Button mashers need not apply – UFC 4 is willing to beat you to a pulp if you don’t time your combos correctly.
On the surface, UFC 4 is an exceptionally good-looking experience of what it’s like to step into a confined space with some of the most fearsome fighters on the planet. Beyond the basic experience is an expansive fighting sim with strong RPG elements that will provide fans of combat sports with more than enough reason to put in “just one more” fight.
The presentation of UFC 4 is very similar to the previous series releases. Bright lights, big action and more slow-motion replays of bone crunching hits than you can poke a medical insurance premium at. Inside the Octagon there’s eye popping and show stopping visuals. Bruises and cuts form on the fighters as the rounds go on. Blood and sweat effects look like they could exist comfortably inside a Rocky film, and the effect when your big hit lands is a real standout. Some of the hits and the final takedowns can be quite spectacular, especially when you finish off with a jumping roundhouse kick to the head. There’s access to an excessive amount of replay footage from every angle and you’ll be happy with watching the replays over and over again.
Combat flows. It’s definitely not fast, but what it lacks in speed it makes up for in finesse and tactics. UFC 4 wants you to study your opponent, work out their strengths and weaknesses and then crush them with targeted attacks. Kickboxers won’t be as strong in close, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters will be constantly looking to grapple their way out of a stand-up fight. If you know what they’re trying to do, you’re already halfway to victory. You can customise your fighter by assigning specific attacks to a variety of button combinations, which makes for an excellent training/learning experience, as you try a few things on for size until you find the combination of attacks that works best for you. It doesn’t hurt that some of them look awesome when they connect as well.
It’s interesting that while the stand-up game, definitely the showier of the fighting options, has become more complex, the ground game has been simplified. UFC 3 required a fairly detailed knowledge of individual moves and how they could be utilised to best effect against your opponent. UFC 4 is a much more user-friendly experience, which will allow for newcomers to the sport to adapt quickly. It might put off seasoned pros though, as there are less opportunities to be creative in the clinches.
Saying that the career mode in UFC 4 is deep would be a massive understatement. You manage your fighter’s fight contracts, social media presence, hype your fights, build connections within the UFC fighter ranks and train, train, train, all before you even set foot in the arena. Each time you accept a new fight, you’ll spend time honing your fighter in preparation for your next opponent. It’s a very cool mode which absolutely is the shining light of the UFC 4 experience. The rest is still very good, but it’s clear that this is where most players will spend a majority of their time before they’re ready to graduate to the multiplayer experience.
Choosing your fighting style makes a difference only at the beginning of your career. Your career fighter will level up based on the good things you do in the Octagon. Land your jabs with success, and your jab effectiveness will improve over time. The idea here is that your fighter will become more effective at the things you like doing. You’ll learn new moves through training with other fighters. It’s a half sim/half RPG experience as you customise your personal fight mechanics and select specific moves that work best for how you want to play.
“Saying that the career mode in UFC 4 is deep would be a massive understatement.”
Outside of the career mode, there are single match options or the ever-present – and super challenging – multiplayer arena. There are some cool new environments to play in as well. The Backyard and Kumite settings are almost, but not entirely, new game modes, essentially providing a few significant changes to the standard gameplay. Kumite is by far the most fun, adding a snake statue filled cave with giant drums, “referees” in silk pyjamas and a booming, Mortal Kombat style commentator. Fighters kit up with some frightening rope gloves and do battle in a scene straight out of Bloodsport or Kickboxer. It’s a little bit of extra fun in the game which adds character to the package. All that’s missing is JCVD, Chong Li and Tong Po and this game could truly add some awesome depth to the fantasy character cast list. We’ll just have to make do with the awesome Bruce Lee until that update comes through.
UFC 4 is a full-on simulation of a professional MMA fighting career. For anyone interested in combat sports, it’s a must-have experience. Customisation and skills development will have you throwing bunches of punches, elbows and knees in no time flat.
UFC 4 is available now on PS4 and Xbox One.