sgtreznor's EA Sports MMA (Xbox 360) review

Great debut into the MMA fighting genre

UFC Undisputed's series has been around for a few years now, so it's good to see EA step into the ring (pun intended) to create an MMA game. And for their first effort, it's a damn solid title. The game itself is fairly simple and straight forward and not unlike a lot of other realistic fighting games. There's your basic exhibition mode, but the focus is on the career mode and online multiplayer.

If you've played any of the Fight Night boxing series, then you won't be totally unfamiliar with the control scheme, with a heavy emphasis on the control stick and triggers. This actually works really well, and helps create this deeply level of control and immersion. The key to effective combat with MMA is all around timing, meaning that just spamming special moves and combos will see you lose fairly quickly. This way of doing things works well for most of the time, but there are a few moments where you can't tell if you're doing the right thing or not and when you're not, there's no nothing to tell you if you're too early or too late. I'd lost a few matches this way, which proved to be infuriating, and slightly confusing.



Not that I want to make yet another comparison to Fight Night, but those that have played it will recognise the linear career mode. You start off as a brand new fighter, and make your way up in the ranks, getting recruited to more and more highly skilled fighting leagues, all under the tutelage of the always-encouraging and often hilarious coach, the legendary Bas Rutten. You then go through a pattern of fighting, then training, then fighting again, slowly building up your reputation as the latest up-and-comer. The training sees you simulating various moves to help improve your stats. The handy thing here is once you've mastered a specific training mini-game, you don't have to do it again, meaning that you spend less time training and more time fighting. Which is a good thing, because at times, the training almost gets in the way.

The hardness of this game seems to be slightly uneven in places as well. When I first started my career, I won my first 7 matches by KO all in less then a minute, then suddenly the next match was over in a minute too, only this time I was the one on the receiving end of the ass-beating. Despite a few issues here and there, overall the game itself is fairly well paced in terms of difficulty.



As well as the Career mode, there's also a large online multiplayer mode, and this is where the heart of the true game is. You can play individual exhibition matches with friends, but you can also play in various leagues and events that help build up your online stats. On top of this, EA will often broadcast live fights with actual players and even more impressively, live commentary. Given the high calibre required to make it to a live broadcast, these matches are actually damn entertaining to watch, and help keep the online community alive.

Another entertaining part of EA Sports MMA is the character creation tool. With the usual customisations is the EA Game Face, which with the help of your xbox vision camera, you can put your own face onto your fighter. I gave this a shot, but I can't say I was very successful. Still, I've seen other examples that came out rather good. The customisation is fairly indepth, and it allows you to create some pretty convincing characters. You can then both upload and download them in the user-built 'store' in the game (all free, of course). Clearly there are enough UFC fans playing this game, as most of the most downloaded are household names from UFC.



One of the best things about the lead-up to the release of this game was this viral video:


PROS
- Fantastic graphics and animations

- Long term replayability
- Easy to pick up


CONS
- The game, while great, doesn't really introduce anything new

- The cycle of training-fight-training-fight over and over gets a little tiring, and breaks the excitement

SUMMARY
EA Sports MMA borrows a lot of winning formulas from other games, and gives it their own little twist where required. It's not a flashy game, and it doesn't bring a lot of new things, but that's okay, because what it brings, it brings solidly. It's not a flashy game, it just gets down to business. I'm really like watching MMA on the tv, but not a huge fan, so the lack of the more popular names in MMA don't really phase me. WIth a solid control scheme, great presentation of the career mode and some fantastic online community events, EA Sports MMA makes a fantastic debut into the genre of creating MMA games, and manages to overcome a lot of problems that other titles have struggled with for years. It's a game that's easy to pick up, but takes a long time to master, and has plenty of replayability.

   


[originally written for australiangamer.com]
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