, which depends on you landing six or seven punches, but that's just a bit too lacklustre to make it convincing.
The multiplayer experience is, however, very good. So to is the character creation mode, which really does have a lot going for it. You can build a character to fit your own style, whether it be wrestling-focused, boxing-centric or even an all-rounder. The facial capture software does need a little fine-tuning, but the in-game facial creation is just as good as if you don't fancy putting your own mug on a fighter. Each of the many, many fighters are all different enough to make them believable. McGregor's lighting-fast speed is realised well whilst Rampage Jackson's punishing blows are just as devastating here as they presumably are in real-life.
There's a lot to like about UFC 2, the visuals, the music, the sheer number of fighters. However, it's just a little too slow and too rigid to be exciting. You can't connect and combine attacks like a traditional beat 'em up - which this is, when it's all said and done. A good effort, but there needs to be more speed and excitement to it than the considered approach here. It's an improvement on the first EA UFC game and, undoubtedly, the next one will make more improvements as well.
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer / Publisher: EA Canada / EA Sports