STAFF REVIEW of UFC 5 (Xbox One)

Tuesday, November 7, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

UFC 5 Box art “As Real As It Gets” is a tagline UFC has used for many years, and the latest game in the series, UFC 5, has certainly taken this to heart, trying to recreate the sport as faithfully and realistically as possible. With a whole new engine under the hood, massive graphical upgrades, a Real Impact System, new submission controls, new modes and more, make UFC 5 the most realistic MMA simulator to date.

If you played UFC 4’s career mode, this is going to feel quite similar. As expected, you start out as a no one, looking to make a name for yourself to get noticed by the UFC to finally get your shot and of course, try to obtain that coveted gold around your waist one day. With new cutscenes and locations, sure it’s new, but it’s basically the same career mode all over again.

Coach Davis takes you under his wing, teaching you the basics from your backyard roots, aiming to mold you into a UFC prize fighter. While I was hoping there’d be some major names and fighters you come up with or train alongside the way, you do get to train at the same UFC Performance Institute gym as Valentina Shevchenko as she guides you as well. You’ve come a long way from your backyard brawls and World Fighting Alliance fights, but now you’re in the UFC, so you’ve got to make a name for yourself.

Before getting into the UFC, the career mode is entertaining enough, with Coach Davis helping train you, giving you advice, teaching you the basics, but once you’ve made it to the UFC, it’s as if there’s nothing else for you narrative wise. Once you become the champ, Career mode just turns into fighting for as long as you can before you retire as your longevity meter slowly depletes over time.

You’ll need to train MMA skills across the board though, from your wrestling, boxing, and BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), but there’s more to being a champion, as you’ll need to boost your social media for popularity, train with other fighters to learn their moves, and even watch tape on your opponent to learn their style and come up with a strategy. Each week before a fight you’re given 100 points to spent on these activities, and you clearly can’t do it all, so where you spend your time before the big fight is up to you.

Each contract you earn will also allow you to choose a sub objective that will net you bonuses based on its difficulty. For example, at the end of your fight contract, you need to have a certain amount of KO/TKO’s, Round 1 Finishes, Submissions or a certain amount of hype per fight. At the end of each contract you’ll earn a new one, generally upping your pay a substantial amount if you’ve been winning as you try and become the G.O.A.T. This all sounds familiar because it is, just as UFC 4’s career mode was.

Aside from Career Mode where I opted to spend the majority of my time, there’s plenty of other modes and things to play as well. There are weekly challenges you can test yourself with, aiming to be aligned with real PPV fight weeks in the future. These are predetermined fights and difficulties, with your first chance being free, though you can retry if you lose the fight for cost. These challenges will earn you special rewards like coins, cosmetics and even Alter Egos for fights, which are basically special attires from fighter’s histories.

Having moved to EA’s Frostbite engine has allowed for and even more realistic presentation, meaning the fighters look more authentic and move even more like their actual selves. With 60 FPS, fights will feel smooth, but the sweat and blood have been vastly improved and are quite noticeable with the improved authentic damage. Facial deformation really showcases cuts, bruises, blurred vision, broken noses, and at worst, the doctor might stop the fight if they think you can’t compete anymore. With 64,000 possible combinations of facial damage, fighters can look quite nasty with enough punches and kicks to the head. With damage actually affecting stamina regen, movement and even takedown defense, this adds all new strategies mid fight.

An MMA game is only as good as the fighters that make yup its roster though, and while it has some of the fighters you’d expect, it’s also missing some big names as well. The notable bonus fighters are Mike Tyson, Fedor Emelianenko, Muhammad Ali, and Bruce Lee, and you can expect many of the biggest names right now like Tom Aspinall, Ciryl Gane, Jon Jones, Magomed Ankalaev, Johnny Walker, Israel Adesanya, Khamzat Chimaev, Jiri Prochazka , Alex Pereira, Paulo Costa, Stipe Miocic , Colby Covington, Conor McGregor, Kamaru Usman, Michael Chandler, Alexander Volkanovski, Sean O’Malley, Valentina Shevchenko, amongst dozens of others.

There seems to be some notable omissions though, such as Brock Lesnar, Francis Ngannou, Yoel Romero, just to name a few. You can expect to see some legends in the roster as well, like Georges St-Pierre, Nick and Nate Diaz, Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Royce Gracie, BJ Penn, Anderson Silva, Robbie Lawler, Donald Cerrone, Clay Guida, Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar and more, so there’s surely a good handful of fighters you’ll recognize, even if you’ve not watched UFC in quite some time.

Combat will vary based on which mode you want to play, as there are some more options like Knockout, Stand and Bang, Competitive, and Simulation. If you simply want to have a slugfest and go for some crazy knockouts, you won’t have to worry about learning the ground game. You can even choose to go through the career this way as well should you choose, which was what I did for my first fighter.

If you’ve played the previous UFC games you’ll have an idea at how the controls work, but there have been some adjustments that take a little getting used to. The new damage system is probably what made me change my fight strategy on the fly more than anything else, as I was worried the doctor would come in and call the fight off even though I didn’t get knocked out directly. Spinning attacks have been revamped, and while I didn’t get as many knockouts with them, they’re still just as entertaining to watch land.

Facial deformation really help emphasize the power and damage you do to your opponents, and there seems to be a bunch of new animations for all the different fighting styles, including getting hit from different angles. You have a stamina meter you need to maintain, as trying to hit someone when you’re gassed won’t do much and will simply leave you open for a counter. Head movement plays a larger part of avoiding damage, able to bob and weave in different directions, looking for a powerful counter.

The coolest part though is seeing your handiwork being showcased after a big knockout. There are cinematic replays that shows different camera angles and in slow-mo, showcasing the new damage system and ragdoll physics. These knockout moments look badass of course, but there are times where the ragdoll physics make things look a little off and wonky when they don’t collapse just right or realistically.

You’ll also remember if you’ve played the previous games at how confusing and terrible the submission mechanics were. This minigame took a lot of getting used to, and even then, wasn’t intuitive in the slightest. I was glad to see that the ground game has been completely redone for UFC 5, making for a more fluid tactical game of chess on the ground. There’s some options based on your preferences, able to choose a grapple assist, hybrid or legacy controls, and while I commend the effort to make it better, it’s still challenging and confusing at the best of times with all of the different modifiers and buttons to memorize. Those that enjoy the ground game are sure to enjoy the latest changes, as it makes for more fluid transitions and submissions, but it’s going to take a lot of practice to really learn it so it becomes second nature.

Of course if you want a true challenge, head online and take on all comers to compete and see who truly is the G.O.A.T. You can play quick matches, ranked championships and more. You’ll need to be at the top of your striking and ground game if you want any sort of chance at those ranked belts though. In online career you’ll be able to use evolution points, improve your fighter’s stats and even a prestige system for those truly wanting to prove themselves.

UFC 5 is easily the best looking MMA game to date, hands down. The engine improvements, facial deformation and slow-mo replays really showcase just how good it can look. Fighters are instantly recognizable for the most part, though I did find a few that simply looked a tad ‘off’ for one reason or another. A battered face can be gruesome and can be just as brutal as watching live on PPV. The commentary is done well and comes across just as I’d expect from a live broadcast, though you will start to hear repeated lines after a good amount of fights under your belt. I will say though that I absolutely hated the soundtrack, though musical choices are clearly subjective.

Having watched UFC and MMA for many years, making sure I catch every main PPV I possibly can, and met a handful of fighters, I really enjoy watching the competition, and what UFC 5 does so well is recreating the brutal sport. Being accessible enough for those that want to simply stand and bang by button mashing, to the hardcore fans that want to showcase their submission skills online, UFC 5 is the latest contender to enter the octagon, being as real as it gets, though can feel like simply a prettier UFC 4 at times.

**UFC 5 was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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