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UFC 5 Review — An Unopposed Stranglehold

We review UFC 5 to see if a new fire has been lit in this bloody brawler.

Jeremy Proome

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Admittedly, there aren’t any MMA games to compete with the UFC video game franchise, so it’s got a bit of a hold on the market. But, with their only being one, and one which flaunts the prestigious UFC license, it has to be good. Thankfully, UFC 5 it delivers a tight and well-presented experience that will have MMA fans cheering, but it’s not without a few bruises.

From a presentation and gameplay perspective, it’s clear that UFC 5 has benefited from the 3-year gap between the last game and this entry. UFC 5 runs on EA’s Frostbite engine, which has become a staple for their sporting titles and brings a new ‘sheen’ to the visuals, while the drop of last-gen support has really allowed the developers to flex their muscles with the performance of the game.

Fighters look like spitting images of their real-life counterparts, with skin flopping, sweat flying, and strikes delivering real-time visual reactions from character models.

Gameplay-wise, the familiar striking, grappling, and defensive systems will all be familiar to longtime fans of the series, but how they’re effected by the new damage system is what makes them feel refreshed.

The realistic damage system is designed to produce realistic handicaps to each player. For example, if your fighter takes one too many shots to the leg, he may begin limping, and then your strikes from that leg deliver less damage. Alternatively, successive head shots can cut open an opponent, who will then take more time to recover as he bleeds onto the mat. It’s all pretty brutal, but hardcore fans will appreciate the nuances and technicality that has been added, allowing you to have a far more strategic gameplan of targetting certain parts of an opponent, rather than just throwing haymakers.

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One of the more notable changes in terms of the combat mechanics is that the grappling and submissions system has changed. Gone are the little timed-button mini games in favour of a stamina bar battle, which can help you wiggle out of a hold, or secure it, depending on what position you’re in.

And for those who love getting immersed in the UFC world, the career mode allows you to take your fighter through training camps, build-up fights, improve your stats, and eventually fight your way to a world title, all while delivering some story moments and cutscenes where you’ll cross paths with notable fighters, trainers, and personalities. It’s arguably the best part of UFC 5 and fleshes out the experience to provide something more than a simple bout in the octagon.

Throw in Fight Week content, which is added every week and offers players unique fighting ‘contracts’, where you have to take on an opponent with certain stat boots for a limited time (tying into real-world UFC events), and you get a gateway into the sport like never before.

Ultimatly, UFC 5 is a long-awaited evolution of the series. While many sports games simply tack on one or two animations year-on-year with each release, UFC 5 delivers a full visual overhaul, new fighting mechanics, and a massively expanded career mode; so you can’t fault it for expanding the beloved series.

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