27th October 2010 - Last year, we got our hands on what can be called the first true MMA-Based video game, THQ’s UFC Undisputed. It was a smash hit, shipping many units and distinguishing itself among the best of the best in the sports/fighter genre. Many were impressed with the game, and astonished as to why it took so long for the untapped potential of the UFC and MMA in general to be brought to life in a video game. Well now that the cat is out of the bag, industry bigwigs took the chance by the throat and decided to invest in the sport. The result? EA Sports MMA, a game that looks to take the title from UFC Undisputed. Can it pull it off? Read on to find out…
EA Sports MMA (hereafter referred to as ‘MMA’)has a similar fighting style to that of its sister franchise, Fight Night. It makes use of the right thumbstick to control and manoeuvre your punches and kicks while you scoot yourself around the ring (or circle, or octagon) while trying to clobber your opponent silly. This is opposed to the typical button-based fighting of most games, and is a great way to distinguish itself as a sports game rather than just another fighter. Another way of doing this too, is that MMA essentially has eliminated the ability of ‘button-mashing’ your way to victory, meaning no sore losers simply trying to get some KO’s by going for the big hits over and over. Coupled with the games great block and parry system, and if someone even tries this, they’ll get what’s coming to them.
One difference from Fight Night though, is the difficulty of this style. In MMA, the while control layout takes a bit more getting used to, requiring quick thinking to mix up punches, kicks, blocks and parries, along with all the technical stuff that comes with successfully rendering this territory in video game style. This could actually put a lot of players off, and a few of my friends are now reluctant to even try the game after they couldn’t get a hold of the controls in the free demo from Xbox LIVE. If you are one of those gamers, then I urge you to give it another shot, because once you get a hang of it, you’ll be glad you did.
So you wanna be a fighter, eh?
MMA doesn’t feature many game modes in its package. Apart from the Fight Now mode, which is your standard fight with pre-determined fighters and rules, there is just a Career Mode for single-playing. Good news though, is that said Career mode is a gem. The game has failed to make the training exercises in this game as boring as one would expect from playing other sports fighting games, which while a small feat at first, you will be glad of in the long run. Its Career mode isn’t overrun by pointless squabbles, silly gimmicks of interviews and the like, all of which take away from the real point of things; the fighting. MMA’s Career mode puts its focus on character skill building, learning new special moves to bring the smack down to the opposition and the fighting itself, making for a great experience if you’re interested in the sport and the many different leagues of MMA, as you choose and progress through them.
Apart from the single-player career however, MMA has done what many fighters attempt to, by creating a solid online component. While I personally think nothing beats playing with a mate on the couch next to you, some gamers prefer to take the fight online and even overseas. This game is good news to those people, with not only a good helping of online features like leagues and Live Broadcasts of fights and helping videos every week, but servers which allow fluid play with minimal lag and connection issues.
To go hand in hand with MMA’s stylized combat mechanics, it features some of the more believable and realistic animation and movement ive seen in a fighter. Even as you swing at -and hopefully hit- your opponent, the characters move with wonderfully fluent animation that almost looks real. Their arms and legs can even get caught on one another’s, really showing off EA’s skill at creating these two truly individual fighters that are squaring it out with the great amount of striking, grappling and general fighting mechanics MMA features, rather than just the standard hit and reaction that we’ve been accustomed to. With two good players, the fights can look stunning, with each character looking and acting believably like a real MMA fighter. It’s a high strung feat what EA have pulled off with this one, but sadly, I fear its something that will be very much overlooked, as these things usually are.
Animation aside, the graphical feats of this game are right on par with the standard with sort of game. The fighters look as one would expect, their facial animations, textures and sweat abilities are nothing special when comparing to others games like UFC Undisputed and Fight Night.
Much like practically every EA Sport game on the market and most others, MMA has a pretty decent soundtrack. It has a bit of everything; Hip Hop, Metal, Punk - the lot. This is pretty pointless in my opinion, considering how little time you spend in the menu’s - the only places you can hear the music. Its not a bad point about the game however, its simply not a good one. You’d be better off just blaring some of your favourite tunes from the Xbox Guide to pump you up for the fight ahead - I recommend some punch-dancing NYHC tunes to really fit the mood.
MMA has enlisted some voice talent of real MMA fighters and trainers to play themselves in Career mode, particularly Bas Rutten as your primary coach. This doesn’t add much to the gameplay, but does help the games already enjoyable Career Mode in slight manners.
You will get a surprising amount of hours out of MMA’s Career Mode as you play through a time or two as different weight classes for some more personalized fighting experiences. But if focusing on fighter creation isn’t your thing, Fight Now will provide countless hours of fun with friends, or even by yourself trying to conquer some of the tougher fighters on harder settings. But like all fighting and even sports games, EA Sports MMA is no different when it comes to value - you only get out of this game what you put in, and as long as this is your type of game or preferred sport, you cant go wrong with dipping into the retirement fund buying it.
EA Sports have once again outdone themselves with this one. It is a great addition to the scarce MMA genre, and definitely one worth arguing to be the king of the lot. What it lacks in the little things like copious game modes and undertone style, it makes up for with some of the best animation and gaming mechanics ive seen in any fighting or sporting game - its full of detail and very rich in longevity if you let it be. EA Sports MMA is one game that will definitely carry on a legacy.
AAG SCORE: 8/10
+ Great fighting mechanics
+ Believable visuals and animation
+ Solid Online components
- Off-putting learning curve
- Lack of game modes
So what’s a better game? EA’s MMA or UFC Undisputed? Video Games are very subjective, so there is no right answer, so let me get you in on my educated opinion.
UFC has the recognisable branding on the worlds biggest MMA league under its belt, while EA’s MMA features at least 6 other real leagues of which you can play and experience all of. This branding helps UFC get its hands on the more recognizable fighters, which alone will help it sell more copies than MMA. This is a shame, because all up, I have to go with MMA as the better game, despite being a big fan of the UFC Undisputed games. Its easy to side with Undisputed since it already has an installed fan base, but at the core, MMA is a much more mature-centred game, while UFC simply attracts the attention of younger gamers on the look out of style over substance.
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott