A target appears on your back when you’re a long-time champion. No longer the enigma you once were, competitors begin studying your body of work to figure out a way to end your time at the top. The best way to fend off challengers is to constantly build and evolve. Developer EA Vancouver seems to understand this as no legitimate contenders have emerged in the mixed-martial-arts genre, EA Sports’ UFC 5 revisits several key areas to show the franchise isn’t resting on its laurels.
Like its predecessors, UFC 5 aptly captures the thrill of stepping into the Octagon. After a thankfully toned down pomp and circumstance (gone are the pre-fight emotions of the last match), the fast-paced fisticuffs had me on the edge of my seat until the final horn. I love that the licensed fighters are programmed to act like their real-world counterparts, forcing you to solve a different puzzle with each new encounter. Although the occasional glitched fighter, unnatural limb twists and awful camera swings break the immersion in frustrating ways, the action is satisfying, particularly in the punch battles.
Momentum is a key element in a simplified grappling system, and long-time UFC fighters need to retrain their brains to defend takedown attempts. Once on the ground, you choose the position or submission you want to pursue, and the game determines your success based on stamina, fighter characteristics, and whether the defender performs correctly. The resulting grappling exchanges can lead to awe-inspiring scrambles that look more natural than anything we’ve seen before in the series. On top of that, I don’t miss the annoying submission minigames from previous UFC titles.
Sticking to your game plan is very important. But in MMA, even the best-laid plans can disappear in the blink of an eye; I went into a fight with a kickboxer with a plan to take him down, wear him down and submit him. However, I got caught with a knee to the face on a takedown attempt, changing the complexion of the fight.
Every exchange has fight-ending or fight-altering potential, and the newly implemented Frostbite engine does an exemplary job of showcasing the action. The scanned fighter models look incredible. Thanks to the intricate detail that UFC 5 captures, standing across the cage from a superstar like Israel Adesanya or Max Holloway is surreal. Unfortunately, the gap in visual quality between real fighters and created fighters is vast; My created fighter looks like it was pulled from UFC 2.
UFC 5 is the first M-rated entry, allowing fighters to deal more realistic damage. I loved seeing the deep cuts and more swelling during the firefights. I found myself. If things get too brutal, a doctor may intervene to decide whether to continue the fight. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence; In my experience, fighters always succumb to damage before medics step in.
M-rating means trash talk and in-game cinematics have more official language. While I enjoy the fighters and trainers talking the way they do in real life, the in-game soundtrack feels like they’ve gone out of their way to tiresomely include obvious songs, which is especially noticeable as you spend more time in the menus. During career mode.
Career Mode keeps the same basic format as previous releases. Using a created fighter (or blank-slate licensed fighter), you’ll rise to the top of the UFC ranks with the ultimate goal of becoming the greatest of all time by breaking a set number of UFC records. You start with a low-stat archetype of your choice, then develop them over the course of several game-years. I love that throwing a lot of hooks in fights and training sessions not only develops your hooks, but training with a real fighter allows you to learn their signature moves.
However, over the course of a career, repetition sinks in fast. Encouraging the same partners, tackling the same challenges, and navigating the same menus in the weeks leading up to your fight can be a monotonous affair. You can simulate a lot of sparring, but you may end up with bad benefits. Even outside of training, you engage in the same binary social media trash talk and menu-driven activities. The mode doesn’t go far enough to replicate the personality-driven drama of the UFC.
After about 25 games in a career I’m tired of the weekly grind. Fortunately, a suite of other methods allow you to jump straight into action. Online Career and Ranked Championship give you longer online experiences, but my favorite online mode is Blitz, where you compete in rapid-fire elimination tournaments. If you want to avoid the sometimes choppy online connections, you can keep the action offline by participating in one-off fights with custom rules, creating your own events, or playing curated fights based on real-world cards.
Unfortunately, the launch roster has some notable omissions. While all the stars are there, not only are some top-ranked contenders and several up-and-coming prospects included, but various fighters who are no longer in the UFC. I love that legacy fighters are available, and EA Vancouver has a proven track record of post-release updates, but it’s disappointing that so many are missing at launch.
Despite its flaws, EA Sports UFC 5 offers an exciting MMA experience regardless of the mode you compete in. Fighting your favorite UFC stars never gets old, and the adrenaline rush that comes with pounding your opponent back and forth makes it hard to resist the allure of getting back into the Octagon for one more fight.