By Peter Carmody
EA sports first jab at the world of Mixed Martial Arts has pushed its way into a genre previously dominated by THQ.
While there are obvious similarities, considering both MMA and UFC are built around the same sport, this game does well to differentiate itself from its opponent. One of the most noticeable differences on first inspection has to be that MMA has a slightly grittier and simplified feel in comparison to UFC’s supersized production vibe.
Read our full review, after the jump.
The game boasts a couple of big names like Randy Couture, Kung Le, and Pat Miletich amongst a roster of 60 odd fighters in varying weight classes, most of which to be honest you probably won’t know if you are not a mixed martial arts enthusiast. This will almost certainly affect the draw to the game, which is unfortunate considering the game play and decent presentation gives THQ’s take on the sport a bit of competition.
Upon arriving at the main menu you will most likely want to run through a quick tutorial, and sadly this is one of the more disappointing areas of MMA, considering you will only be given information on how to perform different moves once you’ve actually executed them. I found that you will probably learn a lot more by simply jumping into career mode and being guided through what is a relatively inconsistent learning curve. Once the basics have been covered you are kind of on your own.
Your career will start with you tailor-making your own character, and while you might be disappointed in the amount of customization options available, you are able to up load a picture of your own face as well as choose from a bank of standard names, which the commentators will pronounce while you are smashing some faces.
Once you are happy with the way your character looks, you will move on to selecting a specific fighting style and custom victory animation. When you are done creating your brawler you will find yourself standing in the legendary Bas Rutten’s gym, where he will walk you through the basic aspects of Mixed Martial Arts and managing your career. Starting as an amateur fighter, it will not take you very long before you have reached the point where you can progress into one of many fighting leagues (obviously this excludes the UFC). These international leagues are set apart by different rules, round times and fighters, which will have you constantly rethinking your game plan.
While you can train in Bas Ruttens gym to your hearts content, the money you earn from your fights can be used to travel, and train under the guidance of some of the most reputable instructors in Mixed Martial Arts. Successfully completing the training challenges for the different aspects of your game plan will increase your stats and open new challenges for you to have a crack at. Your character also has the ability to Learn 16 special moves while training at the various academies, unfortunately 16 is the limit, so you have to choose what you add to your arsenal quite carefully.
The career mode is very simply geared towards the combat side of Mixed Martial Arts, shying away from the superstar aspects which would see you rallying sponsors and fans to your cause. While purists would argue for this, it does have a tendency to make the career mode rather shallow, considering that there is not much more to it than preparing for your next bout or actually participating in it.
Combat is akin to the system utilized in Fight Night round 4, whereby the right analogue stick will control the execution of techniques. Combining bumpers and triggers with these techniques will allow for leg, torso or head strikes. Clinch and takedown techniques are controlled by the face buttons, and once in the clinch or on the ground the same buttons will help your character posture up, perform submission techniques or simply prevent your opponent from escaping your clutches. While this layout is pretty simple to get the hang of, it by no means makes the combat easy.
As you advance you will be forced to use the “strike to pass, pass to strike” tactic to posture up into more advantageous positions, making it easier to perform a little ground ‘n pound or submit your opponent. You are able to bob, weave and parry quite easily, unfortunately so can your adversary, and at times it becomes almost impossible to land some decent hits, while your opponent parries everything you’ve got and makes you pay for ever thinking that you could make contact. While your character moves quite swiftly, the combos you will need to string together feel a bit rigid and unnatural at times. The combat in MMA is all about maintaining a good stamina, if you deplete your stamina bar, there is a pretty good chance you will find yourself watching an x-ray vision of your arm disjoint.