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UFC 5 Review: A Near-Knockout

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via EA Sports

A PS5 code was provided to GamingPizza for this review. UFC 5 is available now on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S.

Grab your gloves and mouthguard, and get ready to rumble because UFC 5 has entered The Octagon, and it’s swinging for the fences. Following up on the success of UFC 4, the series has continually grown in popularity like a heavyweight champ bulking up for the big fight. And let me tell you, UFC 5 is no mere featherweight; it’s the best in the series and looks set to be the reigning champ in your gaming library for years to come.

The realism in UFC 5 is like getting a front-row seat at a live UFC match, including everything from the walk-up entrances and pre-fight spectacles to the post-fight breakdown. The debut on the Frostbite engine delivers a one-two punch of high-rendering performance and hyper-realistic visuals, which make bloody face cuts even more gruesome. The punches feel heavy, the kicks whip sharply, and every takedown feels like you’re really putting someone on the mat (or ending up there yourself). EA Sports isn’t just swinging in the dark here and hoping something lands; they’ve meticulously sculpted a viscerally authentic experience.

Striking a balance

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via EA Sports

Gone are the days of feeling like you’re controlling a pair of floating gloves. In UFC 5, fighters move with the fluidity and grace of a ballet dancer … if ballet dancers could kick your head clean off of your shoulders. From the submissions to the revamped striking mechanics, everything flows smoother than any other previous UFC title.

Honing in on a striking strategy (or grappling strategy, depending on your opponent) is an immersive and ultimately enjoyable away to approach each fight. And for those who felt like UFC 4’s blocking was like trying to stop a truck with a stop sign, you can rest at ease in knowing that UFC 5 re-tuned the blocking to actually effectively block. Pro tip: You’d be wise to utilize the blocking mechanic early and often, or you’re in for a short match and a world of hurt.

UFC 5 feels like a love letter penned to both MMA and boxing fans. The finesse and strategy behind each punch, block, and counter-attack in this game make a strong case for why boxing fans deserve a top-tier game. We’re still cornered, waiting for the Undisputed boxing game to throw its hat into the ring (it’s currently in Steam Early Access), but if it can emulate anywhere near close to the boxing styles in UFC 5, boxing fans are in for a treat.

The weight of expectations

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Obviously, this review, thus far, has been glowing. So, why isn’t this a stone-cold perfect knockout? Well, UFC 5 is like a champion fighter with a slightly weak left hook. Issues with the presentation, especially the camera, still arise despite a focus on honing in on that particular piece post-beta. There is also the occasional glitch with the fighters — not to the extent of the hilarious meme-worthy glitches of UFC games past — but I did encounter a few game-breaking issues, like my fighter inexplicably vanishing from the ring.

While the game has improved massively in terms of realism and immersion, The Octagon still has room for more. What we’ve got is impressive, and as fresh feeling as the game is, I can’t help but feel like something is missing; that UFC 5 is just one rigorous training montage away from absolute greatness.

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But what does that even look like? UFC 5, after all, is a game that’s at the peak of its genre. The mechanics are tight, the graphics are gorgeous, it’s got hours’ worth of single-player content to keep you engaged, and multiplayer servers are already bustling.

What more could we ask for? Well, one thing would be an even deeper career mode. While UFC 5 introduces a new way to play through real-life UFC events with revamped choices, your fighter still feels like just another cog in the machine rather than someone who is overtly trying to make their mark on history.

The real victory will be in reinventing the gameplay to elevate the experience further. The groundwork laid by UFC 5 is solid, but to stay the champ, you’ve got to keep evolving — something that other annually-released titles like Madden fall short of.

Going the distance

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via EA Sports

One of the most impressive things about UFC 5 comes from the feedback following the game’s time spent in beta. EA Sports listened. The balance in gameplay — from nerfing the unstoppable jab to adjusting the head movement stamina — shows they actively addressed some of the game’s most annoying issues. The result? A fighting experience that’s challenging but fair, like a ref who actually knows what they’re doing.

UFC 5 is arguably the best of the series, offering something for both the hard-hitting veterans and the rookies still figuring out how not to get knocked out in the first round. Given that UFC isn’t an annually released game, fans will have plenty of time to hop in and know that the game they’re playing is still relevant months a year … two years from now. EA Sports just needs to keep it rolling, adding new fighters and content to keep the game fresh and in fighting shape.

UFC 5 packs enough of a punch to make any fan of the sport, or combat sports in general, sit up and pay attention. Sure, it’s not without its flaws, but it’s a knockout game that stands proudly, gloves raised high. Now, touch gloves, go back to your corner, and come out ready to experience the thrill of the fight.

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GamingPizza Rating: 9 out of 10

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