EA Sports UFC Mobile Review (iOS)
Mobile games are sort of hard to get a handle on sometimes, as they usually offer an experience that’s filled with caveats and qualifiers. EA Sports UFC for mobile is just such a game, as it features some decent presentation and surprisingly tactical combat, but a lot of it is mixed in with in-app purchases, grind-heavy ladders, boosts and slow drip-feeds of in-game currency. If you’re able to push away the business aspect of this game from your mind, it’s kind of a decent time-waster for a few hours.
The conceit is simple: you take Alexander Gustafsson (to start) through a massive ladder of increasingly harder fighters. Like many mobile sports games, the first opponents you face will be rated lower than you, so it will be easy pickings while you find your footing in the mobile octagon. As you defeat fighters in a weight division’s career ladder, you’ll be able to acquire new special moves to deploy during matches. The in-game currency you earn is used to buy XP boosts to level up these moves and, ultimately, your fighter’s overall rating. You can also use a “boost charge” before a fight in order to temporarily raise your ratings, which is sort of a creepy analog to PEDs, quite frankly. This boost charge can be used ten times, but then you have to either let it recharge or buy another set with a relatively small amount of in-game currency.
The gameplay inside the octagon is actually relatively tactical, and some level of thought was obviously put into the control scheme and pacing of the matches. You can get away with button mashing early on, but as fighters start having higher ratings than you, you’ll run into some trouble. Tapping the screen initiates light strikes, and swiping horizontally and diagonally executes a medium and strong strike, respectively. Touching two fingers on the screen blocks, and swiping backwards allows you to dodge. You can also swipe back twice to create some space.
As a fighter builds up a combo, he’ll have access to one of the moves from his deck, if you will, and it then flies up on the screen. Tapping that move will execute it (superman punch, roundhouse kick, takedown), but the timing still has to be right. All of this leads to some amusing KOs and knockdowns, and some of the combos actually end up looking quite devastating. The takedown system works decently too, as you can execute a little QTE to succeed on the attempt, and then you can go for strikes, special move attacks and submissions on the ground.
All of this works well, but there are still some frantic moments of mashing, and your fingers will get in the way of your view from time to time. Just the same, a bit of input delay is present when fighting, so this definitely means that you might be executing faster than the game can register. Still, I found the use of blocking and dodging logical, and it’s fun to see a lot of the KO animations and rocked states from the main EA Sports UFC game make their way to mobile.
Credit has to be given to the visuals, which have also made the jump from the console releases. It’s clearly a stripped-down version of the engine, with lots of shaders and lighting reduced, but it replicates the fighters well, with some decent impact on punches and good animation work. The audio is a bit on the lighter side, with no commentary or walkout music, but the punches and kicks sound appropriate.
The business side of the game is what gets in the way of some potential fun, as it’s an arduous process to unlock new fighters, and the game is borderline begging you to spend real money for this. The in-game currency will take you to a certain depth, but actual “gold” that is purchased with real money is always required for the more premium items. The game should be commended for not preventing you from just playing — which many mobile games do via meters and timers — but this is still mobile game, with a business model that is very much at the forefront. Even the ability to participate in “live events” is gated by your available fighters, so that’s clearly meant to tempt a player to acquire those fighters in order to participate for more in-game rewards (which is actually a cool idea).
And while I did outline the fun that the game can provide above, it is a fairly repetitive affair. Matches are designed to be tactical but also quick and brutal, and that keeps things exciting for a time, but then you sort of start to fall into a pattern after playing about 10 or 15 matches. There is a bit of depth here for a mobile game, but it runs into some familiarity due to having to design around short bursts of game time.
If you go in knowing what this game is and how it’s going to try and sell you on things, there is something cool about the combat. It’s not going to keep you for longer than a few hours (unless you want to drop lots of money on it), but it carries more impact than some mobile games.
Score: 5 (Average)