EA Sports UFC
EA Sports has been desperate to get their hands on the UFC franchise for a long time and it seems that the demise of THQ has been timed perfectly to allow EA to begin their stewardship of the franchise on next-gen consoles.
They do have a hard act to follow though as THQ did a fantastic job of building UFC games that capture the complexity of MMA fighting as well as the intense atmosphere that UFC has managed to cultivate as the pinnacle competition for MMA fighter.
EA has brought a modest demo which gives an excellent introductory taste of EA Sports UFC offering the chance to fight as either light heavyweight champion Jon 'Bones' Jones or his prime contender, Alex 'The Mauler' Gustafsson across three rounds in UFC's now-iconic Octagon cage ring.
As well as the bout there's also a gentle tutorial which reveals what is a very deep control scheme that they have implemented to try and capture the complexity of the mixed martial arts ranging from brutal salvos of kicks and punches Muay Thai to the bone-breaking holds and throws of wrestling-oriented martial arts like Judo.
In fact there's a staggering 24 different kicks and punches in the EA Sports UFC arsenal using the face buttons as a base and adding variations like roundhouse kicks and haymaker punches with different combinations of the face buttons plus R1 or L1 and pressing a direction on the left thumbstick.
Grappling is also fairly extensively covered using L2 and quarter circles on the right thumbstick then variations allowing for different holds and takedowns. It then extends to the ground allowing for more grapples.
It sounds intensely complex (and to a certain extent it is) but the tutorial, while short, is very gradual, clear and deliberate in the way it introduces the concepts so UFC novices will be able to get to grips with the controls as easily veterans of the THQ series and EA Sports MMA.
What is really staggering about EA Sports UFC is the way it looks. The Ignite engine is EA's dedicated next-gen game engine for sports games and every algorithm is geared towards producing physics, visuals and atmosphere in as painstaking detail as possible. EA Sports UFC gets an extra advantage from only needing to focus on creating two fighters instead of ten basketball players or 22 soccer players as well as the ring and the crowd.
The visuals are exceptionally detailed on the PS4. Muscles and flesh bounce and deform as the fighters dance around the ring, grapple and land blows on each other and you can almost feel the knockout should you be skilled enough to land one.
This is just a demo but is shows that EA has really pulled out all of the stops to create an authentic and visceral UFC experience. The controls provide a great depth of options that will suit all kinds of fighters and they're easy enough to learn that is shouldn't be too impenetrable for new players.
It's hard to be able to say just how well the finished game will play from one demo but if basic the fighting experience is as sharp as this EA Sports UFC could prove to the next-gen fighting experience to beat.
EA Sports is due out on PS4 and Xbox One in North America on June 17th and on June 20th in Europe.
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