Mobile fighting games are usually pretty simple affair; you tap the buttons away until you or your opponent bites the dust. That kind of approach on mobile favors arcade types of fighting games with special powers, superhuman fighters and spam missile attacks. But how well does it fare with more down to Earth type of games, like sports simulations? Well, the answer to that question lies in the EA UFC Mobile game, which brings the hardcore cage action on your touchscreens.
First of all, the fair warning: Do not play this game if you are on the deadline, or you have something important to take care of in the immediate future. It’s that kind of the game, like a chocolate bar. You can’t take just one piece of chocolate and you can’t have just one fight. You’ll fall into “okay, just this one more” trap and when you manage to come to your senses your boss is suddenly going medieval on your rear, projecting the inner slave driver on you for not finishing a certain review on time. This might or might not be something from author’s personal experience.
There might be some people which consider mobile fighting games inferior to their home console/pc/handheld counterparts, because of the simplicity of the gameplay which supposedly hinders the depth the fighting games are known for. Indeed, on mobile you cannot do some complex movement strings or ultra combos, at least not in the way you got used to doing it. But that doesn’t mean those games are shallow and simple. There are strategies, combat tips and tricks you might apply while playing mobile fighting games. With that said, let’s introduce you to this game.
UFC, which stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship is the organization that promotes and organizes MMA events. MMA is abbreviated from Mixed Martial Arts, the hybrid martial art that features elements of many other combat arts, like kickboxing, karate, judo, jujutsu or Muay Thai, and represents the most complete and “real” combat art sport. Therefore, all UFC games are strict simulation types, unless someone manages to shoot a fireball inside the octagon during the UFC event, not for the lack of trying. The furthest these games went into the realm of improbable is putting young Mike Tyson and Bruce Lee in the game. Truly, the console versions of UFC games are probably the most realistic display of combat you’ll find in a game.
Mobile UFC is more leaned to the arcade gameplay. That doesn’t mean this game is devoid of the finesse and strategy, because you cannot simply tap ’till you cap your opponent, especially when you reach further in the game. You’ll be put down quicker than the flaming pan if you try to buttonmash (or rapid tap) your way through this game. There are numerous battle styles and moves which could counter certain other moves, something like rock- paper- scissors. One simple example: Wrestlers beat strikers, judo/ jujutsu fighters beat wrestlers, and strikers beat judo/jujutsu fighters. So, you need to make a versatile arsenal of moves in order to beat any opponent the game puts in front of you.
You advance through the game climbing the ladder-like system, like the good old Mortal Kombat, which gives you gradually harder opponents to beat. By beating them, you earn in-game currency that could be used for buying cosmetics (new hair pieces, new body types, faces, tattoos, et cetera), items (gloves, shorts, bandages, training items) or, the most importantly, for buying new moves and building up your arsenal of punches, kicks, throws and ground moves. Each fighter has a unique deck of abilities that can be trained. As your fighter levels up, you earn experience and abilities. You can increase your experience significantly by matching abilities. Both fighters and abilities can be leveled from 1 to 50.
The career mode of the game contains four weight classes, which are Heavyweight, Middleweight, Lightweight, and Flyweight. Sometimes you’ll see fighters competing outside of their nominal weight classes. Also, for some reason, there are no female fighters, which is too bad, because we’d like to see Ronda Rousy beaten up once again. All fighters are very well made and easily recognized thanks to the top notch graphics. If you win a certain amount of fights, and you’ll get a box which contains new moves and new unlockable fighters, so after a while you could fill out your career roster with at least one fighter for each division.
The graphics are top notch, the fighters are highly defined, with very recognizable faces and builds, so you’ll easily spot your favorites. Animations are amazing too; all the fighting moves are fluid, authentic and brutal. If you want to show how good a mobile game could look, this is the game you would use as the example. But this game was made by EA, so good graphics and production values are kind of given to their games. There were two things that worried us: is the gameplay any good, and will this game would be able to fit all the different aspects of MMA to a touchscreen device. The answer to that will be given after these messages.
And the answer is yes. So much yes. The gameplay is where this game truly shines. It’s so good some people actually prefer this mobile version of UFC over the console versions. Using your fingers, you can tap quickly for basic punches, swipe across for heavier blows, and swipe diagonally for real power shots. To block, you put two fingers on the screen, to dodge you swipe backward, and to create space you swipe back twice. It’s the most intuitive control system you could find in a mobile fighting game, or even further.
At the beginning of the match, all you can do is to punch, but landing shots you can earn special moves: kicks, knees, Superman punches, takedowns and all other various maneuvers which cut down your opponent’s health bar much harder than default punches. Once you initiate a takedown, you get the little timing game of button pressing in the right moment so your opponent lands on the mat. Once on the ground you can pound (famous GNP tactics by hybrid wrestlers) or submit the opponent with another button pressing game. The execution of these moves is absolutely authentic, thanks to the amazing graphics engine.
Of course, this is not a strict simulation. You’ll see some fighters do moves they could never pull off in the real life (Imagine Mark Hunt doing a Capoeira kick from the single handstand), so please don’t bash your screen in upon seeing something like that. Fights are scheduled for one round of two minutes each, and usually, they rarely go to the decision. Knockouts are quick and they happen often. Again, this isn’t some buttonmashing game, you have to use strategies, combinations, matching and sometimes even to (gasp!) block. Add to that the ability to keep building your fighter’s arsenal and you’ll be able to relive some of the greatest moments in MMA history.
But, not everything is that great. If we could summarize what’s the biggest flaw of UFC Mobile, that would be one word: grinding. At the beginning of the game, you get a fighter of your choice for free, and the only ways to earn other 69 fighters are either to cash out real money and buy Gold and then them or to submerge yourself into the endless line of matches hoping for the lucky random drop. This isn’t such a bad thing since the game also contains a very drawn out single-player Career mode in which you face opponents, earn Silver (the F2P currency), level up your fighter, and unlock new moves. However, since you only face opponents from your fighter’s weight class, the downside of the game’s Career mode is that you end up facing the same opponents over and over and you have to grind through it from the beginning as each new fighter you earn.
UFC Mobile game has a lot of exciting features which make her one of the best fighting games on the market. EA somehow made a game in which looks don’t prioritize over substance, but the game’s focus on repetitive grinding might erode the interest of the players unwilling to pay real cash in order to advance quickly. This game does perfectly the aspect of fighting games it was specialized for, but the lack of additional content and variety might seem tedious for some players. Do we recommend this game? Yes, we do, it’s fun, engaging and presents one of the finest simulations of MMA in general.