Mixed martial arts is likely one of the few sports activities that has continued regardless of COVID-19 considerations, with UFC president Dana White insisting on holding fights through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. UFC’s most elaborately conceived occasion but, UFC 251, is ready to start hours any further Saturday night time. Well, technically, it’ll happen Sunday morning, because it’s being held on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — which UFC has rebranded “Fight Island.” (No, the group didn’t go along with John Oliver’s suggestion of “UF-Sea,” however that did result in a fun back-and-forth between the Last Week Tonight host and White.)

UFC selected Yas Island as a result of the group wanted a venue exterior the U.S., since some international locations have journey restrictions in place to fight the unfold of the coronavirus. The pandemic has additionally upended UFC 251’s battle card itself: The major occasion will now pit UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in opposition to rival Jorge Masvidal, who stepped in when Gilbert Burns tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

As unlucky as that improvement was for Burns and his followers, the information couldn’t have been higher for online game writer Electronic Arts, which occurs to be placing Masvidal on the duvet of EA Sports UFC 4 alongside Israel Adesanya. The sport is coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on Aug. 14, which is lower than 5 weeks away. Two different fighters are pre-order bonuses, besides they’re boxers as a substitute of MMA stars: Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury. Martial artist Bruce Lee will even be accessible, getting back from EA Sports UFC 3.

Before you ask: No, there’s no phrase but on PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X variations of the sport. “We are exploring opportunities on Gen 5, but nothing to share right now,” mentioned Nate McDonald, a producer on UFC 4 at developer EA Vancouver, referring to the subsequent technology of consoles throughout a media briefing earlier this week.

Asked about enjoying the sport on next-gen consoles through backward compatibility, Brian Hayes, the sport’s artistic director, mentioned in a press release to Polygon that “presumably, fans will be able to play UFC 4 on their Gen 5 consoles,” so long as each the PS5 and Xbox Series X supply the characteristic. But he famous, “We haven’t yet had an opportunity to test this out and determine whether any additional development work is required to leverage Backward Compatibility.” The assertion is unusual, contemplating that the field artwork for the Xbox One model claims the sport will probably be playable throughout each Xbox One and Xbox Series X through Smart Delivery.

UFC 4 gameplay enhancements

Hayes and McDonald spent the remainder of their presentation outlining the event staff’s imaginative and prescient for UFC 4: a sport that appears and feels extra like real-life UFC motion within the octagon, whereas taking extra liberties exterior of it. They mentioned their overarching objective is to broaden the sequence’ attraction by making UFC 4 extra accessible — a welcome change for the franchise, since we described 2018’s EA Sports UFC 3 in our assessment as “probably the least pick-up-and-play game in the sports genre.”

Both McDonald and Hayes have been engaged on the EA Sports UFC sequence for the reason that starting, and their method was once impressed primarily by EA Sports’ well-known, long-running tagline, “It’s in the game.” Hayes instructed Polygon, “We were always consistently going down [the path of] ‘how can we add more sim, more realism?’” This time round, they’re nonetheless specializing in delivering an genuine MMA gameplay expertise in UFC 4, however “the broader game has kind of taken a bit of a pivot” away from the real-life UFC, in keeping with Hayes.

the Xbox One box art for EA Sports UFC 4, with Jorge Masvidal and Israel Adesanya

Jorge Masvidal and Israel Adesanya are on the duvet of EA Sports UFC 4.
Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts

Much of the staff’s new philosophy is pushed by suggestions from followers and critics. One of the principle complaints with the earlier video games is that their management schemes have been too difficult, particularly for parts like submissions and grappling. In UFC 4, you merely faucet buttons for fast, fundamental strikes and maintain them for longer, extra damaging (and/or extra flashy) assaults. Buttons are additionally used for coming into the clinch and trying takedowns, as a substitute of the analog sticks. “It is a lot easier on your fingers,” mentioned Hayes.

EA Vancouver has built-in the corporate’s Real Player Motion expertise into UFC 4 for takedowns and clinch conditions, which ought to enhance the fluidity of animations for transitions and different actions. And in the event you have been pissed off by lacking the timing for blocking takedown makes an attempt, the animation adjustments must also assist in that space, as a result of there are new movement-based methods to defend in opposition to or escape from takedowns.

On the grappling entrance, the builders have added what Hayes known as “grappling controls for the rest of us.” The new left-stick scheme is straightforward: Push as much as stand up, left to begin a submission, and proper to mount your opponent and begin pounding away. The difficult positional transitions of previous are nonetheless accessible for hardcore sequence veterans, and there’s an in-between setting, “Hybrid,” that exhibits you which of them legacy controls apply to which left-stick transfer you’re doing — it’s a option to be taught the transition controls.

Submissions not depend on shifting “break walls” with the precise stick, as in UFC 3. There are two new submission minigames in UFC 4 that have you ever chase your opponent across the interface through the use of the triggers and sticks. The mechanics will probably be acquainted to individuals who have performed different wrestling and MMA video games, and so they’re “a lot less complicated to explain to your friend on the couch,” mentioned Hayes.

Career adjustments and different UFC 4 modes

the Kumite environment in EA Sports UFC 4

The new “Kumite” setting was impressed by martial arts movies of the ’80s and ’90s like Bloodsport.
Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts

Along with participant suggestions, EA Vancouver depends on telemetry information that signifies how individuals truly performed the earlier entries within the EA Sports UFC franchise. It turned out that the profession mode was simply the most well-liked mode, and that folks strongly favored utilizing created fighters somewhat than the true athletes on the roster. To that finish, UFC 4 will take gamers straight into the profession mode; it’s designed as an onboarding expertise, with a gap sequence of 4 beginner fights that introduce gamers to boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and jiujitsu.

After that, UFC 4’s profession mode will play out equally to that of UFC 3, which was all about changing into the G.O.A.T. (the “greatest of all time”). We famous in our UFC 3 assessment that the profession construction rapidly turned a repetitive grind, however maybe the additions and updates will enliven the expertise in UFC 4. Training remains to be a key part, however as a substitute of enjoying minigames, you earn factors to improve attributes, and also you enhance your expertise simply by sparring and combating — the extra you utilize a transfer, the higher it will get. You can now select to simply accept or decline fights, which can have penalties for your profession improvement and your rivalries. And there’s now a full World Fighting Alliance minor league, the place you possibly can hold combating for so long as you need earlier than graduating to the UFC degree.

Since many individuals will play the profession mode with a customized character, EA Vancouver has significantly expanded the customization choices accessible if you’re making a fighter. In addition to elevated variability in physique varieties and hair, the equipment now embody all types of outlandish objects like crowns, animal heads, and luchador masks; as well as, the tattoo creator is deeper than earlier than. The objective, in keeping with Hayes and McDonald, is to offer gamers far more freedom in character design, in order that they’re not restricted to the sorts of attire you’d see real-life UFC fighters put on.

It’s additionally value noting that the customization objects for created fighters are all beauty; they received’t have an effect on gameplay. UFC 4 will supply microtransactions within the type of a premium foreign money that can be utilized to purchase these objects, however all of them will be unlocked by enjoying the sport. And EA is making an attempt to keep away from any trace of the microtransaction kerfuffle round UFC 3 — that sport’s Ultimate Team mode isn’t returning for UFC 4.

EA Vancouver’s technique of eradicating realism-based restrictions in UFC 4 extends to establishing fights. Offline exhibition matches have open weight courses, so you possibly can create a bantamweight fighter and put them within the octagon in opposition to a light-weight heavyweight. The sport will scale every little thing accordingly to maintain the battle honest.

“As a video game, we have the ability to do things that you can’t do in real life,” mentioned Hayes. It appears to suit with the trendy sports activities gaming philosophy of preserving the gameplay on the simulation aspect whereas being much less restrictive elsewhere.