For a sport as popular as mixed martial arts it is hard to believe there has been only one real contender in the gaming space thus far. EA Sports is hoping to remedy that with their latest addition to the lineup simply title MMA. Developed by Tiburon this new kid on the block may not have the recognizable UFC license, but what it lacks in big names it makes up for with realistic controls and more in-depth fighting. The boys over at THQ might want to take notice because EA Sports is once again aiming to add yet another million seller to their already impressive sports lineup.
Instead of having all the big names from the UFC, EA has instead licensed individual fighters, most of which you should know if you follow the sport. Probably the biggest addition is the Strikeforce organization, which is a lesser known faction. There are also some big names in the bunch including Ken Shamrock, Bob Sapp and Randy Couture. If you want to fill in the roster with your favorite names you can use the patented EA Game Face to scan some pictures of your favorite brawlers (or appendages, we won’t judge) and create new characters. There is also an option to download new fighters online.
You can also create a character to use in the game’s career mode which is a sound idea on paper, but unless you are using Game Face things are a little slim. There is no option to tweak your head and the selection of 50 or so pre-selects don’t exactly give you free reign when it comes to being unique. The training mode is definitely deep outside of that though letting you build and customize your fighter to your tailored playing style. There are a host of practice mini-games to build skills, and you can assign a number of moves to your character that gives them personality.
The career mode also serves a hidden purpose that is crucial to the game. It teaches you the ins and outs of the combat system, which is deeper than it first appears. One area that MMA fails in is showing you just how complex the combat really can be. On the surface if you jump directly into a game you get the sense that it is slow and limited. Button mashing is definitely not an option, and experimentation takes forever when you consider how many possible combinations of attacks you can perform.
The control scheme is simple in design and complex in execution. The right stick acts as your attack with the ability to modify it with the triggers. Dace buttons are designated for submission and grappling, and everything is context sensitive to your position and move. Once locked up there are various ways to change your position to gain the upper hand. This is something the game forces you to learn on your own, or by heading into career mode. I strongly suggest hitting that mode before anything else as jumping in head first will simply end in frustration. Once you get the hang of it though, this is one spectacularly designed game.
The real attraction to the game though is the online mode. Of course you have your standard matches and unranked friend fights, but the real showcase is the online broadcast. Here you can rank up, fight for online titles and even compete in broadcast matches with live commentary. It is awesome to see two truly great players go at it even if you are not one of them. The play-by-play is also unique as it is done in real-time with the fight. This is one of the best online ideas I have seen implemented in years and I truly hope the community keeps it going. You can also fight locally in a variety of arenas, but if you have the ability to go online I highly suggest checking it out.
Visually the game is also a powerhouse featuring the same engine and technology that powers EA Sports’ Fight Night series. You will see muscle texture and veins aplenty, but the true star is the animation. Fighters really look great when they lock arms, and the clipping is kept to a true minimum. The presentation is also stellar with decent commentary from the announcers and just an overall broadcast feel. The venues, training arenas and navigation in general really scream polished. Sounds are well executed when blows are landed giving the game that boost it really needs.
EA Sports MMA is a definite contender in the arena of mixed martial arts videogames. Once you grasp the control scheme everything becomes much more fun, and you really begin to appreciate what the developers have accomplished. Even if you are huge UFC fan EA’s effort is more than worth checking out even without the fabled roster. The career mode is solid and the online broadcast mode is nearly worth the price of admission alone. Next year the stakes are high in the genre and THQ will have to step up their game. Competition breeds the best games and it is evident the minute you come to grips with EA Sports MMA title.
Review copy provided by publisher.