UFC has been getting bigger over the last several years. Since the Mixed Martial Arts sport is becoming mainstream, you know EA Sports would capitalize on it. I’ve only played UFC 4 back in 2020, so going into its sequel would be an easy jump right? Well, let’s see if that’s the truth based on this review of UFC 5.
Learning the ropes
With having limited knowledge of the sport, UFC does a good job at dropping you into the world quickly. Right away, you’re in a fight as the heavyweight fighter Jon Jones against Stipe Miocic. As soon as you’re in the fight, the game pushes you in with some balanced hand-holding. You’ll learn how to do simple attacks like jabs, body shots, low kicks, and blocking. The initial fight is a snapshot of what’s to expect, and I’m not going to lie — I was looking forward to it.
The gameplay is what you expect, get into the ring and knock out the opponent as fast as you can. However, the main point is how you fight. The more I played, the more creative I got with my moves. At the start, I would use high punches, body shots, and evade as my go-to moves. But I learned if I attacked a combination of my opponent’s head and body, they went down quickly. Experimenting as a newcomer is what UFC 5 gets done right. I started using uppercuts, mai tai kicks, elbows, and anything and everything in my arsenal. This resulted in a more rewarding experience.
The fights themselves are both immersive and over the top. Each punch you land is felt, and the game makes sure of that. The knockouts are heavy and have weight. When you successfully knock down the opponent, the visuals and the sounds make you feel the momentum. It got me shouting at my TV screen whenever I took someone down. In other words, the gameplay does set the bar.
New kid in town (Career Mode)
Most of the meat of UFC 5 is the career mode, and for this review, I spent a good amount of time creating “my legacy”. The mode itself is quite deep and rich with a lot of potential. By creating a story around a fighter you made, UFC 5 makes it easy to be a long-term investor. As you fight, you can earn points to create builds and get new clothes.
When you enter the mode and create a character, there will be fight contracts you can obtain. At the start of these contracts, you have between one to three weeks to prepare. The longer time you have, the healthier your fighter gets, but the gym you train in takes more of a payout from the fight. So you must balance out how you want to spend your time.
Moving up the ranks
Each week has 100 Days which act as currency to do things. For example, if you do social media posts or interviews, that’s around 10 days. So you’ll have 90 days overall left. To keep your fighter in tip-top shape between fights, you can train in certain fighting areas like jabbing, grappling, and wrestling. Each will cost around 40 days, but if you have more weeks you can do more of these training events. UFC 5 becomes a true immersive sim experience, in that you need to manage everything from your contract bonuses to the injuries of your fighters.
Even though it’s a deep progression system, it does get repetitive. The issue here is that outside of the trainers you invite, it doesn’t seem to lead to anything other than getting better. You still get contracts when things get going, but expect to be repeating yourself a lot during the in-between sections. Even if you simulate the weeks leading to the fight, you’ll lose out on points to spend on the fighter, so there’s no true incentive after certain parts of your fighter’s career.
Beauty is the beast
Just like all sports games that feature a career mode, customization is something you’ll be earning throughout the mode. However, at the start of the career mode, you can change quite a bit of your fighter if you don’t want to use the template. I do find it better when games allow you to create something and make it as interesting as possible. In UFC 5, you can change quite a bit including gender, body type, facial structure, and much much more. On top of that, you can earn what your fighter wears throughout the game. You might find yourself a little overwhelmed here, but UFC 5 does give you the option to pick presets if it gets too much.
The everyday man’s UFC
When I played UFC 4, I remember how awful I was at the game because of the high level of play it had. Things like timing the attack, knowing when to block, and managing your energy made the game inaccessible at least for me. For UFC 5, I found that a lot of what was in the last entry was apparent, but a lot of it could be streamlined. A good example of this was the grappling system. For this review of UFC 5, I took the beginner-friendly route for grappling as opposed to the legacy. The legacy format was using the right stick on the controller plus R1 (I played on the PS5) and controlling where the grapple is going based on where your opponent is going. The easy way is that it’s mostly done for you, but you might have to time where the grapple goes.
Post Match results
UFC 5 is a clear improvement from the UFC 4. It does build upon the simulation aspect that the series has been creating. The game looks like it wants the attention of players who aren’t fans, so UFC 5 is in an interesting spot with this release. By making things easier to adapt for veterans, and simple to pick up for newcomers, the game has set a precedent for itself.
All of this is in synch with EA’s partnership with UFC being extended. While the real sport gets larger and more accessible, the games need to follow suit with that. It already looks like that with UFC 5. The future of the series is being created, and EA has a clear idea of where they need to take it. Even if you’re not a UFC fan but like fighting games, UFC 5 is in that weird middle-ground of being something like a Tekken or Mortal Kombat. For you seasoned players don’t worry, all the realism and the immersive experiences are present, they’re richer than ever.
UFC 5 is available now via Xbox and PlayStation store.