Jon Jones delivers a wicked blast to Alexander Gustafsson’s leg, and as bruises become apparent, so does the hitch in Gustafsson’s gait. He limps around the Octagon trying to evade the wrath of the champ, but Bones is too quick—he springs off the side of the cage, delivering a flying Superman punch that renders Gustafsson a bloody heap on the mat.
That scene would be a crowd-pleaser under any circumstance (save for members of the Gustafsson family); what makes it particularly remarkable in this case is that it took place on a PS4. EA Sports UFC is the first sports video game built from the ground-up to take advantage of the power of the Xbox One and PS4, and it includes everything from real-time flesh deformation to a physics-driven movement system that captures the UFC like no game before. With the game's spring release just a couple months off, its creative director, Brian Hayes, detailed what fight fans can expect.
WELCOME TO NEXT GEN
After EA acquired the UFC license in 2012, the team behind Fight Night set out to deliver an MMA game that has both the look and playability of a true next-gen title. “We want the athletes in EA Sports UFC to set the standard for next-gen sports games,” explains Hayes. To that end, EA used advanced head-scanning technology to capture each fighter's likeness, then enhanced the appearances with extremely high polygon counts and dynamic lighting. The result is more realism and expressiveness from the combatants. The game's physics engine is even involved in such minute details as the contact between a fighter’s foot and the Octagon, so when a character shifts his weight, you can actually see his toes spreading apart.
Bruce Buffer, Joe Rogan, and Mike Goldberg all participated in voice recording sessions with EA, but according to Hayes, the best audio comes from real-life calls Rogan and Goldberg made on air. “Because of the way the UFC records their broadcasts, we’re able to mine commentary from real broadcasts,” says Hayes. “This helps us match the intensity of their broadcasts in the game.” Bonus points: They even captured the Bruce Buffer jump during intros.
CONTROLLING THE FIGHT
UFC’s design team wanted to ensure that the game's controls were intuitive, particularly for first-time players of a fighting game. “The characters have four limbs, and there are four face buttons on the controller,” says Hayes. “Each button corresponds to a different limb, and I can modify what strikes I perform with each one of those limbs by pushing towards you or pulling away from you, as well as holding down the L1 or R1 button.” An on-screen stamina bar and fighter silhouette indicate damage sustained, with the silhouette turning red to reveal which body parts have taken the most abuse—and any vulnerabilities that may exist as a result.
Building on the mechanics of Fight Night, fighters in EA Sports UFC will fare better if they dodge and counter as opposed to standing in the middle of the Octagon mashing buttons and trading blows. “If I parry a shot and counter with something, that will do more damage than just landing a shot all by itself,” says Hayes. “We monitor how clean the contact is, what type of strike it is, what each fighter’s stamina is, and whether or not it was a counter, and then we add all of those things up to calculate how much damage each strike will have and the probability that it will cause a health event or even a knockout.”
GROUND AND POUND
While strikes are controlled with the four buttons, grappling is handled using the right stick. “If I flick forward with the right stick, I’ll initiate a clinch,” says Hayes. “I can then perform simple gestures, like moving to the left or to the right to transition in the clinch.” Takedowns are also performed using the right stick, but gamers need to simultaneously hold down the left trigger. Once your opponent is down, use the left stick to transition to everything from to side control to the full mount as you attempt to gain an advantageous position. And then: Pummeltown.
MAKE HIM TAP
Once you have your opponent on the mat, it’s time to twist some limbs—and EA Sports UFC
requires fighters to work through multiple stages of each hold in order to make his opponent submit. “It’s rare that you jump right in and make your opponent tap,” says Hayes. "It’s more about setting things up while limiting escape opportunities for the other fighter.” Once a player applies a submission move, an icon appears over the fighters and represents their respective progress in securing or escaping the hold, with prompts occasionally popping up to tell players how to improve their situations. Player fatigue is a factor here, too, and should inform how you set up your submissions. If you focus on leg kicks throughout the fight and then take your opponent down and lock in a heel hook, you might only need to hit one transition to make your opponent tap. “Different submissions require different strategies,” says Hayes, “and that is something that just wasn’t in the prior UFC games.”