EA Sports UFC 5 review: Controller warriors rejoice

EA Sports UFC 5 is a strong entry into the fighting game mix and should scratch the itch for those who like to fight safely on the couch.
UFC 5 video game
UFC 5 video game / EA Sports

Sports and fighting games are two big pieces of video game culture, with millions of fans running to pick up the latest copies of their favorite yearly installments. UFC has a long history of releasing games meant to bring forth the best of both of those worlds while capturing all the thrills of mixed martial arts. EA Sports UFC 5 released on October 27, and features plenty that will draw fight fans that play video games in for another edition.

This review dives into multiple aspects of UFC 5 covering everything from gameplay, fighter roster, and more.

At its core, mixed martial arts are a difficult thing to take from real-life action and move it into a video game where players are controlling all the outcomes. This isn’t like a football game where the action is consistent over various editions, to a fight where things like height, weight, talent, position, and so much more come into play. EA Sports UFC 5 does a great job taking that challenge and presenting a playable solution that fans should enjoy.

UFC 5 game is 'more realistic' than ever before

Let’s jump right into why players pick up UFC 5 ... the fights. The fights in this game feel heavier, and more realistic – much more due to the changes in the gameplay. The damage from strikes to your body has an overwhelming impact. For example, take too many leg kicks and your fighter movement is slowed dramatically, or too many strikes to the face and your fighter will wear bleeding and swelling for the rest of the contest. That leads to the decisions you make between rounds, much like the real fighters in the cage who must bet on themselves when the stakes get the biggest.

Fights can now be stopped via doctor stoppage, something that fight fans will recognize. If you keep attacking a cut on an opponent’s eye, a doctor will review the damage, potentially calling the fight. There’s also the opportunity to finish the fight via submission or knockout, which is followed by a cinematic replay like you’re watching a gruesome fatality out of the Mortal Kombat series.

The grappling aspect of MMA is perhaps the most difficult to create in a video game, but UFC 5 is much improved over UFC 4. The complaints about the mini-games from the previous iteration led to a change this year which focuses more on moment-to-moment interactions. This helps as it becomes easier to escape, reverse, and complete submissions rather than feeling like being led up to chance.

The roster for UFC 5 is very robust, featuring current stars like Erin Blanchfield and Tom Aspinall, along with stalwarts like Jon Jones and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Of course, there are additions to the roster like Dana White, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, and Mike Tyson, throwing a bit of fantasy into the mix. With WWE and UFC recently merging under the TKO Group Holdings, perhaps there’s a future where WWE stars make their way into the Octagon as DLC fighters.

The career mode is more enjoyable this time around as well. The moment-to-moment action moves along faster, allowing the player to get to the fights without being slowed down by some aspects like training. But that doesn’t take away from the engrossing aspects of career mode that will attract the fight nerds opining over every single stat. It’s a fun component of the game, but not its main feature. You can also take your custom fighter into an online world, where you can fight other custom fighters. That is bound to create some interesting matchups with plenty of people diving further into the creator.

UFC 5 is a great play for those looking to get back into mixed martial arts video games. It’s clear that the feedback from UFC 4 hit home and changes were made. The gameplay is strong, as is the presentation of the fights. As more players jump into the online component, it will be interesting to see how well it performs over time and what type of custom fighters show up. Overall, this is a strong entry for fans of combat sports and fighting video games.

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