Electronic Arts come out fighting as the competition to be crowned the heavyweight champion of the mixed martial art’s titles hots up. Will EA Sports MMA claim a knockout in the first round? Or will it tap out in submission to it rivals?
The fairly new to the televised generation fighting styles of the no-holds barred Mixed Martial Arts scene has taken its fair share of criticism over recent years. It’s transition into the world of the videogamer has been no exception. So when EA Sports decided to throw their hand in and announced that they were going to develop their own pretender to the throne we were somewhat surprised, as we ourselves felt that the sport may not have the following in the videogaming industry that sports such as boxing and wrestling have. Indeed, even in those other arena’s both contact sports have seen limited interest from developers with only a couple of titles ever springing to mind when you discuss either of the two competitive combat endeavours.
But hat’s off to the guys and girls behind the scenes at EA Sport’s, as when they decide on a project they certainly do not go at the undertaking half-hearted that’s for certain. Take their latest title. for example. Even though many had attempted to dispel this game as a mere clone, imitation or just plain cashing-in exercise when it was first announced EA’s team of developers stuck to their gun’s and doggedly set about to prove the naysayers wrong. In a huge understatement that belies the sheer gaming pleasure that we have had whilst reviewing this title, we cannot stress enough how grateful we are to the men and women who work tirelessly behind closed doors at EA’s studio’s to bring us these first class games as they have hit the nail most firmly right on the head with this one!
The game is a truly stunning blend of top quality graphical content combined with some first class gameplay utilizing the latest game engines to produce staggering results. The game set’s out its stall very early as you are presented with the menu select options as soon as you have the game loaded and ready to play, and straight away you know that you are in for something a little bit special when you decide to go for the Fight Now option and are offered some of the world’s greatest MMA fighters to batter opponents around the cage as. We decided that first up we would assume the identity of the colossal man-mountain that is Fedor Emelianenko. It was a sorry state of affairs to be honest with you , as in our excitement at climbing into the cage as the hulking Ukrainian we forgot one basic, but oh so important rule of gaming. Yep, you guessed it! The tutorial. In our haste to get to grips with another fighter we had neglected to take the time to follow the on-screen instruction manual and had paid a heavy price in return as our hapless heavyweight was bounced all around the ring by a dancing Randy Couture. We would be back! In the prophetic words of another looming man-mountain.
So back we went to the games tutorial mode with our broken tail hanging limply between our battered legs. It was here that we were introduced to a familiar face in the world of videogaming, that of none other than the GTA IV race-fixer and all round fighting genius Bas Rutten. Those of you out there who are familiar with Rockstar’s legendary franchise will no doubt recognise the bald big fella from your interaction with his onscreen persona in the Grand Theft Auto IV title. In EA Sports MMA we get to see Bas in his natural habitat as Electronic Arts fully utilize Rutten’s talents and abilities for taking apart opponents using only his bare hands, and also his obvious on-screen charisma and personality. So a point to EA already for their use of Bas Rutten as the gym owner and trainer of your MMA character.
This segue leads us nicely into a quick take on the games customization options. As once you decide to begin your carer, where you will get the extended tutorial modes and also what we advise all players to take full advantage of, you then get to create your own fighter. You also have the ability to implant your image onto the face of your character, in doing so giving your man the personal touch that is missing from too many of todays games. You can just choose to go with any one of a large number of presets and this is what we did, save a few alterations where we gave our man a different set of shorts, tattoo’s and even changed the colour of his eyes. Fighting styles can also be adapted so that you may specialize in Muay Thai, or Boxing or any one of a large number of techniques that are available to you. With that done it’s on to the tutorial for a little spot of MMA 101, as EA like to call it.
Unlike other similar titles in the genre EA Sports MMA is more of a thinking man’s fighting game, as opposed to the standard fare of the button masher that others have chosen to run with. The game has more finesse than its rival’s and everything is reliant upon precision and timing, thus giving EA Sports MMA a far more realistic edge when it comes to the actual hands on fighting. The tutorial will teach you everything that you need to know, but you will still find yourself on the wrong end of some severe beatings for the first good few fights, no matter how frustrated you feel however, you must stick with it and with your training regimen as in the end practise will most definitely make perfect and before long you will be ready for your first assault on the game itself and the career mode in all its glory
The career path in EA Sports MMA is a solid affair that see’s your fighter training for eight week’s prior to each bout. This time gives the player the necessary opportunities with which to his/her skills by undertaking regular programmes devised by your trainer, the aforementioned Bas Rutten, and ultimately depending on your ability to score anywhere on a sliding grade scale from A to D is however much xp your character is upgraded by. Sounds easy? It is! As is the first-rate control system that EA has kindly lifted from its highly successful EA Sports Fight Night franchise. Sticks once again control the actual punches, whilst the modifiers to allow for high or low, body or head, punches or kick’s are once again the triggers.
So training complete and the required upgrades installed onto your fighter its off for your first amateur bout for a taste of things to come. Now we have to say that we have heard a few gripes and moans about the combat in MMA being slow or that it has a steep learning curve? You will note the question mark at the end of that sentence, because we cannot, for the life of us, figure out exactly which game these other reviewers have been playing, as it was definitely not the same EA Sports MMA that we were treated to by the developer? The control’s are fast and responsive once you understand that the game is not a spamming button-masher, and the learning curve is no steeper than gent slope. Yes, the gameplay is challenging but then so is it rewarding in equal measure? This is the thing with a lot of games journalists as had EA made the game so easy to point that all you had to do was spam the opponent with a flurry of kicks and blows following your whirlwind mashing of the button set up, then these same said journo’s would be crying into their cocoa that EA had dumbed down the game and made it far too easy? With that in mind take the vast majority of whining or dismissive reviews with a hefty pinch of salt, and always have it in the back of your mind that all reviews are merely the opinion of that reviewer, and as such will have little to no bearing on your particular preferences or attitude towards a title. What we can say is that if this is the kind of title that appeals to you, and the kind of gameplay that you enjoy then EA Sports MMA will fit nicely into your collection and will have you enjoying all of its excellent modes and gameplay well into the New Year and beyond.
Working your way through the career mode will keep most of us busy for some considerable length of time, and considering that there are three leagues for your fighter to compete and dominate in it is no wonder that there is so much muscle to EA’s best pound for pound MMA title. The upgrade system works like a charm and the fact that there are no penalty systems for attempting and continuing with already mastered or attempted training regimens is a feather in EA Sports MMA’s considerably large cap.
Another genuine bonus of the game and a welcome addition to future online matches is the multiplayer mode that will, no doubt, spawn a hefty number of tournaments and competitions and we fully expect to see at gaming events come next summer. Players can take created characters online, share their fighters, share created fighters around the world and with friends, and generally do all the things that you would like to be able to do in other titles that are in EA Sports MMA’s genre, but never quite make it to the same weight class division as the classy slugger.
As one would expect in a title that boasts a whole catalogue of legendary names from the halls of the Mixed Martial Arts empire such as Randy Couture, Bas Rutten, Fedor Emelianenko and Bobb Sapp there are many special moves to be learned and around sixteen of the world-class fighters signature sequences to be gained.
As we have long come to expect from an Electronic Arts title the graphics, sound and distinct lack of glitches and smooth as silk gaming that have long been synonymous with EA titles have all made their expected returns to the fold with this game. Once again EA Sports have surpassed all expectation’s and outdone themselves with what is easily the finest MMA title on the market.
Graphics: Top quality for a top title. EA Sports have really lined up a knockout blow to the competition with their first class title. Renders are superb and the actual gaming experience is as smooth as the proverbial silk. The best in its field by a country mile. 9
Gameplay: Far from what some critics and reviewers would have you believe EA Sports MMA is a far better prospect than any of the other choices out there for quality action titles. The fighting is thoughtful and poised and never slapdash and erratic. This is the thinking man’s title, as the sport itself is in the real-life cage. No button mashing here, just gaming and entertainment of the highest calibre. A true champion of its class. 9
RePlay Value: With a host of strong modes in the single player experience that will keep the player entertained long into 2011 EA Sports MMA has earned its rightful place at the head of its genre. Online the game is second to none, and with the share options and the promise of multiple downloadable contents for the game this is a title we will be enjoying for many a month. 9
Presentation: Credit served where credit is due, whenever Electronic Arts decide to put their considerable resources and talent behind a project nine times out of ten you have to admit, they get it right, and EA Sports MMA is no exception to that rule. Everything about the game looks slick and well thought out . Nothing is left to chance with an EA title and it certainly shows. A really fantastic game that many have underrated. Do not be fooled into making the same mistake, EA Sports MMA is an absolute corker of a game and a must have for fight fans. 10