‘EA Sports UFC 2’ review: Still training to be the champ

The sophomore effort from EA Sports builds incrementally upon the original.

For everything “EA Sports UFC 2” does right, there’s always something else that’s irksome.

The sophomore effort from sports the video game giant, whose name is included in the game’s title, builds incrementally upon the original.

The roster of current and former UFC fighters this time is staggering. No previous UFC game has featured as many as the 250-plus athletes in “UFC 2.” That includes strong representation from the growing women’s MMA scene, and players can now create female fighters and take them through all the other game modes.

And regardless of gender, all the fighters look excellent. The graphics raise the bar for a sports game. Even the referees look remarkably like their real-world counterparts.

Perhaps the impressive visuals are what causes the game to feel sluggish online. Even when lag — an occasional annoyance — isn’t rearing its ugly head, the “UFC 2” rarely feels as kinetic as the real thing.

The controls during striking exchanges remain strong, but the updated grappling system isn’t as revolutionary as hoped. The mechanic for advancing positions is simplified, but most who loathed ground fighting before won’t be converted into well-rounded fighters yet.

For those players, there’s a new KO Mode that eliminates grappling. Purists are likely to dismiss it, but it’s a blast and will satisfy groups of friends playing locally. Not online, though.

Beyond online play, the longevity of “UFC 2” is tied to its chief modes, Career Mode and UFC Ultimate Team.

Career Mode is similar to the original game’s feature save for two big, disparate changes. On the plus side, training is streamlined. Once a training minigame is completed with a certain rating, it can be simmed for the same score. That’s a huge plus, as such training exercises become tedious upon repetition.

The bad news: everything else in the mode other than the bouts themselves is text-based and boring. Hopefully “UFC 3” in a few years injects personality into the career.

Ultimate Team resembles similar modes of other EA Sports titles, but is set up differently. Players create a team of up to five custom fighters that can be upgraded with cards that are assigned to the fighters. It’s an interesting idea, but the early bouts with severely under-skilled fighters are sluggish and no fun at all.

Die-hard fans should be happy enough with “UFC 2”, but casual fans may be less than impressed.

Available now

“EA Sports UFC 2,” published by Electronic Arts and developed by EA Canada, is out now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. $59.99

Scott Fontana