Sports libraries of new-generation consoles are starting to get legit. Following the release of MLB 14: The Show on PS4, here comes the skull cracking and arm twisting of EA Sports UFC to stoke the loins of jock gamers. Once the next slate of NHL, FIFA and Madden games come along, frat houses everywhere will have to toss out the old systems in favor of the PS4 and Xbox One. Also in the roundup is the movie adaptation du jour in How to Train Your Dragon 2, DLC for Peggle 2 and a look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4.
EA Sports UFC
(PS4, Xbox One, $60, Teen)
Steering toward technical precision rather than arcade-style brawling of fighting games, EA takes the UFC in a promising new direction in its current-gen debut. Stunningly lifelike faces, bodies and motion-captured moves from a sizable stable of UFC stars are joined by convincing presentation and bout rhythms. Previous MMA games looked like modified hockey fights, with players that moved like they were on skates trading awkward blows, but this fresh approach eliminates that awkwardness for tangles that feel authentic.
An overhauled submission system, which is based more on timing than exhausting button-mashing, is a welcome bonus for grapplers. Knockout artists who are fans of coverboy Jon Jones will be pleased with the true-to-the-sport addition of well-timed — and lucky — punches and kicks that can end matches in an instant. A career mode and robust online play options should make it tough to pull the game out of your machine. The legendary Bruce Lee is available as a downloadable character, either as a preorder bonus or unlockable through gameplay, adding some spice to the mix.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
(Wii U, PS3, $30, Everyone 10+)
Like all family movies adapted into games, this open-world flight simulator lacks challenge and precision. But it’s not fair to dismiss the game as a slapped-together afterthought meant to cash in on the film’s popularity. The open-world setup lets you cruise through the movie’s environments at will, giving you a sense of freedom and exploration. The racing and combat is reminiscent of the old Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games, but sloppy controls hold it back.
Impressive voice acting and storytelling that provides background on characters and themes in the movie, rather than just parroting them, make the game feel like a solid supplement for kids who are obsessed with the franchise. Even at an already discounted price from the initial $40, there’s still not enough here to make it worth the plunge for most gamers who casually like the films and TV series.
Peggle 2: Windy the Fairy Master DLC
(Xbox One, $2, Everyone)
The addictive puzzle game is the best thing not called Titanfall that you can play on the Xbox One, but if it’s got a flaw, it’s that the campaign challenges are only enough to keep you occupied for a weekend or two. In comes this sizable, low-priced slice of DLC to the rescue. For $2 you extend the life of the game considerably by adding a new character, whose special power lets you rack up points in more inventive ways than those who come with the original game. You also get 10 more levels, 30 achievements, three costumes and a trio of achievements. Making an already great game better for the price of a vending machine soda is a no-brainer.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1
Previous Galaxy Tabs may have been mostly for Apple-hating Samsung snobs, but the Tab 4 changed that paradigm by cramming a gorgeous screen, slick processing power and light, slim form factor into a machine that’s priced comparably to the off-market tablets made for your grandma. Its performance, speed and app selection dominate those of my Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HDX. The Tab 4 may not have the goods to hang with the iPad Air, but for Galaxy phone owners who want to keep their app ecosystem consistent, this one gives you more functionality.
The browsers have trouble streaming video from certain sites, but the selection of Google Play and Amazon App Store apps pretty much makes up for that lacking. The Tab 4 proves to be a solid game machine, not dropping frame rates on demanding games such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It works in a pinch for work purposes, especially pounding out emails and checking out and editing documents. Battery life was impressive, going four days of heavy use in between charges. The price has tumbled from the initial $350, probably thanks to the announcement of the recently-announced hot sex to come that is the Galaxy Tab S.