UFC 3’s career mode was its biggest highlight, and with UFC 4, developer EA Vancouver is looking to double down on the mode with a new threefold focus of building confident players, making choices matter, and sticking to the authentic UFC experience.
Building Confident Players
One of the biggest challenges that UFC games face is teaching new players how to utilize the many different facets of mixed martial arts without completely overloading them with tutorials right out of the gate. UFC 4 is attempting to address this by making its career mode the primary onboarding process for the game.
To accomplish this, UFC 4 introduces Coach Davis, a coach you meet during your very first amateur MMA fight who invites you to his gym and introduces you to the fundamentals of MMA. You’ll learn about the various disciplines of MMA, including boxing, kickboxing, jiu jitsu, and wrestling, and after each training session at the gym, you’ll face off against a fighter who specializes in that specific aspect of MMA.
“One of the reasons why we added Coach Davis is because he takes you through the fundamentals in a much more measured [way],” said Creative Director Brian Hayes. “As opposed to trying to create a five-minute opening experience where we show you a hype video and then give you some pop-ups during gameplay to try and teach you all the myriad of controls involved with an MMA game, we decided to make the opening experience the introduction to Coach Davis, you jumping into your amateur career… and then use that experience to be a better onboarding tool to show you boxing, kickboxing, jiu jitsu, and wrestling.”
Making Choices Matter
Choices and consequences are central to UFC 4’s career mode, with your choices being the main driving force behind the direction your own personal story takes you. The career mode is unscripted, so no two players’ journeys will be exactly the same.
Some of the biggest choices you make will be in your training camp. In UFC 4, to improve your fighter, all you have to do is fight. The more you use a specific move, whether it’s in training camp or in an actual fight, the more that move will level up in real time. Leveling up a move not only improves its effectiveness, but it also rewards you with evolution points that you can spend on either attribute points or perks that could make you consume less stamina with every attack, give you faster hooks or faster kicks, and so on.
To facilitate this fighter evolution system, you can choose specific sparring techniques in training camp, whether it be Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Boxing, Muay Thai, or Wrestling. Each sparring session is specifically focused on the moves related to that discipline, allowing you to best prepare for the upcoming fight. Also, this time around you won’t know what type of fighter you’re going up against just by looking at the fight contract. Instead you’ll have to choose to watch tape on a fighter if you want to know what their attributes are, their top five moves, or their overall style.
The Authentic UFC Experience
The final key focus of EA Vancouver in UFC 4 is to remain authentic to the actual UFC experience. That means that you begin on the amateur circuit, eventually make your way to the World Fighting Alliance (WFA), potentially make your way through Dana White’s Contender Series, and finally wind up in the UFC where your ultimate goal is to become not only a champion, but secure that Greatest of All Time (GOAT) status.
To this end, you’re also given choices with regard to how your journey plays out. You now have the choice to decline fights if you feel like you’re not ready for them yet. You can even stay in the WFA for your entire career and never make the jump to the UFC if you want. Whatever choice you make has a consequence, though. If you decline a fight, the other fighter will drag you on social media, affecting your popularity; if you stay in the WFA, you’ll be able to improve your stats and skills, but you won’t get any closer to completing your GOAT goals; you can respond cordially to fighters and build a relationship that lets you eventually invite them to your gym and learn their moves; or you can taunt them and build hype for your eventual showdown.
“We wanted to make character choices matter more this year than in [UFC 3],” said Career Mode Producer Raman Bassi. “[In UFC 3], a lot of the champions were set in stone and we built a rival story around them. In UFC 4, we wanted to break that open completely.”
UFC 4 is set to release on August 14 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with EA Access subscribers getting it a full week earlier on August 7.
Mitchell Saltzman is an Editorial Producer at IGN and would be terrible in a fight, but still loves UFC and Mixed Martial Arts nonetheless.