Its a fun brawl but lacks a great ground game
The UFC is the top dog in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. With EA (at least the time) not having the license, that makes this already a hard sell for a hardcore mma fan let alone a casual fan. EA MMA tries to be a different game than the offering that THQ has available. In many ways this game improves over that games faults but has faults of its own that make it dull at times. The high points are enough to overshadow the lower ones but its hard to ignore what this game lacks in.
The most important aspect of a fighting game is its control scheme. EA MMA has blended their fight night control scheme with an MMA feel to accompany the other aspects of the sport such as kicks, grappling, wrestling, clinching. The striking feels fluid and flows well as using the right stick is very accurate. I wish I could say the same about the grappling but the grappling falls flat in this game. Instead of UFC Undisputed more complex right stick scheme, EA MMA tries to simplify it by using a simpler 3 button scheme. One button passes to a better position, another defends against counters and the last button will try to negate grappling and get up. While on paper this sounds good, its just really dull and becomes a boring button mash mini game that doesn't feel satisfying or very accurate. At times I could not tell what actually works and what doesnt because it feels a little mindless at times. The clinch is the same way as it uses the 3 buttons and runs into these problems. Not to say the ground game is unplayable its just a weaker aspect of the game.
The Presentation in the game is quite good. In reality this is a Strikeforce game as it uses their commentators and referees and presentation style. It also includes different rings and cages from other organizations which is a nice touch to give you more variation. The commentators are decent, they aren't annoying or awful but I just don't really like Gus Johnson's voice. The visuals are quite slick and look pretty detailed. It has a tad bit of the EA Sports feel that at times it looks a little more animated and cartoonish but it works and is very stylized. The roster of the game is pretty impressive to be honest. Any fan that likes MMA would recognize a lot of the fighters who the game has brought in such as Jake Shields, Randy Coture, Fedor Emilianko, Allistar Overeem and Gilbert Melendez. For not having access to current UFC fighters this game made a great effort at trying to get recognizable faces.
Another blow the game takes is that its lacking in game modes. It only features a quickplay option, online and carrer. The quickplay is self explanatory and is your run of the mill mode, pick your fighters, arena and go. Online has some great options such as belt rankings(regular rankings but in belt form which is awesome), Live fights to spectate, and Online Championship Belts to win and defend. These options are great and make the Online play a joy. The career mode is pretty good. It needs room for improvement but its a fun little mode. The training drills are fun, and the best part is that after you complete it once correctly you can just simulate it and get the highest ranking in that drill. Customizing your character is pretty cool because of all the options to create and edit your fighter.
EA MMA has some great ideas and fun gameplay that is hampered by some issues. Its a fun round of MMA that will bring excitement and frustration. If you give it some time you will find enjoyment in this game. This is a great first step for the franchise and is worth playing for all MMA fans.