Unlike most of the company’s other franchises, the EA Sports UFC series is a bit different, releasing every other year. It paid dividends, with a clear upward trajectory noticeable from one game to the next. EA Sports UFC 4, the latest game in the MMA simulation series, is arguably the best, most feature-packed version to date, providing countless hours of fun for UFC fans.
EA Sports UFC 4 ditches Ultimate Team, which, while popular, has been known to stall development in other EA sports games with microtransactions. Instead of players opening card packs to unlock new content, EA Sports UFC 4 has a simple leveling system. Players earn XP for almost everything they do in the game, which allows them to level up and unlock new content. It’s basic and simple, and all the better for it.
EA Sports UFC 4 has a variety of game modes for fans to play as they level up, with the focus being on the revamped Career Mode. There is some semblance of a story attached to Career Mode, but certainly not on the scale seen in some other sports titles over the years. After the tutorials, the story aspect of the Career disappears and players find themselves just competing in one professional match after the next.
EA Sports UFC 4’s Career mode can be hard to put down, with players having the ability to manage their fighter by training in the gym, interacting with other fighters on social media, and trying to hype their fight . Instead of playing as a solid, real fighter in EA Sports UFC 4, players instead take on the role of a created fighter that they can level up.
Just like in real MMA, there are different play styles available to players in EA Sports UFC 4, and the game lets players stick to their preferred fighting style. For example, if someone wants to play as a kickboxer, they can spend their evolution points to level up their kicks and accuracy, giving them a deadly roundhouse kick that can give them a lot of first-round knockout. However, having incredibly powerful kicks comes at the cost of being weak when it comes to one’s other strikes and ground game.
The developers have put a lot of work into EA Sports UFC 4’s ground game, with a completely revamped system that allows players to more easily transition from submissions to ground-and-pound attempts. However, the game struggles to make this aspect of UFC entertaining in video game form. Spending a ton of time grappling on the ground and managing stamina meters isn’t as exciting as dodging strikes and landing perfectly timed punches on opponents.
EA Sports UFC 4’s ground game has been somewhat simplified and made more accessible, although the game does not deliver a “pick up and play” experience. Those who want to succeed in EA Sports UFC 4 will have to work hard, as this is not just a fighting game where players can expect to button mash to victory. A lot of strategy and thought goes into every move, and as a result, this is a game that may not be for everyone. The game’s tutorials are not very interactive and do not explain well how everything works, so for many players it is a kind of trial by fire and they may find the first few hours a bit frustrating.
Players can practice their fighting skills in EA Sports UFC 4 in different environments. Aside from the standard arenas, the game also includes Kumite, which is a Bloodsport-style arena that gives off serious Mortal Kombat vibes, as well as the Backyard, which, as its name suggests, is a cage set up in a backyard.
The Backyard and the Kumite are unique arenas, but mostly limited to Knockout Mode. Knockout Mode, for the uninitiated, actually turns EA Sports UFC 4 into a more traditional fighting game. Instead of forcing an opponent to submit or go for a knockout, it adds health meters . This creates a unique experience that provides a bit of a difference from what fans can get from the other modes in EA Sports UFC 4, adding some much-needed variety to the experience.
The usual local and online fight modes are also available in EA Sports UFC 4, in addition to more unique modes like Blitz Battles. EA Sports UFC 4’s Blitz Battles are designed to be fast-paced matches where players enter a tournament with constantly changing rules. It’s a lot of fun, and it seems likely that many EA Sports UFC 4 players will spend a lot of time in Blitz Battles in other game modes.
While playing the various modes of EA Sports UFC 4, players have access to an impressive roster of fighters. The EA Sports UFC 4 roster features almost all the expected faces in the area, as well as a few surprise fighters. This includes fighters like UFC president Dana White, Dan “The Beast” Severn, CM Punk (who hasn’t had a professional fight since 2018), and Ronda Rousey, who is technically still signed to WWE . Other guest fighters include the likes of professional boxers Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, though unfortunately they’re only available to pre-orderers.
Joe Rogan was also replaced on commentary, with Daniel Cormier reigning. Cormier does a good enough job, but the commentary on EA Sports UFC 4 is pretty bland overall. It doesn’t add much to the experience, and the lack of Rogan in the commentary booth hurts its authenticity quite a bit.
Otherwise, EA Sports UFC 4 does a great job of delivering an authentic UFC experience. Visually, the game is a clear step ahead of its predecessors, with highly detailed fighters and arenas, not to mention some truly amazing animations. Instant replays for knockouts look amazing, and it’s clear that the series has made leaps forward from the 2014 original when it comes to graphics.
EA Sports UFC 4 is quite easily the best UFC experience available on modern systems, although there are some major drawbacks. Loading times can sometimes be quite long, which breaks the pacing in Career and other modes. If the rumored EA Sports UFC 4 next-gen version comes true, it’s possible that this problem will be addressed by PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. PS4 and Xbox One players will want to keep that in mind, though.
Career mode can also be buggy at times, with our Coach repeatedly sending us the initial invitation to join their gym long after we’ve done so. It can also be cheesy by doing things like overloading the kicking stat and just spamming roundhouse kicks, which can get dull before too long.
However, despite a few hiccups, EA Sports UFC 4 is an enjoyable UFC gaming experience. Those who don’t want to put in the effort to really master the combat system probably won’t be impressed, but those who take the time will find it to be one of the best MMA games available on modern platforms, with great, incredible incredibly deep roster and a variety of fun game modes.
EA Sports UFC 4 is now available for PS4 and Xbox One. Today Technology was provided with a PS4 code for this review.