Before last year there hadn’t been a decent MMA game released since 2003 when Pride FC came out on the Playstation 2. In 2009 we were treated to UFC Undisputed 2009, which, despite it’s flaws, was by far and away the best MMA game to enter our gaming consoles. Earlier this year THQ released UFC Undisputed 2010, a game that built on the successes of its predecessor but failed financially. Now EA Sports has tried their hand at MMA gaming, taking a break from the excellent boxing franchise Fight Night, with the release of EA MMA earlier this week.
This review will highlight some positives and negatives of the game before finally telling you whether or not it’s worth your hard earned money.
Work Your Combinations
The striking system uses Total Strike Control, a scheme fans of Fight Night should be familiar with. The right thumb stick controls your punching and if you want to mix you kicks or body shots, you use the left trigger and right button respectively. There is also the nice little feature of using feints by pressing the left button when striking. The controls take a while to get used to but once you figure out all the various strikes and train your thumb and fingers to work together and go the right way, you can put together some outstanding and quick combinations.
You can change the control scheme to replicate the UFC Undisputed controls, which uses the buttons to control the striking but that takes away some of the uniqueness of the game and, if it’s the same as Fight Night, also takes away certain punches you can throw.
”Yeah But The Animations All Crappy” Well, Not Really
First off, if you can name the television show in which that quote comes from, consider yourself my hero.
The animations themselves aren’t terrible but there are some minor hiccups. The most common one is how the fighters move, especially when out of striking range. It’s almost as if they’re skating around the ring rather than moving like you would normally see a fighter move. There are also some funny animations, for example, my created fighter’s (Chuck Liddell) victory celebration is to leap and sit on top of the cage while posing. He does this perfectly, except that he does this even when he wins fights in a ring. It’s actually more funny than annoying.
For the most part, the fighter models aren’t very good. Some fighters look like their real life counterparts but most fighters look like aliens but most are just bad Create A Fighters done by someone who really didn’t care if they looked perfect, as long as all the information and attributes were correct.
Everything else is good though. Striking looks very fluid. If you’re both throwing a left hook, you’ll hit each others arm instead of their face. If you’re trying to parrying, you’ll do so beautifully. The ground work looks good. You can actually see the fighters struggle to improve or main positions. Submissions are great. Again, you can see the fighters struggling to lock on or fight out of the submissions. Basically anytime you’re in striking range or locked with your opponent, everything looks good, which means the majority of the animations look good.
Be Strong on the Ground
Like the striking, the ground game will take awhile to get used to, especially if you’re used to the UFC Undisputed controls. On the ground you use the face buttons to block, get up, or sweep your opponents while still using the right stick to strike. EA says it’s more about timing and you need to pass to strike and strike to pass but I’ve found that just hitting the button you want until you get the result you want works pretty well. Sweeps are a major problem in the game and you’ll probably find yourself frustrated with how many times you’ll find yourself on your back after getting a takedown. Actually, you’ll probably find yourself on your back a lot because the computer is a big fan of constantly going for takedowns, especially if they’re a wrestler or jiu-jitsu fighter.
One of the best things about the game though is the submission system. If you’ve played UFC Undisputed then you know that the only way to get a submission is to use someone like Demian Maia, face someone like Drew McFedries, beat them to within an inch of their video game life, and then hope you have enough time remaining to finish the submission. In EA MMA things are much easier. Once you lock on a submission you either get into a button battle that is more about conserving your stamina than button mashing or a zone battle where you find the sweet spot with the left stick. In one fight I had using Nick Diaz against Joachim Hansen, Hansen took me down early but I immediately locked on a triangle choke to submit him. I was shocked and happy to see a submission come so quickly and easily in a MMA game.
Commentary in sports game can either add realism to the game or detract from the overall package. The commentary in this game detracts in a big way. The team consists of Mauro Ranallo and I believe Frank Shamrock but you wouldn’t know Shamrock is on commentary based on the lack of lines he has. Mauro repeats the same 20 lines over and over, gets excited at the weirdest times (come to think of it, that’s pretty realistic), and really adds nothing to the fight.
One thing that’s noticeable is your corner yelling at you. It’s actually pretty cool to hear Randy Couture saying, “good job, work the jab” as you jab at your opponent. In fact, the game is significantly better if your turn off the commentary and just listen to your corner, the crowd, and the action in the cage.
Lack of Roster Depth
As you may know, with a few exceptions, there are no UFC fighters in this game. For the hardcore MMA fan, this is no problem. Nick Diaz might actually be the best video game fighter in fight game history just because he fights similar to the real life Stockton bad boy. That said, the lack of depth is extremely noticeable, especially in career mode.
With my created Chuck Liddell in career mode, obviously fighting in the light heavyweight division, I find myself fighting a lot of generic pre-made fighters. Upon checking the rankings in the game, it’s easy to see why. The light heavyweight division consists of “King Mo” Lawal, Gegard Mousasi, Renato Sobral, Roger Gracie, and that’s about it. Other divisions are a bit deeper but overall there is a severe lack of depth, especially compared to the roster UFC Undisputed pumps out.
Travel The World and Be A Fighter
While I’m not too deep into career mode, so far I’ve found it rather enjoyable. The voice work done by Bas Rutten is tremendous and it’s pretty simple to get the hang of. Training is simple and the best part if that you only have to do each training session once as long as you’re happy with the grade you earned at the end of each session. If you’re happy with the grade, you can simulate the training session every time after, which saves a lot of times and repetitiveness.
Career mode just seems far more streamlined than UFC Undisputed. In UFC Undisputed you had to worry about sponsors, do PR, rest at the right time, ect…. While it was a more realistic interpretation of what a fighter goes through, it just felt like a hassle most of the time. The only thing you have to worry about in EA MMA is training and fighting.
Before I give the final verdict, I feel I should address the online modes. So here goes. I have no opinion on the online modes. The reason is that a lot of people don’t play online and the online experience is different from playing against the computer or friends. All I can say that I trust EA with their online gameplay. Having played plenty of NHL 11 online, the network is usually reliable and the gameplay holds up just fine. EA has seemingly done some cool things with custom walk ins and live events but I’ve yet to try them and I’m sure many of you won’t bother. Fact is, there are plenty of idiots who play online and not everyone enjoys it. That’s why I stick to just playing friends online. If you want to play me online, my Playstation ID is AMPLine4Life. Since readers of 5OZofPain are the smartest MMA fans around, I know that you’re not one of the idiots mentioned above.
Is the game better than UFC Undisputed? In terms of gameplay, yes. It’s a much better simulation of a MMA fight than what you get in UFC Undisputed. There are issues, which I addressed above, but I find that gameplay is the most important aspect of a sports game. It takes awhile to get used to but once you’re comfortable with the controls, it’s a tough game to put down.
There were a lot of complaints from people about the EA MMA demo. There were some problems with the demo but I blame that more on the fighters given to you. I didn’t like the demo but ended up buying the game just because it’s a MMA game. If you didn’t like the demo, rent the full version. If you liked the demo, you’ll probably love the full version. If you didn’t play the demo but you’re a MMA fan, buy the game.