After the mixed fan reception of 2020’s EA Sports UFC 4, it’s no wonder that EA decided to go all out while marketing the franchise’s fifth installment, described by them as “the next evolution of the fight game.” And while they were successful in their endeavor of hyping up the release of the title, their efforts also gave birth to what I like to call the danger of overly high expectations.
It was with that in mind that I dived into the game. After all, is EA Sports UFC 5 truly everything fans hoped for it to be or not?
Thanks to the shift to the Frostbite Engine —used in games like EA Sports FC 24 and in the remake of Dead Space— EA Sports UFC 5 showcases a noticeable jump in overall presentation when compared to its predecessor. But contrary to what many may think, although the game features a huge improvement in character models and textures, the jump in fidelity can be seen above all else when we examine how both light and shadow are showcased and behave.
That, when paired with the addition of new and more refined movements, as well as that of life-like reactions, helps the game reach a new level of immersion. To further add realism to each match; sweat, spit, and blood fly out more vividly in response to both body movements and to the impact of hits. The injuries sustained by fighters are also way more visceral, which needless to say does wonders for the overall experience.
A Game-Changing New Mechanic
The improvements in immersion are not all the game brings to the Octagon, as UFC 5 also features the debut of what EA calls the Real Impact System. The system adds weight to all injuries sustained while fighting, as they will no longer be only cosmetic showcases of the damage you receive. Instead, after being cut or bruised by your opponent, being hit in the area again will deal increased damage and stagger, as well as increase the wound’s severity.
Different types of wounds will also affect your performance in different ways. For example, a broken nose (which can affect breathing) will in most cases reduce your stamina recovery speed, while being heavily damaged in the calf will force your fighter to limp. According to the game’s developing team, EA Sports UFC 5 features more than 64,000 injury combinations.
Like in a real fight and depending on the severity of the wounds sustained by a fighter, UFC 5 now allows a Doctor to pause matches. During my time testing the game, the doctor entered the cage multiple times, and in 80% of them, a Doctor Stoppage was called.
Another improvement UFC 5 showcased when compared to UFC 4 lies in the reworking of the submission system. The reworking removed the minigames seen during submission attempts in favor of a more player-friendly and dynamic system, which allows you to shift positions and attempt moves in a way smoother fashion.
The Same Old Career Mode, For Better or For Worse
Have you ever heard the phrase, ”Why change what is working?” Well, it seems that EA took that to heart when designing the main Carrer mode for UFC 5, which features an experience nearly identical to that featured on UFC 4. Thankfully though, the cutscenes featured within the mode are non-intrusive and do their job of both introducing the sport to newcomers as well as hyping up the big moments well, even if the latter is in most cases undercut by the mode’s lack of Walkout Animations.
Another letdown lies in how you are unable to fine-tune your sparring drills. Instead being forced to select between random exercises on a weekly basis. Truly, wouldn’t the game gain way more by allowing players to pick specific drills, which would in turn allow them to be better prepared for fights and build upon their strengths and preferred playstyle early on?
Shifting from the standard Carrer mode, UFC 5’s new Online Career mode provides an entirely new experience, where players can take up to four avatars and compete against others in order to get Evolution Points and raise their fighters to stardom. The mode is for me a sure hit, as it successfully mixes two great experiences, all without taking anything from any of them.
But What About the Other Game Modes?
EA Sports UFC 5 features all of the standard game modes found on EA Sports UFC 4 —Main Event, Main Card, and Championship. Backyard and Kumite are also present, now as fully flagged modes. While Backyard offers a 3-round experience where the result is determined by damage only, Kumite offers a brutal 25-minute one-round mode where you can only win by knocking down your opponent.
Within most modes, the game then allows you to enter the cage while making use of 4 different game styles —Competitive, Simulation, Knockout, and Stand and Bang. Competitive is the game’s standard mode and it’s applied by default to all ranked matches, while Simulation offers an experience as close as possible to the real deal. Knockdown removes health regeneration and enables unlimited stamina and combinations in an effort to awaken carnage. For those looking for on-your-feet combat, Stand and Bang removes all kinds of grapples, as well as ground combat.
On the online front, players can also pick among Quick Fight, Ranked Championships, and Blitz Battles. While Quick Fight allows you to pick any of the modes and styles above before facing other players in casual matches, Ranked Championships allows you to fight ranked matches against fellow players in order to climb the leaderboards in the competitive scene. In Blitz Battles, you can fight quick bouts under rotating conditions.
Lastly, the game also features a brand new mode called Fight Week. Unfortunately, the only activity part of Fight Week available at the time of writing this review is its Weekly Fight Contracts. The Contracts allow you to take part in matches under set conditions in order to get UFC Coins. Fight Week is expected to become fully available on November 6, 2023, and it will be according to EA, a mode focused on connecting the game to the current state of the sport. On it, players will also be able to attempt to predict incoming fight results as well as complete themed challenges for exclusive rewards.
EA Sports UFC 5 has in its Punch Card System another huge win. The system which works similarly to a Battle Pass, allows you to steadily raise your Punch Card level by playing in any mode and completing in-game challenges. Each level gained will net you a reward, which can vary from UFC Coins to exclusive items.
EA Sports UFC 5 offers players the ability to adjust brightness and contrast, as well as to choose among three Color Blind Modes —Protanopia, Deuteranopia, and Tritanopia. Players are also able to adjust the size of the hud, add subtitles, and turn off-camera flashes. Unfortunately, you cannot remap buttons in the game.
EA Sports UFC 5 fulfills its premise and sets a new standard for the franchise through a huge leap in overall immersion and the debut of the game-changing Real Impact System. But the lack of attention given to other areas may underwhelm those who were hoping for something more.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game’s publisher, public relations company, developer, or other for the express purpose of a review.
- This article was updated on October 27th, 2023