EA Sports MMA Xbox 360 Review

November 3, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Publisher – EA Sports – Developer – EA Tiburon – Genre –  Sports/Fighting – Players – 1-10 – Age Rating – 16+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3

Mixed Martial Arts is booming in popularity right now. THQ saw the potential for a game of the sport last year, with the excellent UFC 2009 Undisputed being the first UFC game in four years. Now EA have decided to attempt to muscle their way onto the market with EA Sports MMA, although sadly, without a big name licence, this one may not get all the respect that it deserves.

EA have managed to sign around 60 fighters to include in the game, though, with many well known faces on the roster. The cover stars of Randy Couture and Fedor Emelianenko are in the game as are the likes of Ken Shamrock, Bas Rutten, Bob Sapp, Cung Lee, Dan Henderson and many others.  Each individual has true to life stats; therefore some fighters are good on the ground, while others are adept at clinches and/or submissions. It certainly pays to know what type of fighter you are currently controlling as this can be the difference between victory and defeat.

Right, to the game. Firstly, let me just say that EA Sports MMA doesn’t have as comprehensive tutorial as THQ’s UFC games boasts – you’ll learn the majority of play in the career mode, which certainly is a lot more helpful than the poor tutorial. The game is also the polar opposite of THQ’s efforts in the way that it simplifies things, making it more welcome to the less adept, although to call it shallow would be a huge overstatement.

Flash KO's happen a lot less than in the UFC games. But you do have to understand that throwing the big punches is going to leave your chin out there for your opponent to strike if you're not careful, potentially leading to you being knocked out like a light.

Indeed, EA Sports MMA tries to take the complexities and make them a little easier to grasp, but the nature of the sport and the fact that the game is a simulation does limit certain things from being watered down too much. But, if you need proof of EA’s MMA game being easier to get to grips with, I did find that I didn’t require to revisit the tutorials or the career mode as many times as I did in UFC to absorb all the intricacies of the game. It’s just a lot more welcoming, which will be pleasing to those who don’t have the dedication or time to lose masses of hours learning the game.

Something that is more complex than UFC is throwing punches and kicks. By default the game is set to Total Strike Control, which may sound similar to Fight Night’s Total Punch Control, and that’s because it is. This means you are going to be bringing your limbs into offensive action by using the right stick, bringing about jabs, uppercuts and hooks with certain stick movements and various kicks with a modifier button. For those who’d rather use the buttons, classic controls are in there especially for you.

You can also clinch whilst standing up, dealing out the damage with punches and kicks or by tossing an opponent explosively to the mat, although you have to always be aware of said opponent as they’re able to change position in clinches as well as on the ground. You also have to be aware of your stamina, as this is a game that is very much about assuring that your fighter doesn’t get too tired. EA Sports MMA’s ground game is much clearer and requiring of less practice than UFC – a few buttons basically do everything for you in regards to changing your position, blocking the attempts of your opponent, and locking in submission holds. When battling on the ground, pressing A (or the left stick pushed up with a press of the A button for a major pass) will make your fighter attempt to switch to another position (full mount being the best position to rain heavy blows down on the face of your opponent) and pressing B will cancel out the attempted position change or submission of your opponent if timed correctly, while pressing X will have your fighter trying to lock a limb into a submission hold. The ground game is well thought out and little touches such as the throb of the controllers vibration function to warn you of an attempted position change, adds much more to it than a brainless motor could ever know.

The submission system is also something that has been well thought out and will add drama to many fights across the land. When a submission is initiated, both players have to press a button, the aggressor has to press one to attempt to lock the submission far enough in to earn the tap out victory, while the victim has to press a button to hopefully get out with his bone intact. The presentation here is excellent, showing the bone bending back under the skin and it turning an angry red as the aggressor taps his button. EA want you to know that this is in no way a button mashing battle, as doing so will just deplete your stamina within seconds, and your stamina meter is certainly something to keep an eye on, as is your opponents – this could determine when you should really go for the tap out if you are the one looking for the victory from the hold. There’s also a different thing entirely for chokeholds – a circle pops up on the screen and the idea is then for you or your opponent to find the sweet spot by moving the left stick, with the screen darkening in and the other fighting tapping out if the aggressor is most successful and the victim escaping if he manages to win the battle. In their entirety, submissions in EA Sports MMA are dramatic, making such battles thrilling and tense during the moments when submission holds are locked in.

The game hasn’t really got a vast amount of options, although the career is superb. In this mode you create a fighter and work your way from the minor leagues into the big ones, winning titles along the way. Like I said earlier, this is definitely the place to go to really learn the complexities of the game – not only is it a great career mode but it’s also an excellent tutorial, far better than the separate tutorial mode.  In the career you’ll also have eight weeks of training (simulated or performed by yourself) before each professional match, and here you’re able to travel during the first week in order to get some training from greats such as Rickson Gracie and Randy Couture, and learning from the best is worth it as you’ll pick up new moves and skills. Another nice touch is that it feels like the commentary team are actually following your career, detailing your recent wins and losses and talking about the kind of fighter you are based on your previous records.

If you end up rocked and down on the mat, you'll have to bash a button in order to regain your senses. Well, either that or leave your opponent to pound your face into mush, forcing the referee to step in and end the fight.

Another feature of note is the Online Live Broadcast. You can watch these fights live (if you miss them, they can be viewed later) from your console or your computer and it’ll be interesting to see some of the best online fighters go toe-to-toe. Each fight has live and professional commentary, the first of which involved EA developers and Game Changers in a two match card. Online play itself is generally smooth and it’s playing against another player, on or offline, where the most fun is to be had.

EA Sports MMA is also a tremendously polished game. Visually, the Fight Night Round 4 engine is put to good use, and there’s some hard hitting animations and fighter models that look close to lifelike, with bodies becoming sweaty and bloody as the fights wear on, with the latter also ending up smeared on opponents. As for sound, the commentary duo of Mauro Ranallo and Frank Shamrock sound passionate, although their lines sadly becomes a little repetitive after only three or four fights.

But regardless of imperfect commentary, EA Sports MMA is an excellent debut that doesn’t simply feel as if it’s a cash-in on the back of THQ’s success with their UFC games. If I had to pick a favourite, I’d actually plump for EA’s game as I just feel that everything has been executed to an even better degree. I just hope that EA Sports MMA will eventually flourish and turn into the big franchise that it deserves to be.