With the recent release of EA Sports UFC 4, the game has gone through some changes and has improved upon the foundation laid in the clunky but unique experience laid down in the first game.
Aside from expanding an already impressive roster, the game includes new places to fight, tons of customizable options and some gameplay updates to keep players from getting arthritis from the ridiculously complex button inputs.
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Sporting News talked with Creative Director Brian Hayes to discuss what went into the new game after getting feedback from UFC 3, bringing a staple from the movie “Bloodsport” into the game, the real story about why Joe Rogan didn’t do commentary this year and whether we’ll ever see another Fight Night game.
SN: What were the things from UFC 3 that you knew needed immediate attention heading into this installment?
Brian Hayes: One of the biggest things for us was a big focus on accessibility. We’ve done things to make the controller not your opponent as much as possible. Mixed martial arts is complicated as it is with the striking, grappling and submission systems. We wanted to improve the accessibility so that you can concentrate on fighting your opponent rather than figuring out what buttons to push. There’s a stand up striking input scheme that we call dynamic striking inputs. In UFC 3 there were some strikes in the game that you had to hold down like five buttons to do. Now there’s no strike that requires more than three buttons to be held at the same time so that’s a pretty big win that reduces the amount of ergonomic complexity for throwing strikes.
It also allowed us to put triggering takedowns and initiating a clinch on button inputs as well, so you don’t have to dart from buttons to sticks. We also added grapple assist controls, which is just a simple system where pushing up is an attempt to stand up, pushing right will improve your position and pushing left will see you attempt a submission. A lot of things we’ve done to make sure, like I said, your controls aren’t something you feel like you’re fighting against, you just feel like you’re fighting the person across the cage.
SN: It also feels like there was some work to emulate the fighting styles and how fighters move depending on weight classes. A fighter like Israel Adesanya is quick and uses his length and kickboxing while Francis Ngannou feels like a heavyweight where one punch can end it.
BH: I’m certain there’s more we could do to make it even more realistic and authentic, but we wanted to make that all the different fighters in different weight classes feel different. It’s different driving a semi-truck than it is with a Lotus Elise. They should feel different. And you should have to modify your strategy based on what you’re controlling.
SN: How did the idea of including the Kumite come to fruition?
BH: One of our focuses for the game this year — almost as much as the accessibility — was to create a title that stood apart from its predecessors. It had to be different because we knew it’s a fourth generation of this game and it’s coming on the tail end of a console generation. We started thinking about different environments. The backyard fights stood out right away because of the history of Kimbo Slice and Jorge Masvidal. But there are many fighters who got introduced to mixed martial arts by a movie like “Bloodsport” and “Enter the Dragon.” That’s what we decided to go for. Those were two environments that end up being a lot of fighters’ origin stories and they just happen to look really awesome.
SN: Joe Rogan is not involved with the commentary this year. What happened?
BH: To be candid, Joe Rogan has never enjoyed doing voiceover work. Not even from the first iteration of EA UFC. It is something that he finds very unpleasant, and drives him nuts. In UFC 3 what we had pared back in the interest of saving his sort of mental and emotional well being. All we were doing was harvesting commentary lines from UFC broadcasts. We even tried to make it better by including him as a playable character in hopes of him being more flexible. It just didn’t work. But it’s fine now because there are multiple commentators on UFC broadcasts to choose from. It’s no longer the single team of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg like it was with EA UFC 1.
SN: Daniel Cormier is certainly a suitable replacement.
BH: He wanted to do it. What are we going to say? No? He’s a knowledgeable fighter with his own show breaking down fights. He also is part of a gym that is loaded with killers. Not to mention he’s a consummate professional and really enjoys doing this. He’s also going to help us tweak the rating system with his knowledge of the fight game. His credentials are virtually unrivaled so it was a great opportunity for us to work with him.
SN: How did you decide on Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury as the playable characters this year?
BH: We always include special characters and have had Mike Tyson, Bruce Lee and even Dana White. We see that these playable characters end up being quite popular with fans of the game. They like the idea that you can have these mythical matchups. With heavyweight boxing seeing a resurgence, it makes sense to have the two top heavyweights in the game.
SN: Is this just a way to appease people because what a lot of people have been asking for is another Fight Night game?
BH: I don’t know if it appeases people. Having Joshua and Fury in the game doesn’t stop people from tweeting me asking about Fight Night. But it’s definitely fun to put those big heavyweights into a Kumite fight and let them throw hands with the UFC’s best. I’d say that pleases me, but it doesn’t appease me or the fans waiting for another Fight Night game.
You know, I hate to call out my CEO, but tweet at Andrew Wilson and the big dogs at EA Sports. That would be my recommendation.