UFC 5 Review – UFC 4.5 (XBOX Series X)

The kid gloves are off. It is time to take a deep look at UFC 5 and discuss the state of this franchise. No new title for three years created lots of hype and expectations for the new game within the UFC 4 player base. Let's talk about whether EA delivered on evolving the fighting game in a way players were hoping for.

UFC 5 Review - UFC 4.5 (XBOX Series X)

UFC 5 is a game I have been taking my time on to make sure I get the review right. I want to speak about UFC 5 from the lens of someone who has put many hours into becoming skilled at the game. But generally enough so that I don’t isolate players who haven’t played EA Sports UFC titles for the amount of time I have.

UFC 5 is not a game you haven’t played before if you are returning player from UFC 4. If you had fun playing UFC 4, you will probably enjoy UFC 5. It really is more of the same. You load into a fight, pick the color of your shorts, and knock someone out. It feels good to watch the cutscene of you getting your hand raised after winning or to make someone quit. I go deeper into the things I like about UFC 5 in this article titled 10 Best New Features in UFC 5. However, I highlighted some aspects of the game that may not be improvements after further review. This article is to clear the air and give my real opinion on UFC 5.

You can pick the game to play for yourself on XBOX Series X | S and PlayStation 5.

Story – Snoozy

UFC 5‘s Career Mode is completely untouched since UFC 4 and it is painfully boring. There is no ability to change the voice of your Create A Fighter so even if you import Khabib, he’s going to sound like the musical artist Riff Raff. The gameplay outside of fighting is stale, sponsorships, training, and upgrading stats. Personally, a crummy career mode in the new game doesn’t keep me up at night. But for the players that have waited 3 years since UFC 4 to receive a better single player experience, prepare to be let down.

Gameplay – Glitchy

There is a lot to unpack here. Vicarious promises were made to us from the developer through our favorite UFC content creators. We also have really bad micro transaction options plus a lackluster roster of fighters that makes the gameplay super repetitive. As a whole the game is fun, but there are still things that get in the way of this being the game. 

Deception Surrounding the Release of UFC 5

UFC 5 at its core is a messy game and a copy paste of UFC 4 in a lot of ways. It is important to note how the new Frostbite engine does not make the gameplay in the fifth game substantially better or different than UFC 4. The new engine did not solve the old problems that remain from the past title. Such as visual bugs and issues with strike tracking which are now worse.

(Via RichterPlays on Youtube)

Elements outside the core gameplay such as the in-game marketplace and DLC characters for this game also make it hard to view UFC 5 as a massive leap for the franchise. 

Let’s call a spade a spade, EA got us again. They used Martial Mind as well as other influencers to promo this game and make consumers believe they were getting much more than what EA ever planned to deliver. If this release shares the same lack of care on the behalf of the dev team that UFC 4 had, it will be a shame. Because this could be one of the greatest fighting games of all time with more attention to detail from its creators.

DLC Fighters/ Alter Egos

To begin with, let us take a look at the pre-order content for this game. What are we paying for? The Alter Ego characters that have been added to the game like “youngest champ” Jon Jones, “debut” Mcgregor, and “Rugby” Volk are neat but are unjustly priced for what they are. The characters are literally the same as the base game variants with different hairstyles and beards. They often even have worse stats. Which is fine if they are easily attainable. But this is not the case.

The “All Characters Pack” in the store separate from the $100 USD Deluxe Edition is $30. Individual characters are $5. If the player does not choose to go this route, then they can use their UFC coins to buy Alter Ego fighter bundles that may be in the store at random. These bundles cost 24,000 coins. The individual fighters themselves are 15,000 coins. I have 2 days and 21 hours of playtime on this game and have 10,450 coins to my name. I fight online and actively seek out opportunities to make coins through challenges when I play UFC 5 too.

There are slim pickings in the UFC 5 item store most of the time.

There are slim pickings in the UFC 5 item store most of the time.

This inflation seemingly occurs to encourage the player to spend real money in order to buy these limited time bundles with premium in-game currency. But for those like myself who refuse to spend $5 per character, we will never know what it is like to play as “KO record” Leon Edwards or “DWCS” Sean O’Malley.

Nothing Unique About Fighters That Cost $5 Each

What’s funny is that the special pre-order bonuses aren’t even special in any way. Muhammad Ali boxes just like Nate Diaz with copy paste animations. Mike Tyson also lacks his signature peekaboo style head movement and slugging punch animations. This is a minuscule thing to complain about, but is it really? In three years Mike Tyson couldn’t have gotten his assets recycled from Fight Night Champion for a DLC character? Better Yet, EA couldn’t have gone back to the drawing board to make them from scratch? The soullessly low effort put into the creation of these pre-order bonus fighters makes it blatantly apparent that they are all cash grabs and nothing more.

(Via @Countdown on Youtube)

Most of the Alter Egos are gimmicky while being extremely hard to obtain if you don’t spend $5. That pay to play fee covers full access to a fighter that is substantially worse than his free variant for the most part.

UFC 5’s Lacking Roster

The fact that UFC 5’s roster doesn’t possess any of the active ranked fighters in the UFC outside of those that were added to UFC 4 is something there is no excuse for. Especially when we have Volkanovski in a rugby shirt taking up a roster slot in Featherweight that could go to Bryce Mitchell or Movsar Evloev. Who have each been ranked close to or within the top 10 for close to a year. 

In my opinion, UFC 5's roster should even feature fan favorites from outside of the top 15 rankings, but at the very least we should be able to play as every ranked fighter.

In my opinion, UFC 5’s roster should even feature fan favorites from outside of the top 15 rankings, but at the very least we should be able to play as every ranked fighter.

I am not even concerned with the fact that fighters who have parted ways with the UFC are no longer in the game. Myself and the community are upset with the fact that top 15 fighters that should be in the game are nowhere to be found. And that they give us Adesanya wearing a Naruto headband before adding fighters we have been asking for since 2020.

I mean what are we doing here? Honestly.

I mean what are we doing here? Honestly.

Horrible Roadmap for Adding New Fighters

To add insult to injury, the dev team only addressed the lack of depth in the roster after a reporter confronted UFC President Dana White about the issue at a press conference. It is funny how he easier to reach and speak with about the game than the EA dev team. 

(Via @FoldedMMA on Youtube)

EA then subsequently comes out with a roadmap for the release of new fighters into the game through the coming months.

UFC 5 should release eight fighters each week until the roster contains everyone who should be in the game.

UFC 5 should release eight fighters each week until the roster contains everyone who should be in the game.

  • December: Yan Xiaonan, Amir Albazi
  • January: Ian Machado Garry, Mike Malott, Charles Jourdain
  • February: Bryce Mitchell, Maycee Barber, Joe Pyfer

What a slap in the face this is to players who have been waiting on interesting fighters like Geoff Neal, Benoit Saint Denis, and Chris Curtis since the middle of UFC 4’s lifecycle. The addition of the planned characters isn’t a problem. The game will be better off with them in it. Just add those guys in plus some more. Eight new fighters released in the span of five whole months feels like a punishment. 


My God is this a problem. Clinching and grappling, which should be viable offensive or defensive options at any time, has a chance to ruin the fight for both players by creating a game breaking glitch. Clinching causes frozen characters, weird rag doll spasms, and T-posing. So does wrestling in general. This video by Angel Sandoval showcases this familiar glitch from UFC 4 that isn’t funny anymore.

Buggy clinching/ grappling must receive a fix.

UFC 5’s Tracking Issue

The hit boxes are horrible. In nearly 300 fights, I cannot count the amount of times I have been hit with or hit someone with a strike that should not connect. This is a serious problem as these nonsensical lands can open cuts or even flash KO you. The instant replay will sometimes show a phantom punch distinegrating your opponent when the strike plainly should not have even registered as a land. This is embarrassing for both parties involved and makes each player shake their head and say “trash game”. 

The abysmal tracking of punches and kicks makes head movement more of a liability than anything else in certain scenarios. You can slip a straight punch for instance with perfect timing and it will still land like there is magnet in your forehead and their glove. You can duck a high kick perfectly and like a magician the person who threw the kick will still land flush to your head in an animation that looks really glitchy. Sometimes a body kick will not land and legs will phase through the torso of your opponent. No clip boxing happens less often when throwing punches to the head but still does occur on occasion. The way strikes do and don’t register is often very irrational and inconsistent. 

Counters Do No Damage

Counters sometimes feel as if you are pawing at your opponent with strikes meant to do serious damage. Slip straights are much weaker in UFC 5 than in UFC 4, as are pull hooks, uppercuts, and elbows. Sometimes perfect counters don’t even result in stun events deep into a fight when both fighters are already hurt and tired. Counter striking is still a good practice, but the fact that these shots do such little damage is silly.

I'm Adesanya here and I slipped a lead overhand perfectly. Throwing a planted cross at this Silva while he has no stamina still doesn't knock him out.

I’m Adesanya here and I slipped a lead overhand perfectly. Throwing a planted cross at this Silva while he has no stamina still doesn’t knock him out.

Body Shots Do No Damage

Hooks to the body are a joke for the most part, as are kicks to the body. The core of every fighter on the roster with a decent rating in the body health stat is made of vibranium. A “water in the basement” approach to fighting in this game takes more effort than in previous titles since so many body shots are necessary to get anywhere. There is also much more risk that goes into continually ducking your head into the range of uppercut reads. The damage that body strikes do vs strikes to the head is greatly disproportionate.

Footwork Is Super Strong in UFC 5

This stat has the largest effect on the way the game plays in the hands of real people. To try and better enable players to defend from forward pressure which could be abused in UFC 4, they made the fleeing capabilities of fighters with high ratings in “footwork” much greater. Kickboxers like Sean O’Malley, Israel Adesanya, and Conor Mcgregor’s Legacy Kit basically sprint going backwards. This speed makes them annoyingly difficult to hit. Especially when not using a fighter that also has a high footwork stat.

Some fighters being able to freely enter and exit striking range while some cannot makes the carved rungs in the totem pole more defined. Using fighters like Dan Henderson and Demian Maia against Silva and GSP is a fun challenge in UFC 4. In UFC 5 it is purely stressful and I’m likely just going to end up wrestling. The footwork stat in this game makes who you bring to certain fights matter more than it did before.

Takedown Range Is Non Existent

For some reason pro fighters can’t shoot a takedown if their opponents isn’t in clinching distance. And even then that range may be pushing it. Single and Double legs are so hard to land on the kickboxers who run across the canvas like track stars. I don’t understand if this nerf is deliberate but the animation for shooting a takedown needs to have a longer lunge to cover a greater distance.

Successful takedowns may end up forcing each player to stare at two frozen characters until the round is over anyways.

Successful takedowns may end up forcing each player to stare at two frozen characters until the round is over anyways.

UFC 5’s Cut System

At a certain level, it is only gratifying to use lesser fighters against matched players you know you are better than. This handicap is for a challenge. But the difficulty of this undertaking in UFC 5 is amplified by the new cut system. Mid fighters have a low “cut resistance” stat, meaning they easily get sliced open and take way more damage.

In UFC 5, your mid fighters are all going to have glass bones and paper skin. You can have a full block meter as Cowboy Cerrone, absorb a 4 punch combo from Michael Chandler on the guard, and still end up bleeding. This paired with the inconsistent hitboxes make it so that the phantom punches I brought up earlier will open cuts on your face and put you behind in a fight. This issue with tracking needs a fix ASAP.

Also, that doctor is little rat. I wish he would just stay out of the cage. I wrote before about how he isn’t the nuisance people talk him up to be, but he literally robs wins. Being ahead in a fight and then losing via doctor stoppage should be a federal crime.

Block Breaking Strikes

Both bumpers plus a kick button inputs a block breaker strike. These strikes do a massive chunk of damage to an opponent’s block meter. They also do chip damage to the head. This means that they have the potential to cut or stun a player through their guard. Why do any strikes in the game do chip damage to a full block meter? Hook kicks and crane kicks functioned just fine in UFC 4 and should not be this much better in UFC 5


Every fighter in this game has insane amounts of stamina and can strike forever. This makes the gameplay much faster since punches and kicks are constantly being thrown. This works for and against the player. They are able to throw effective combinations for a while before exhausting themselves. But have to deal with their opponent being able to fight the same way. Going back to body damage, these strikes do not take away enough stamina from your opponent. 

New Submission System 

At first, this seemed to be a refreshing updated system to replace the dysfunctional mini game from UFC 4. But all this new submission system has shown me and my circle of friends who play this game is that we took UFC 3’s sub system for granted. This new one is finicky and unfair in certain positions. It is like they didn’t do enough testing before release for certain positions such as top mount armbar.

If you are on the bottom of a good grappler who has an armbar locked in, good luck getting out. Because there are only two directions to transition to for an escape. And each one takes approximately 4 business days to get off. 90% of my submission wins online are from this position because it is so easy to finish. On the offhand most of my sub losses have come from armbars as well. The wheel in UFC 3 was stressful and nuanced because of the combination of the a multi directional guessing game plus random button quick time events. This new system is just another set of animations to study, which is a bit boring to me.

UFC 5’s First Patch – November 9

A nice patch was put out by EA in Early November 2023 to address a myriad of things that are wrong with the game. The thing that is yet to be brought up to par is the atrocious range of takedowns and tracking.

Link to patch notes here.

This hot fix is a step in the right direction for this game from a development standpoint. But UFC 5 cannot be all it can be without better functioning takedowns and strike tracking.

Graphics and Sound – Pretty Good

The Frostbite Engine’s Visual Improvements

If the new Frostbite Engine EA talked up didn’t make the game healthier from a mechanics standpoint, it at least made the game beautiful. The atmosphere of the octagon when fighting is reminiscent of what fans of the sport see in real life every Saturday on TV. The fighter’s likenesses are much more faithful as well. Khamzat Chimaev, Kamaru Usman, and Charles Oliveira all look spot on. So do many others. Yet there are still many crusty looking character models like vanilla Leon Edwards. Or Aljamain Sterling who has the shortest end of the stick.

Look at how they massacred my boy. Whose choice was it to make Aljo look like Talking Ben?

Look at how they massacred my boy. Whose choice was it to make Aljo look like Talking Ben?

Music and Commentary Are One of UFC 5’s Low Points

The soundtrack is a playlist that sounds like it was stolen from a commercial gym down the street from whatever building they made this game in. One of the first orders of business for me in any sports game I play except for FIFA is turning off the music. UFC 5 and UFC 4 both have bad soundtracks. But at least UFC 4’s has some decent songs from Future and NBA Youngboy. 

Listening to a bad song in a menu isn’t nearly as consequential to the player’s initial impressions of UFC 5’s gameplay as the in game commentary. Daniel Cormier and John Anik are the only analysts. No Paul Felder, No Joe Rogan. And these two waffle nonsense from bell to bell. The worst part is how many of their lines are recycled from UFC 4. They do not call the fight accurately in real time and make unfunny jokes that players with lots of hours in the previous game have heard a couple dozen times each. 

Muting the music at the home screen and the announcers in game is a way to enhance the play experience and enable better focus. 

Satisfying Strike Sounds Are One of UFC 5’s High Points

One of the best parts of this game is the noise of strikes landing. EA deserves commendation for not making the sounds of long combinations akin to a slapstick cartoon. The punches you throw that land flush make a nice pop or a thud. Your controller vibrates in conjunction with a violently loud bang and a roaring crowd after clean lands.  These three cues allow the player to know when they’ve hurt their opponent. Even without looking at the health or stamina bars.

The sounds of the fight are amazing, Characters with high punch power stats sound like they have bricks inside of their gloves and hit just as hard. The cut system has its problems but these events have their own ripping sound cue that is satisfying to hear in a fight. Most of the realism aspects in this game are most apparent in the sounds chosen for each punch or kick.

I enjoy the game and have fun every time I play it. But that is because I love MMA and this is really it. Don’t let the media fool you into thinking this is a game you’ve never played before because they slap the number 5 on the cover. But also don’t expect a game that is worse than UFC 4 if that is your metric for evaluating other MMA fighting games. 

I played the Xbox Series X version of UFC 5 to make this review.

UFC 5 officially marks the UFC franchise joining the ranks of every other sports game in 2023. Like a dog that is repeatedly fed the same meal everyday, this game's player base is forced to settle for a play experience that is virtually similar to UFC 4. Using a new graphical engine to release the same game from 3 years ago but with the number 5 on the cover this time feels a lot like putting a hat on a hat. This is a lateral movement for the series, which to be fair, is better than a step back.
  • Gameplay loops still refreshing
  • EA has released a patch since launch and plans to keep updating the game
  • Striking/ clinching is still glitchy
  • Inflated economy that forces the player to spend real money on in game content
  • No new fighters at launch
  • 8 fighters planned for release across 5 months
  • Certain issues still have not been addressed in a patch released two weeks after launch
  • Career Mode lacking content

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