Giant Bomb Review

26 Comments

EA Sports MMA Review

4
  • X360
  • PS3

It takes a long time to figure out what's going on, but once you get the hang of it, EA Sports MMA is a solid, skill-based take on mixed martial arts.


Dude-on-dude violence. 
EA Sports MMA makes a terrible first impression, especially if you've been playing THQ's UFC Undisputed series. MMA has a control scheme that, at first, seems too simple. It's also a timing-based game that discourages button mashing in favor of more careful play... but it doesn't do a very good job of teaching you how to time your moves. This leads to a few hours of frustration and confusion, but once you get over the hump, EA Sports MMA has some real depth to it, and the fighting feels more like the real thing than the games that have come before it. It also has some interesting online options that, if there are enough people playing on a regular basis, could make for some very cool tournaments. 
 
The fighting system is deceptively simple, employing a universal control scheme that behaves similarly whether you're standing up, on the ground, on top of a guy, or in the standing clinch. It's based around using specific buttons to either improve or get out of your current position. When your opponent tries to posture up, it's on you to deny that with another button press. Submissions are also done via one button, though this quickly engages one of two different minigames, depending on whether it's a limb-based submission or a choke. Strikes are handled with the right analog stick, as in EA's Fight Night series, with triggers used as modifiers for body punches or kicks.  
  
EA Sports MMA doesn't necessarily have the fighters that you'd want to see in an MMA game. Because many of those fighters appear in UFC. Instead, EA has gone out and licensed a bunch of individual fighters, as well as Strikeforce, a competing organization. If the first thing you want out of an MMA game is the biggest names in the sport, you might be a little underwhelmed. But EA's game is not without its stars, including guys like Randy Couture, Fedor Emelianenko, and fighting stalwarts like Ken Shamrock, Bob Sapp, and Bas Rutten, who also serves as your head trainer in the game's career mode. Personally, I found the most satisfaction by using the game's fighter creation options, which uses the same "Game Face" option found in Fight Night Round 4, allowing you to use two photos of yourself (or anyone else who happens to stumble in front of your camera) to generate your face. There's also a fighter share option that lets you download other created fighters, provided you enter the code that is packed-in with all new copies of the game. Predictably, the top downloads are currently filled with created versions of real-life UFC fighters like Brock Lesnar, Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva, Frank Mir, and so on.

Those created fighters also figure into the game's career mode, where you'll build up their stats via a series of training exercises. Unlike some other boxing or MMA career modes, this one lets you simulate the game's training minigames with no penalty once you've completed them once. This helps keep the career mode moving as you work your way up through three leagues. You'll also add up to 16 special moves to your fighter via training, letting you tailor your fighter's submission moves or add a Superman punch, spinning backfist, front kicks, and other offensive and defensive maneuvers. The career mode is pretty straightforward, but it at least gives you some sort of progression if you're going to play by yourself. Also, the training minigames are the game's real tutorial, teaching you combos and the basics of getting your submissions cinched in. There's an "MMA 101" option available on the main menu that attempts to be a tutorial, but it's lame. It's too bad the game isn't better about revealing itself to new players, as the learning curve is, in some spots, needlessly high.

 The career mode is pretty linear, giving you choices on your training and special moves, but not much else.
Of course, all of this builds up to taking on real, live opposition. Naturally, you can do this alongside your opponent locally, but the online mode is where the real action is. You'll rank up as you fight and earn the ability to challenge other players for online titles, and if you're just looking to fight your friends, you can set up unranked fight cards that let you assign a human player to each slot. It helps that EA Sports MMA is actually fun to watch, and that once players get good, it starts to more closely resemble actual real-world fights. This also factors into an online live broadcast mode, where selected players get a chance to compete online during a live event, complete with live human commentary from EA. Considering the commentary in the regular game is a little flat and repetitive, hearing actual people talk about the fights and getting to see players' pre-recorded "hype" videos is a pretty cool twist on what would otherwise be a pretty standard mode. Of course, only a handful of players will get selected for the live events, so most of us will probably be relegated to just watching the action. Either way, it's a really neat idea.

EA Sports MMA has great animation. The models don't clip through each other very often, and the movements look believable, like the fighters are constantly struggling for position. This actually makes the game a little harder to pick up, as it's initially tough to tell when your button presses are translating into on-screen action. The controller vibrates when the other fighter is attempting to make a move on you when you're grounded, but you'll have to spend time watching the action to figure out which animations are which when you're trying to move past the guard and into a mounted position. There's a decent amount of ring variety in the game, too, allowing you to fight in octagonal rings, circular arenas, and traditional boxing rings.

If you're willing to put in the time to learn how to actually play it properly, EA Sports MMA becomes a very rewarding experience. When you lose a fight online, you usually know exactly what you need to work on, either in the career mode to get your fighter's stats up or just, you know, as an actual player. With its innovative online features and realistic fight system, EA Tiburon's first attempt at MMA lays down a solid foundation that's worth checking out. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
26 Comments
Edited by Frootsnax

It's nice to actually see a good MMA video game.

Posted by IvanOoze

Looks interesting, may have to get in on this wrestling thing. 

Posted by Bestostero

Nice

Posted by arab_prince

Couldn't help but notice how close the guys were to kissing during the QL. Also the various positions they are in is quite similar to sex. Yep I'm that childish

Online
Posted by Soap

Better review score than I was expecting to be honest

Posted by Vinny_Says

wait...so is there blood? that quicklook was blood free but then that image says otherwise....

Posted by tobygw

Glad to see UFC has some competition now

Posted by titoxiv

mma!

Posted by handlas
@blacklabeldomm said:
" wait...so is there blood? that quicklook was blood free but then that image says otherwise.... "
One of the kewlest things about this game.  Should be in all fighting games now.  If you start bleeding it drips out and smears on your body, your opponent, clothes, and the ring.  Looks kewl when you have been in a really hard fought and have blood smeared all over your body.  Only unrealistic thing is that in between rounds you keep all the smeared blood on you....every real MMA fight I've seen the cornermen at least clean you up a bit.
Posted by gormanator

review explosion

Posted by ImperiousRix

Cool beans.  I felt like UFC 2010 went a bit too mash-y and it became less about the actual mechanics.  I wanna see how EA handles the more technical aspects of the sport, and I'm glad to see it looks like it's a decent game.

Posted by Julius

I spot a sentence fragment! 
 
Good review otherwise though. Higher score than I expected.

Posted by Gnome

I'm really liking the approach this game takes as opposed to UFC, though UFC is great in my opinion.  Hope the rivalry means better games in the future.

Posted by tourgen

This looks a whole lot better than I expected.  I'm interested.
 
and wow you guys have been playing some games lately!

Posted by JoelTGM

kind of too many MMA games now... and they all seem to be great games, so it's probably got a very split up player base because you can't really go wrong with any of the games.  

Posted by TwoOneFive

next EA needs to just buy UFC rights

Posted by bwmcmaste
@TwoOneFive said:
" next EA needs to just buy UFC rights "
Knowing EA, it's probably just a matter of time.
Posted by Hot_Karl
@bwmcmaste said:
" @TwoOneFive said:
" next EA needs to just buy UFC rights "
Knowing EA, it's probably just a matter of time. "
Probably, but seeing as UFC 2010 still shipped 2.5 million worldwide (that was considered a "disappointing figure" apparently) and THQ/UFC just signed a contract that lasts until 2018. EA Sports MMA has to sell like bottled water in hell and the next few UFC games have to bomb horribly before THQ or UFC thinks about buying out its contract & heading over to EA. 
 
Good to see some ACTUAL news/reports on this game from people. I swear that people forgot about this game until day of release. The demo turned me off, actually, but due to wacky circumstances I'm getting this game in the mail next week, so being one of like 10 dudes on Giant Bomb who actually follows MMA, I'll give a report soon-ish.
Posted by skrutop

They need to add a video creation function (ala Def Jam Rapstar) so everyone can make hype videos with some koi jumpin' and shit.

Posted by Doughnuts

Played both the demos for this and UFC 2010. I can honestly say that I had way more fun playing with the control scheme for MMA than UFC. There was way too much button-mashing and the game played robotic and stiff-like. 
 
MMA presented a much more streamlined, engaging, and visually superior experience - if I had to choose to side with one series to get my mixed martial arts fix, it would definitely be EA's MMA.

Edited by troma
@TwoOneFive said:

" next EA needs to just buy UFC rights "


Nope. They don't need to. Because of game face.



Posted by JLMRACING91

" EA Sports MMA makes a terrible first impression, especially if you've been playing THQ's UFC Undisputed series "
 
"  With its innovative online features and realistic fight system, EA Tiburon's first attempt at MMA lays down a solid foundation that's worth checking out. "
 
review failed in my opinion

Posted by Kartana

MaMA?

Posted by kagekage
@JLMRACING91 said:
" " EA Sports MMA makes a terrible first impression, especially if you've been playing THQ's UFC Undisputed series "
 
"  With its innovative online features and realistic fight system, EA Tiburon's first attempt at MMA lays down a solid foundation that's worth checking out. "  review failed in my opinion "
Commenter fail IMO. Jeff implied that at the beginning, EA's MMA is unnecessarily difficult and confusing, but as you progress through the game's various modes, the game starts shining.  

If you bothered to even read half the review, you would know it. So I suggest you start actually reading before making yourself look like a complete jackass.
Posted by kagekage
@VinceNotVance: Don't forget that because THQ thought UFC lacked in sales, they've pushed the next one till 2012 and are thinking about putting out a biennial release, just like MMA. 
 IMO, Total Punch Control doesn't work with MMA. It just gets way to convoluted and ends up with people just flicking the stick in whatever direction while tapping the high/low/kick modifier. 
Posted by JLMRACING91
@kagekage:  

  When I read this afternoon I read it as a different meaning....I apologize for my lack of reading skills...For some reason I mistook it as a Fan boy statement...reading it now , the sentence makes more sense. I seriously read that first sentence as he was comparing this game instantly to the standing of Undisputed...
 
I read the whole review and while I did misread it...it was you kagekage that comes off as a douche.....but anyways i apologize to both you and Jeff.. EA MMA pulled off alot of things that UFC Undisputed is still struggling with after 2 titles....