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Despite it's popularity in the real world, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, franchise has always struggled in the video game market. THQ desperately tried in vain to make the series a contender on the home consoles, but a series of poor choices always kept the franchise one step from greatness. With THQ going under, Electronic Arts swooped and picked up the license, rebuilding the franchise from the ground up as EA Sports UFC. Can this prolific publishing house succeed where THQ could not?

The first thing that you'll notice about EA Sports UFC is that the game looks beautiful. Released exclusively on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the game is as close as you can get to a live UFC show without actually being there. The fighters come off as lifelike, and every detail in the octagon is rendered in stunning accuracy. Every blow looks and feels menacing, and you'll wince at each knee to the face and broken limb. The decision to make this game exclusive to the current generation was absolutely the right one, and the game truly shows off the power of the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the gameplay, which feels strangely last generation. Hit detection is spotty, the grappling mechanics feel like there is no power behind the moves, the artificial intelligence is anything but intelligent – the list goes on and on. The team behind the Fight Night series of games played a part in the creation of EA Sports UFC, and it shows in how strong the striking portions of the game are. Played as a boxing game, EA Sports UFC is a decent game as pugilists trade blows back and forth. Unfortunately, this is UFC, not boxing, and the fact that the rest of the game is so sloppy and poor is hugely disappointing and mars the experience.

The much-anticipated and hyped Campaign Mode, which sees your character rise through the ranks of the UFC, is as much of a letdown as the rest of the gameplay, offering nothing more than the basics you've seen in any other game of this type. Rise through the ranks, see a few cutscenes, fight a few fights, rinse and repeat. Even on the hardest difficulty, the artificial intelligence never puts up much of a fight. You're not rising through the ranks in your own dynamic story, you're just moving up a ladder in a mechanical, video game-like fashion. UFC is known for the drama and tension between fighters, and none of that is rendered here.

Luckily, there is a full-featured online mode, and it's here where the game shines. If you can look past its gameplay faults, and have a decent number of human players to fight against, you can recreate some epic bouts. With the game sporting over 50 fighters, including cinematic legend Bruce Lee, it's a good bet your favorite UFC fighter is available. If not, hey, playing as Bruce Lee is never a bad choice. In all honesty, it's one of the high points of the entire game.

Should you be willing to look through this game's flaws, you're likely debating the most important question of all: PlayStation 4 or Xbox One? While both systems provide an almost identical experience, the PlayStation 4 offers a slightly better resolution and minutely better graphics. While most gamers won't be able to tell a difference, for a discerning gamer the PlayStation 4 version of the game is the one you'll want to purchase.

If you've got a stable of online friends and an interest in punching them in the face, this is the game for you. For everyone else, it's best to wait for EA Sports UFC 2, which will likely fix the problems in this first release.

tags ps4xbox-oneufc

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