EA Sports MMAESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
6 MB to Save Game
Online Multiplayer: 2-10
Not long after THQ first released UFC Undisputed 2009, EA Sports announced an MMA game was in development. Little details were released at the time leaving many to speculate whether EA Sports was planning a hostile take-over of the UFC license. At the time, I certainly recall thinking that unless EA Sports had somehow acquired the rights to the UFC brand this game would inevitably fail. Well, fast forward to the present and EA Sports MMA has finally arrived. The UFC brand is nowhere to be seen in the game as THQ recently announced it had reached a long term deal with the UFC to maintain the brand. So for this reason alone, it is hard to consider EA Sports’ game to be a top tier MMA game. Nevertheless, there still is plenty to offer here for all you diehard MMA fans who follow the sport outside the realm of the UFC.
Overall EA Sports MMA is a good looking and wonderfully presented game. For starters, the fighters look very similar to their real-life counterparts. All their mannerisms, signature moves and fighting styles are accurately reflected in the game. The way the fighters move when they strike, kick and grapple is very well done. I was amazed that I never saw any clipping issues arise. This is something I felt would be inevitable considering the close proximity of the fighters when they are engaged in battle.
I was also impressed with how much detail was put into the game’s environments. The look of the octagon and the rings is bang-on. Not to mention the overall presentation of the game is quite good. From the advertisements on the mat to the cage-like surroundings, the look of the various fighting arenas is impressive. That being said, I would have liked to have seen a few more, but hey, there is always the sequel.
On the downside, the lip synching is noticeably out of whack. When Bas Rutten is training your fighter in career mode, his lips are not in synch with the voice work. The ring announcers are equally as bad and way out of synch. Not a major issue but more of a small annoyance. Otherwise, I have to admit, EA Sports MMA is a good looking game.
As with the graphics, the sound in the game is also good. Some of the music is very similar to some of the tunes in EA Sports Fight Night and UFC Undisputed, but this is not bad thing as the music is perfectly suited for the game. The music is primarily hardcore metal which totally immerses you into the game. The fast hard rockin’ tunes really manage to pump you up and create the perfect MMA atmosphere.
The voice work is decent but certainly feels a tad bland. Randy Couture sounds as though he is reading directly from a script which frankly is a disappointment. Bas Rutten is as crazy as ever; but his personality does not always come through in the game and this is due to some of the lackluster voice work. All in all the voice work just seems to lack some pizzazz.
The in-game punching and kicking sounds also sound pretty good but I have to admit nothing we haven't heard before. That being said, when watching a real life MMA fight the punching and kicking sounds are rarely heard with all the noise from the fans in the background and commentating. As a result, one cannot really punish the game for lackluster punching and kicking sounds.
The biggest question many had, including me, was how does EA Sports MMA play? Being an MMA game with all the complexities that come along with the fighting styles of the sport, my first thought was this was going to be a complex game with complex controls. For instance, THQ’s UFC Undisputed has a steep learning curve and mastering some of the ground combat can be challenge. We often hear casual gamers find the controls in UFC Undisputed a tad intimidating even though there is a comprehensive tutorial available. Well, EA Sports MMA is very similar to UFC Undisputed in terms of its deep fighting mechanics and robust tutorial mode. EA Sports MMA is anything but a button masher and taking the time to master the various stand-up and ground combat is essential if you want to progress in the game.
As I just mentioned I was a little concerned that the controls would be much too complicated. Much to my surprise the basics are easy to pick up if you are looking to quickly jump into a game to start punching and kicking, but being a proficient striker will only take you so far. As a result, it is essential for those picking up the game to invest some time in learning the nuances of the game’s controls, such as learning how to grapple, clinch, perform take-downs and defend against submissions, etc. Fortunately the game features an incredibly deep tutorial lead by none other than Bas Rutten. Bas is one of MMA’s more colourful characters. Not to mention, he is one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. So listening to him show you the ropes gives the game instant credibility and authenticity.
I spent the bulk of my time with EA Sports MMA game in the career mode. Before getting acquainted with the game’s various fighting controls and moves, you start off by creating a fighter with all the customizable options you could ever want. From tattoos to hair styles, the game does a nice job of giving you plenty of customizable options. You can even select the type of attitude you want your fighter to have and you can select his introduction music which is very cool indeed. After you create your fighter and spend some time leaning the game’s various fighting mechanics with Bas Rutten at the helm, it is not too long before you jump into your first fight.
Overall I am left with some mixed impressions with the game’s fighting mechanics and the fights themselves. For starters, the control scheme in EA Sports MMA game not only utilizes the face buttons for basic kicking and punching but also uses the thumb sticks for the ground game. The triggers and bumper buttons are also used for body blows and kicks. The controls can get confusing at times as you are essentially using nearly every function on the controller when fighting. The way the game utilizes both button pressing and stick controls gives MMA a more realistic feel and captures some of the complexities we see in MMA fighting. Yet on the downside, I continually had that overwhelming feeling as I would be fighting the controls when another fighter would take me to the mat. Perhaps over time as you become more acquainted with the controls that feeling will dissipate but at the end of the day these controls take some mastering.
Another area of concern is that the kicks and punches seem to lack power. It just feels like the kicks and punches never seem to make an impact on the fight. I managed to knock out a couple of opponents along the way; however, I just didn’t have that satisfying feeling like I had when knocking out an opponent in Fight Night Round 3 or even UFC Undisputed for that matter. All in all, the punches and kicks just seem to lack some pop.
When fighting in career mode, each fight wins you some cash and can give your fighter access to some of the best trainers in the world. In between fights you will spend your time training. Training is 8-weeks and starts right after you sign the contract for you next fight. Training leads to increased skills, stamina, strength and speed. This aspect of the game is well done and it gives the career mode plenty of replay value. After every fight I would identify several areas that needed improvement and I would work towards upgrading those skills in between fights. The training exercises themselves are quick as well. You never seem to spend over a minute on any given training session which is something I liked quite a bit. Bottom line - the training aspects of the game do not interfere with the overall enjoyment of the whole experience. The in-between fight training sessions do start to get old after a couple of hours in career more but are essential if you want to upgrade your attributes and have the controls fresh in your mind.
All in all, the career mode is good and realistic as well. Most MMA fighters do not go through their career undefeated and neither will you. It is not an incredibly original career mode as there are many similarities with other sim fighters on the market but it is satisfying winning a fight.
I should mention that some of the game’s load times do get in the way of the overall enjoyment of the game. They can be ridiculously long at times. This far into the Xbox 360’s life cycle, I was amazed to see a game that had such long load times. I was stunned and frankly I am of the view that this is unacceptable. It is bad when some of the load times are longer than the fights themselves.
Another obvious area of concern is the fact UFC fighters are not on display. The only exceptions are Randy Couture and fighters who have recently made the jump to the UFC (i.e. Jake Shields). EA Sports MMA game feels like Madden without the NFL players. It can be fun game but the experience just does not feel complete.
In addition to the career mode, EA Sports MMA features a few other modes. For starters, the game features an online mode that allows two players to go head to head. The online mode of the game was an area I admittedly did not spend too much time in; however the time I did spend was enjoyable even if I got my ass kicked. The game played smooth and no lag was noticed. In addition to the online play there is also your typical “fight now” mode seen in nearly every sports game to date.
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