I have a long history with Electronic Arts, having even invested in a few shares of their stock back in the day when they stood up to Microsoft and refused to utilize their Xbox Live servers, instead becoming the first game developer to host online gamers on their own servers.
With cloud computing, freemium pricing models, and subscription apps becoming the new norm across the entire Internet of Things, EA (and EA Sports) is one of those companies I actually want to root for. Unfortunately, every large corporation eventually becomes a victim of its own success, and I can’t let my memories of Madden, FIFA, and NBA Street Vol 2 cloud the reality of how poor a sports port UFC Mobile 2015 actually is.
UFC as a sport is beloved because of the technical mastery of each fighter. It’s like watching an actual fighting game, easily amping up the action of boxing (America’s previous most-beloved combat sport) by adding wrestling moves, elbows, knees, kicks, and the infamous ground-and-pound.
The original handful of UFC shows mostly featured Royce Gracie using a wide array of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu moves to conquer a variety of martial arts, wrestling, brawling, boxing, and kickboxing masters. The reason Gracie was able to dismantle multiple opponents each night was because he could choose his attacks wisely.
In UFC Mobile, you can only ever choose from three special attacks, and the touchscreen interface can’t compete with console controllers. This lack of variety keeps UFC from becoming a great mobile sports game, instead relegating it to EA Sports clear attempt to cash in on yet another Injustice: Gods Among Us clone.
The real-life UFC isn’t Street Fighter – it’s Tekken, and EA Sports did a great disservice to the gaming community by forgetting that with this shoddy, glitch-filled attempt at mobile gaming.
Want a submission victory? You have to wait until you cycle through enough punches to get the random option for a takedown, then sift through all those strikes until you can submit. Don’t want to submit? Wait too long on the ground, and you’ll be stuck with only submissions. I have no choice in a fight – I’m simply following the lead of the game.
When fighting someone with a great stand-up defense like Lyoto Machida, I need takedowns at my disposal, but I can’t do it. Instead I’m stuck leveling up garbage.
Beauty Is Only Skin Deep
Graphically, UFC is actually beautiful, but that’s where the love stops. Takedown and other last-minute glitches made some matches extremely difficult, and it was heartbreaking having to destroy so many epic and legendary flying kicks, knees, and kimoras just to power-level a body hook or submission escape.
Sometimes after an opponent got up from a takedown, my special attacks were completely disabled (often along with the GUI and timer).
It felt just like every other garbage freemium game South Park skewed last season, and at this point, that is sooooooo last season. Leveling was more comparable to Candy Crush than any true UFC standings or ranking system. The live UFC events became nothing more than promotional Mafia Wars bosses.
Training? Nope – you have to buy coins and other garbage. Rankings? Nope – just randomly scattering fighters. There are no championship belts – just loot crates. WTF, EA?!?!
How can Madden and FIFA provide in-depth, updateable sports fantasies down to franchises and facility management, but UFC can’t even figure out a ranking system Nintendo got down in Punch Out for the original NES?
Barely a real game, this fighting clone can’t even compete with the DC, Marvel, and WWE button-mashers already on the market, and those aren’t games to aspire to be. We need real, meaty sports games on mobile platforms to make wearables, the Internet of Things, and virtual reality worth using.
EA Sports provided gamers with the exact opposite of innovation – a middle finger to the tastes of traditional gamers across all consoles and even the PC master race..
Fuck you right back, EA..
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has appeared in Huffington Post, Main Street, Fast Company, Hardcore Droid, and Intuit’s Small Business Resource. He’ll be at E3 next month, so get those party and press conference invites out already.