After taking 2019 off, the EA Sports UFC franchise is coming back this year. As part of the UFC 251 fight in Abu Dhabi, EA Sports officially announced EA Sports UFC 4. Jorge Masvidal and Israel Adesanya share the cover for this year’s game, which is due out in August for PS4 and Xbox One. In addition to a roster of the top UFC fighters, the game features legends like Bruce Lee, Anthony Joshua, and Tyson Fury.
“EA Sports UFC 4 is the best fighting game ever made,” UFC President Dana White said in a statement. “Fans can play in the top arenas, as well as in Backyard and Kumite environments. This game allows you to play with the top athletes in UFC history, plus legends like Bruce Lee and boxing champions Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury. It’s crazy how good this game is.”
In UFC 4, players can create and shape their created character–including fight style and personality–and the game features unified progression across all modes. There are five MMA disciplines to go after, including wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, and boxing, along with more than 1,600 pieces of gear and more than 120 emotes to make a character that you can connect to.
EA Sports UFC 4 is promising a number of updates and improvements over 2018’s game, UFC 3, including more responsive clinches, improved takedowns, and better ground mechanics. The game is also delivering a new career mode focusing on growth from minor divisions and onto the main UFC stage, along with new fight environments including the UFC APEX arena, Kumite arena, and The Backyard. There are also new multiplayer options in Blitz Battles and Online World Championships where players can test their mettle against other people across the world.
Like its predecessor, UFC 4 continues the use of EA Sports’ Real Player Motion (RPM) technology. For clinches in particular, EA says it will use RPM to make clinches look and perform more believably by taking into account player positioning and physical context.
The game will also crank up the realism to emphasize the impact of attacking moves. For example, EA says players will “see, hear, and feel the disorienting impact” of the fights. This will include a new presentation system that gives you replays of devastating punches and more.
For takedowns, UFC 4 makes use of the RPM tech to provide new takedown animations that will include a greater range of outcomes. These are dependent on how the player physically controls their fighter, along with their fighter’s attributes.
UFC 4 creative director Brian Hayes told GameSpot that the RPM technology is helping the new game make huge strides in terms of authenticity.
“It just makes those facets of the game look more realistic because the animation quality and the responsiveness is better, but then there’s also been a benefit in terms of our approach to the clinch game and takedowns has more intuitive elements into it,” he said.
For clinches specifically, Hayes said the advancements that EA has made will feel dramatic to players. “Previously, the clinch game was one of the least popular,” he said. “We know this from gameplay telemetry, we can see how much time is spent in the clinch. It was one of the least popular places to be because it was less intuitive than the grappling experience on the ground. And now it’s so much quicker to get into. It’s so much easier to feel you’re doing meaningful things, whether it be damage or going for a trip or takedown, or what have you, that we expect it to be a lot more to play a bigger role in from fight to fight.”
On the commentating side, UFC 4 features a new commentary team comprised of former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Daniel “DC” Cormier and UFC’s Jon Anik. The removal of previous commentator Joe Rogan, who calls UFC fights in real life, is no big surprise.
Hayes told USGamer that EA had to use audio from Rogan’s real-world broadcasts for EA Sports UFC 3 because Rogan “absolutely hates doing voiceover for the game.” It’s no wonder EA didn’t want to work with him for EA Sports UFC 4, even if Rogan remains the main commentator for the UFC in real life.
As for the new environments, The Backyard is exactly what it sounds like, while Kumite aims to pay tribute to the underground hand-to-hand combat arenas of MMA lore.
For The Backyard, Hayes told GameSpot it was partially inspired by the popular viral Kimbo Slice videos that showed him fighting people in the streets. “I’m also a fan of the virality of the old school Kimbo Slice videos, and I’m a fan of martial arts cinema, and all these things exist together for people that are fight fans, broader fight fans. And so we thought there’s an opportunity to create environments like this that are just cool places to be.”
For the online modes, the Online World Championships is an online series where you take your custom-made character and try to become the ultimate fighter across a series of online events. Players who are successful in earning their title belt will then need to defend it from challengers. The Blitz Battles mode, meanwhile, is described as “fast-paced” and consists of a rapid-fire tournament featuring different rulesets to offer something new each time.
EA Sports UFC 4 is due out later this year for PS4 and Xbox One, and it’s also expected to be playable on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X through backwards compatibility.
“If both consoles support backwards compatibility for Gen 4 games then, presumably, fans will be able to play UFC 4 on their Gen 5 consoles,” Hayes told GameSpot. "We haven’t yet had an opportunity to test this out and determine whether any additional development work is required to leverage Backward Compatibility, but we hope to see UFC 4 playable on Gen 5 hardware using that feature.
EA Sports UFC 4 producer Nate McDonald told GameSpot that his team was fortunate that it was able to record all of the motion-capture for the game before the COVID-19 lockdowns hit. Additionally, all of the audio recording work was completed as well.
Something that UFC 4 won’t have, however, is an Ultimate Team mode. That might sound surprising, given that the mode is featured in all other EA Sports games and it is known to be a cash cow.
Hayes told GameSpot that EA decided to ditch Ultimate Team mode for UFC 4 because it doesn’t really make sense for a 1v1 fighting game.
“There is no Ultimate Team in UFC for this year that was a unique decision for us. What we learned is just looking at UFC 3. It’s just not as popular mode for us in terms of what it requires to support and build and develop those modes because they’re really complex, they’re really broad, they’re really deep, but it’s nowhere near on the level of popularity and engagement for us as it is shown to be on games like FIFA and Madden and NHL.”
Instead of pouring resources into making an Ultimate Team mode work for UFC 4, EA spent its time working on elements that would help the franchise reach a broader audience. UFC 4 will feature a united progression system across modes, and this is aimed at offering some element of Ultimate Team.
“So we decided to take those resources and try and develop features that would appeal to a bigger segment of our audience,” Hayes said. “And that’s where we pointed towards that connected fighter profile, that game-wide experience progression leveling up and earning reward system to try and create something that still has elements of what Ultimate Team is, which is, play the game, level up, progress and earn rewards, but to make those rewards not be things that impact game play because it’s enveloping the entire game now and just focus on vanity stuff.”
Hayes added: “So everything that we would have considered investing in terms of resources towards finding a way to make an Ultimate Team concept worked in what is a 1V1 sport, we decided, what’s a different feature we can deliver that hopefully would be enjoyable or be engaged with, by a bigger number of our players, rather than just the relatively small numbers that we were seeing play Ultimate Team? And so that’s basically the tradeoff where we said, let’s stop trying to fit a square peg into a round hole here, so to speak, and let’s take these resources and develop something that sits across the entire game and hopefully provides a rewarding experience for every single player rather than just those that happen to be in one specific mode.”
UFC 4 launches on August 14 for PS4 and Xbox One. Everyone who pre-orders gets exclusive fighters, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, along with customization packs for the Backyard and Kumite. EA Access subscribers can start playing on August 7.