While this brawler comes out of the corner with some new game features and fight refinements, it loses steam in the depth and replayability department. EA Sports UFC 4 is the latest installment of the long-running franchise, and has some nice additions to the standing game. New this year is the option to both block and sway from incoming attacks, which limits the number of counterattacks you can make but significantly decreases the damage you take -- which is vital to staying upright, especially when facing off against a kick-focused fighter or someone with a larger reach than your player. Additionally, new tweaks have been made to the ground game, with two new submission mini-games and some quick time events to give you an extra chance to provide damage or a chance to escape a hold. While the tweaks to the ground game help, it's still the weakest part of the fighting experience: Transitions still feel a bit clunky and unresponsive when you're moving from one stance to the next, and even with the new Grapple Assist mechanic to help you move into specific positions, like submissions or ground and pound, it's still not as smooth as the standing punches and kicks. Even the upright fights have issues, because your fighters will change stances at random, which can throw off your timing when you expect to throw one kind of kick and you get something completely different.
These issues are highlighted by the Career mode, which is clearly the focus of the game but quickly starts to feel shallow. It's nice to see that virtually every move you make adds experience to your character with their skills, making them a stronger fighter in the cage. It's also nice to see that you can form some relationships with fighters, making it easier to learn certain moves from them or potentially set up rivalries with others. The main issue that crops up with this mode is how quickly it becomes repetitive. Players get the option to spar with training partners, but these guys are way too easy to knock out, which limits the opportunities to improve your skills. You can watch tape on opponents, but they never change their tactics or evolve their game over time, which seems unrealistic, especially during rematches. The same is said for the pre-fight routine: train, maybe do a sponsor's activity, fight, repeat. Even the cutscenes and the coach that introduces the game mode fade to obscurity. His main interaction gets limited to making minor comments during training sessions instead of making this mode into a dynamic, engaging story. That becomes boring, and not particularly thrilling, especially when the game draws out your pathway to the championship. Overall, if you're a UFC fight fan, you'll probably like many of the changes that've been made to this chapter of the series. But after a while, it's hard to imagine not being bored with the same kind of fight over and over again.