It has been approximately 2 and a half years since the release of UFC 3, and in that time quite a few things have changed. New faces have risen through the ranks of the championship, and there is now have an official UFC Fight Island event thanks to the effects of COVID-19, making things within the sport slightly surreal. With these changes UFC 4 leans slightly into the surrealism while also maintaining the core of this tactical fighting series.
There are quite a few modes available in UFC 4, from quick matches to play against others through the career mode and online modes that mix things up a bit. The career mode has a bit more depth to previous UFC games, embracing some more of the proceedings outside of fighting. One of the main additions is Coach Davis who eases you into the sport at the start of the game, gives a bit more context to training, and tips as you progress through drills. Training is simplified into five categories with those being Boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, and Heavy Bag. In the first four you will spar against a partner to improve move ratings, while in Heavy Bag you will have challenges to complete against a… well, a heavy bag, like throwing a set number of combos.
Your fighter move skills are rated out of five stars, and these ratings go up the more they are practiced in training and used in fights. Training comes with risks, as your sparring partners can cause your fighter injuries, which can be minor or major. They can be recovered from using treatments, resting the fighter, or repairing the affected attribute in the fighter evolution profile using points. These points can also be used to improve to the fighter’s striking skills, grapple skills, and overall health and cardio. Major injuries can even see a fight be postponed while your fighter recovers.
In addition to regular training other fighters can be invited to the training camp to help unlock new moves, and you can also review your opponent. However, all of this costs training points which are reset at the end of each week. Throw in promotional events needed to hype up a fight and you have to learn to manage to balance training your fighter with generating interest and gathering fame. There is also a social media aspect where you can interact with other fighters. Be friendly with them and they will train you at a discounted rate, but taunt them and you can build up hype for a match up.
When it comes to the actual fighting in the Octagon things will feel familiar for fans of UFC 3, but there have been some changes. Transitions on the ground have a newly simplified control system, but you can opt to use the control system from UFC 3. The new system is great for newcomers to the series to get a feel for the wrestling and Jiu Jitsu side of the sport. Submissions also feel much more intuitive, though how effective they are will depend on your chosen fighter’s submission skills. There is a bit of a niggle where the input lags a bit from the controller during transitions, leading to a slight delay in the action being performed on screen.
Other elements of fighting remain pretty much the same as UFC 3 when it comes to inputs with combinations of face and shoulder buttons alternating kicks and punches being thrown at an opponent’s legs, body, or head. Blocking is also standardised once more to the shoulder buttons. In general, getting knockouts can feel a bit tougher to earn, with AI fighters instantly blocking the part of the body that has rocked them.
There are new fighting arenas to fight in, from standard arenas to more outlandish areas including a cave like setting. There are also more customisation options for created fighters with all sorts of cosmetics to give your fighter a unique look.
The bloat UFC Ultimate Team has been cut from UFC 4’s online multiplayer, which never really fit into a game based on 1v1 fights. Instead there is a much more streamlined approach. Online World Championships will limit players to fight for a title in a selected weight class with their custom fighter, but it’s easy to switch classes, so one day it could be bantamweight and another middleweight. There are also the Blitz Battles which are six round tournaments with regularly rotated rules. One tournament, for example, was focused on Knockouts Only to win a fight, making UFC 4 feel like a traditional fighter with standard health bars. There is a also the standard quick fight where you can choose the weight class and the fighter you want to play as.
Overall, the online multiplayer has held up well over the game’s first weekend of release, with no noticeable lag through the fighting.