It’s been three years since EA’s last UFC game, with EA Sports UFC 4 releasing in 2023. But with the release of its newest UFC game, EA Sports UFC 5, we’re being invited back into the octagon. It’s the first UFC game to be developed using EA’s Frostbite gaming engine, making it look impressive. Yet, EA Sports UFC 5 doesn’t provide the knockout victory I hoped for.
Game Name: EA Sports EA Sports UFC 5 Platform(s): PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S (reviewed) Publisher(s): EA Sports
Developer(s): EA Vancouver
Release Date: October 27, 2023
Of course, visually, the game is a step up from EA Sports UFC 4, particularly in the damage department. The game boasts thousands of possible combinations of facial damage a fighter can receive, such as cuts, bruises, and swelling; all look more real than ever. That isn’t where the visual realism ends, either. The Lighting and hair look better than ever, with every licensed fighter looking more realistic than they have before. It’s genuinely fantastic. The problem is it makes created fighters look subpar by comparison. Thankfully, every fighter created or licensed benefits from superb-sounding audio where you can hear the power of a punch or the crunch of a bone.
All this leads to the most impressive presentation in a UFC game so far; I particularly enjoyed the cinematic knockout replays. They do a great job of making those moments feel special and unique. Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn’t feel all that different from previous games, with some minor changes and option tweaks to be found.
If you’ve played any of the prior EA UFC games, you’ll be very familiar with the feel of things here in EA Sports UFC 5. Controls remain identical, with options for simplified, legacy, or hybrid controls for the ground game. Simplified means that the game will choose the best ground transition for you regardless of which direction you press on the left or right stick. Everything else is on the same buttons as EA Sports UFC 4. This resulted in things initially feeling almost exactly the same as Sports UFC 4; then, you dig a bit deeper, and you see some clever changes.
A prime example is the seamless submission system; getting into submissions is the same, but executing it is more straightforward. This time, submissions are performed in the same way as ground transitions, all on the right stick. This requires you to move through the different phases of submissions the same way you transition to other positions before you get to where you want. It’s a significant change that makes submissions more approachable to a broader range of players, even if it does remove some of the skill gap that was present in the previous system. I feel that this trade-off is well worth a more accessible game.
The other main change to gameplay is how much damage impacts you during a fight. For example, If you receive a bloody nose, your stamina will recover slower, or if your legs take too much damage, your character will start to limp, as an example. Sure, specific damage effects have always been present, but most damage was just cosmetic. This time around that isn’t the case, and damage will impact the gameplay, meaning that you’ll have to be more cautious when damaged this time. As I discovered, if you take too much damage, the referee can pause the fight, or the doctor can step in to end the fight prematurely.
While the gameplay does have some tweaks overall, it feels essentially the same from moment to moment. I expected more revolutionary changes than there are. I remember when EA’s FIFA (now called EA Sports FC) moved to the Frostbite engine, and the gameplay changed much more significantly than here in EA Sports UFC 5. The lack of revolution translates to the game modes as well, unfortunately.
You have several ways to play EA Sports UFC 5. To start, we have Career Mode, the offline single-player mode, where you create your fighter and take them from humble beginnings to UFC legend. Outside of some new cutscenes in crucial moments of your career, such as your UFC debut or a Title Fight, the meat and potatoes of this mode are the same as EA Sports UFC 4. The mode consists of the same gameplay loop: accept a fight, do training camp to hype the fight, get evolution points to upgrade fighter stats and learn opponents, have the fight, and repeat. How you do these things has yet to be changed or updated at all since Sports UFC 4, which I find disappointing. It’s enjoyable enough. However, this is the only mode you play; you can safely skip this year’s UFC title.
Then we have Online modes, including an online career, which allows you to create a fighter, take them into online fights, and evolve them as you earn evolution points. For people who want a challenge more significant than the AI can provide, this might be the mode for you. That said, it is also much more of a grind than the single-player career, with you gaining minimal evolution points per fight regardless of the result. There is also a ranked championships mode, which allows you to fight another player using any of the licensed fighters in a rotating set of weight classes every few minutes. I only had a few fights in this mode, and it’s a quick jump in and out way to play; rotating the weight classes means you have a very different match all the time, helping to keep things fresh. You can invite a friend in a private game, but the most exciting online mode is Blitz Battles, which are short matches with a rotating set of rules. These can be rules such as one-round punches only. Unfortunately, during my time with the game, I couldn’t find a match to test out the mode, but it’s one I’ll definitely come back for.
Speaking of coming back, EA Sports UFC 5 is doing everything it can to keep players engaged for longer, and it may have succeeded with Fight Contracts. A mode that acts as a daily and weekly challenge board, throwing you into different fight scenarios with different rules and difficulty settings. Complete these fights and earn in-game coins, which you use for cosmetic items for your created fighters in other modes. In typical EA fashion, these items can also be purchased using UFC points, which you must buy using real money. Can we please have a sports game that doesn’t include micro-transactions, EA? Thanks!
In the end, EA Sports UFC 5 is a very good game that runs flawlessly at 60fps on Xbox Series X. A game that improves on the last one with a more realistic presentation and some tweaks to gameplay that result in a more accessible game for some, even though the actual accessibility options are sorely lacking for a AAA release in 2023. Ultimately, because of its almost identical content offering and less-than-revolutionary changes, I’m not convinced you need it if you already have Sports UFC 4. As a result, I can’t thoroughly recommend UFC 5 in the way I would like to.
For our fellow PC gamers out there, as you already know (or if you didn’t), EA decided it wasn’t going to bring UFC 5 to the PC, and honestly, that’s an odd decision. Given that the PC has blown up in terms of being a platform of choice for gamers and having companies such as Xbox and PlayStation bring their titles over to the PC, You’d think that EA would have finally put UFC 5 on to the PC, like its other titles such as Madden NFL 24, EA Sports FC 24 or EA Sports F1 23. But they didn’t, and I wonder if this series will ever make its way to the PC.
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EA Sports UFC 5 Review - Not A Knockout!
UFC 5 is a good game, but the move to a new engine isn’t as revolutionary as it has been in the past for other EA franchises. Sure, it looks and sounds better, but I could never escape the feeling that I was just playing a nicer-looking UFC 4. If you have that game you don’t need to buy this one, you’ll enjoy your time all the same.