EA Sports UFC: Gameplay vs Realism

Action abstraction.

by

No matter what the subject matter, there's a point at which most games with a grounding in realism must sacrifice said realism for the sake of gameplay or, to put it another way, find ways to improve upon realism. That's why bullets hurt only our health bars in shooters and why racing games rarely require us to refuel. It's also why in EA Sports UFC, which I had an opportunity to play for the first time recently, Career mode training minigames will award you development points rather than simply improve the fighter attributes that you might expect them to. It's one of seemingly very few ways that EA Sports UFC will deliberately ditch realism for the good of the game, and one of a few reasons why I'm more excited about EA Sports UFC now than I was a week ago.

As my Anthony Pettis approached the octagon to take on creative director Brian Hayes' Benson Henderson, it quickly became apparent that no realism is being sacrificed where EA Sports UFC's visuals are concerned. Immediately recognizable in-game athletes are nothing new, but the leap in quality here is akin to that achieved in Fight Night Round 3 back in 2006. Every licensed fighter in the game is purportedly being created using 3D head and body scans to ensure that that everything from their body proportions down to their tattoos are exactly right; judging by how good Pettis and Henderson looked, there's no reason to doubt that claim. They moved believably too, their illusion ably assisted by details like realistically bouncing pecs and individual toes that spread as weight shifted to them. I never would've noticed if Hayes hadn't pointed them out, but the fighters even had real-time reflections of the UFC arena on the corneas of their eyeballs.


Adding to EA Sports UFC's realism during my play session were numerous other characters that you'd expect to see during a UFC fight on TV. Big John McCarthy was inside the octagon refereeing, Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan were among the folks sat ringside, three cornermen were present for each fighter, and octagon girls like Arianny Celeste were visible not only as they paraded between rounds but also while in their seats. Realism faltered a little when my Pettis lost to Hayes' Henderson given the two fighters' history (Pettis has defeated Henderson both times that they've fought), but we can chalk that one up to me not being entirely at ease with the controls despite them being reminiscent of those in UFC Undisputed 3.

One aspect of the controls that appears to have received a lot of attention is the submission game, which benefits from the fact that Hayes and his colleagues have been practising Brazilian jiu-jitsu. "The gameplay team up at EA Canada has actually been rolling in BJJ now for over a year and a half. We started doing that right after we signed the deal with UFC because, well there are some guys on the team who had been doing it prior to that, but we thought hey it'd be a great opportunity for the guys to get some firsthand experience and some insight into what the ground game is like. And it really did inform a lot of our design side objectives, so far as what we wanted to accomplish with our submission game," explained Hayes before offering up an anecdote about a colleague who is able to use BJJ effectively with his eyes closed because all of the information that he needs comes from feeling things like weight and balance. "So it was pretty challenging, how are you going to make a game about something that you can do with your eyes closed when you can only give people visual information? So we know that we're going to have to abstract things to some degree."

On this occasion, the abstraction of the submission game feels like an evolution of the system that THQ employed in UFC Undisputed 3. In that game, colored bars representing each fighter chased each other around the perimeter of an octagon shape; in EA Sports UFC a similar octagon graphic appears on the screen but the way that you interact with it is quite different. As the fighter being submitted, you attempt to escape by pushing out in one of four directions using the right analog stick while your opponent--also using the right analog stick--tries to stop you by pushing in the same directions. In order to advance whichever of the game's 29 submissions they're using to the next stage, your opponent must also move the left analog stick in the correct direction when prompted to do so, resetting any progress that you've made trying to escape in the process. It's really not as complicated as it sounds, and while obviously not realistic it's certainly analogous with a real submission attempt given that the fighter on the offensive has to concern themselves with controlling a struggling opponent as well as advancing his own position.

Similarly analogous with reality is the system that EA Sports UFC will employ to let you know when your Career mode fighter should hang up his gloves. Nothing of the new Career mode was being shown during our demo, but I asked Hayes about it because I remember being frustrated when the aging of my fighters in the UFC Undisputed games would send their stats into a steady decline. His reponse was music to my ears: "We don't have a your-ratings-get-crappy effect. What we do have is a health meter for your career. We call it a longevity meter."

The longevity meter will deplete not as a result of your created fighter's age but rather as a result of the damage that they inevitably sustain over the course of their career, which makes a lot of sense when you consider the wildly different ages at which MMA fighters choose to retire. So will getting beaten up a lot cause your attribute ratings to decline? Not according to Hayes: "It doesn't mean that if you only have a little left in the meter that all of your attributes suck or that you've totally lost all of your skill, it really just means that you're at a point where UFC doesn't think you should fight anymore."

Another consideration will be your fighter's popularity. "The idea is that if you're a fan favorite your longevity goes down a little more slowly because the UFC wants to keep you fighting longer." We didn't get to talk about the factors that will go into determining that popularity, but it seems reasonable to assume that winning fights with knockouts and submissions rather than decisions will play some part. Based on my experiences with THQ's UFC games I wondered if intentional illegal blows might make a fighter less popular with fans, but those actually won't be a feature of EA Sports UFC at all. In what's hopefully a triumph of gameplay being prioritized over realism, low blows have been cast aside so that unscrupulous online players can't use them to prematurely end fights that they're going to lose, thus depriving their opponent of a satisfying victory.

And what satisfying victories they promise to be. I'm looking forward to bringing my imaginatively named kickboxer, Justin Calvert, out of retirement when EA Sports UFC hits stores this Spring.

Discussion

39 comments
dantcm
dantcm

I hope this game will live up to its hype!

JalalBlack
JalalBlack

A Street Fighter version of the UFC , with bright colors and fantasy combos would've been more interesting .

rad8045
rad8045

Didn't they say the same about the latest Madden Game before it came out ?

pboontap
pboontap

hype train rolling!!! choo choo


Asseen0nTV
Asseen0nTV

It's so real that it'll give you cauliflower ear in real life.

angelofbeast198
angelofbeast198

blah,blah.blah i believe  when is out and there a demo

biggamer194
biggamer194

Just want to see proper striking and ground gameplay. If the striking, submission, ground, and locomotion mechanics are fun them I'm happy.


ZombieGuyGeorge
ZombieGuyGeorge

yes, because realism in games is a matter of ticking a checkbox in "my magic game studio 2014".

id really like to see your realistic 3d models, guys, it looks like you could do a game like this in matter of minutes :D

FighterforJC
FighterforJC

The ultimate gauge for realism is the strategy required to win a match.  Does it rely on real life tactics or formulaic arcade fighting?

FighterforJC
FighterforJC

Hopefully the submission mini game interface could be turned off. If EA does their job right, the submission mini game could be played without any HUDs. At the very least, it shouldn't occupy the entire screen, maybe put the octagon in the corner somewhere.

skateryanboarde
skateryanboarde

As usual, the model looks as real as can be in body movement or standing still, but the facial expressions always look fake.

hadlee73
hadlee73

Title image: "Look into my eeeeeeyyyyeess!"

Armyboy5
Armyboy5

I'm at a loss for words for how much hard it is for me to wait for this game. started to hurt ever since EA bought the license and EA Canada started developing it.


THE reason i'm getting a PS4 :)

emptycow718
emptycow718

"On this occasion, the abstraction of the submission game feels like an evolution of the system that THQ employed in UFC Undisputed 3. "   fun fact the sub system in ufc 3 was the sub system thq took from ea mma   this   writer needs to do his home work 

Ambivalist
Ambivalist

I see that main image was pulled straight from the nightmare section of the uncanny valley. 

notsonegi
notsonegi

I wasn't a fan on the Undisputed control layouts, felt it could lead to button bashing and in turn the tempo of fights was way too quick. I certainly favoured the EA MMA control scheme although it was far too simplistic on the ground game side of things.

chemicalegypt
chemicalegypt

The game will be nothing like the trailer. Remember the madden shown in the ignite engine trailer? Yeah ! its all gimmick, Angry joe nuff said

strikeTact
strikeTact

I'm so tired of waiting for all of these spring games

berserker66666
berserker66666

Want the most authentic UFC experience? Join the UFC.

OneStrong2
OneStrong2

Having an authentic experience doesn't necessarily mean wanting a more realistic one. If a gamer wanted to be a real mma fighter they'd be at the gym, not on a couch with a controller in their hands. Also, if that zomby-eyed gentleman, at the very top of this page, is in anyway indicative of "realism" they've a long way to go. 

PSP107
PSP107

Fight Night would of been a better choice.

haze0986
haze0986

if they use ea mma analog stick crap its a no buy for me, the ufc games from thq were great because of how simple but challenging getting your moves correct was. i hated fight night because of that control scheme just leave ufc control system in place please 

wookiegr
wookiegr

It will not be all that hard to translate the dead, lifeless, soulless eyes of the UFC fighters to their computer generated counterparts.

PinchySkree
PinchySkree

Start by making great gameplay, then increase the realism as hardware allows.

blackothh
blackothh

eddie beat you to the article by half an hour

TERMINATOR-SSD
TERMINATOR-SSD

@JalalBlack  ive always said this. I would love to see this. The problem i found with past ufc games was it never felt fluid, it always felt like a canned animation and pressing buttons and over complexed. I always wanted a ufc game to feel like tekken or Street Fighter. But coming from the guys behind Fight Night i have hopes. Only problem.....EA 

thesilverape
thesilverape

@emptycow718  Even if THQ took the submission system from EA it was them that employed it in UFC Undisputed 3 not EA, because it was THQ who made Undisputed 3. You need to learn how to understand before you comment.

JusticeCovert
JusticeCovert moderator

@blackothh  Eddie wrote a news story based on a trailer. I played the game and was under embargo until 9am this morning.

OneStrong2
OneStrong2

@Armyboy5 @OneStrong2  
How many calories are you burning while on the couch again?

prats93
prats93

Men lying on top of each other is boring, just watch a GSP fight. Its more exciting watching stand up fights where men trade blows.

OneStrong2
OneStrong2

@Armyboy5 @OneStrong2  

And I care because? I'm also guessing you're indicative of everyone else who plays the game too, right?  At a certain point, a game is just a game. 

Armyboy5
Armyboy5

@OneStrong2  Actually i'm losing calories as we speak (on my coach playing undisputed 3) because I got back from the gym and ate that right post workout foods that keep burning calories after the workout ;) but the weight is not my intention since i'm 61kgs and 5'10 feet tall