With the rapid growth in popularity with mixed martial arts in 2008, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) sought a video game publisher to help capitalize on the trend. With an established track record, UFC first went to EA Sports–who quickly denied the top MMA circuit and even went as far as saying "MMA is disgusting and is not a sport." Rejected, the UFC turned to THQ and ended up gaining a lot of success and critical acclaim with their multiplatform UFC Undisputed series. Turning the other cheek, in extreme disgust of the UFC, EA Sports published a fighting game of their own, but how does it stack up?
What's It About?
Over the last five years, the sport of mixed martial arts has rapidly grown. While EA Sports MMA doesn't feature the big names that the highly commercialized UFC does, the game covers a bunch of other global leagues–such as Strikeforce–to make up its main roster. While it may disappoint some, it is worth noting that the game is an extremely solid simulation of the violent sport. Though it's possible, don't expect the single-round bouts because of easy knockouts. EA Sports MMA goes into the nitty and gritty of mixed martial arts, and while there are some rough edges, it does the job quite well.
Why Should I Care?
Being EA Sports' first foray into the sport, it's worth noting that while it may draw an abundance of comparisons to THQ's UFC games, MMA is really nothing like it. Sure, the game's menus are quite similar, as well as the overall environment–but at its core, almost everything is different. As stated, MMA is more of a sim than its UFC cousin. To be quite frank, MMA is a good depiction of mixed martial arts, while UFC is an even better depiction of ultimate fighting. With a striking system similar to the developer's popular Fight Night series, MMA's strength is in its realistic long bouts while maintaining fast-paced and strategic gameplay.
Why Is It Worth My Time And Money?
EA Sports MMA's different control scheme is what really makes the game interesting. Borrowing from various intricacies from Fight Night, striking foes is done with the right stick while holding the left shoulder button leads to performing kicks. The face buttons are used for the grappling game and takedowns, and that's where the depth really comes in. With timing and button presses, your fighter can parry and even dodge certain maneuvers attempted by the opponent. This is why the game is a lot more fun when playing with friends, because at times it feels like the CPU is being cheap because almost everything is easily countered.
With this, the key to success in matches is by maintaining your fighter's stamina, which is displayed in gauges at the top of the screen. Every button you press and maneuver you make will deplete your fighter's stamina, and the lower it gets, the slower your fighter becomes and the more susceptible he is to damage. With that, most of the success will come into the grappling and takedown game. Most of the fights we won were by submission, which is also pretty interesting because when applying a submission, the camera will focus onto that particular joint, and you can actually see how much damage you're doing. When it becomes totally red and looks like it'll definitely break, it usually leads to an automatic tap.
Of course, with so many complicated movements, the game features a tutorial to make it easier. Unlike other tutorials, the game doesn't actually teach you any details until you perform that certain maneuver. So until you actually attempt a grapple, the game won't show you how. It's a pretty interesting way of doing a tutorial, and it's definitely breath of fresh air.
When playing alone, odds are you'll be spending most of that time in the game's Career Mode, which honestly doesn't have that much depth. All you do is train and fight. The training is also kept to a minimum because after completing a given session, you have the option of simulating them later on. After moving up the ranks, you become champion and take on another division. It's a process that becomes obvious and repetitive, making it pretty uninteresting. This being the main way to unlock all the exclusive content makes it all seem like a chore.
While the Career Mode is pretty plain, the online content is pretty well done. Aside from playing anybody in the nation, you have the option of broadcasting your bouts so people can watch them and even forming your own fight card to make it seem like you've done your own Pay-Per-View. There is a lot of fun to be had online, but as with most other sports games it begins to lose its flair after a while. It's been a month since the game's release, so it's tough to gauge whether or not EA will throw more content in.
By all accounts, EA Sports MMA is a good game. It has great graphics combined with a solid presentation and good controls. While it may not provide the same drunken fun as UFC Undisputed, MMA does a better job at being a pure mixed martial arts simulation, and that's the way it has to be approached. It doesn't have the star-studded roster, but assuming that sales pick up in the genre and internal squabbling among the sport diminishes, this is a running start for what should be a good EA Sports series.