Friday, 5 November 2010

Game Review – EA Sports MMA

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360

With the continual popularity surge in Mixed Martial Arts, it seems a no-brainer that another title was going to hit the shelves and compete with the UFC franchise. EA Sports MMA does an excellent job at being different from UFC, but different does not always mean better in some people’s opinions. EA MMA is certainly a much easier fighter to get to grips with, its technical side is not as advanced and daunting and I for one think this is excellent. In terms of fighting realism, EA MMA feels a little like it has come out of an arcade, so realism certainly goes towards UFC. Ultimately however, both titles are quite far apart, making comparing quite difficult and warranting praise for both experiences.

EA MMA takes a user-friendly hands-on approach when it comes to combat. The controller interface is very straightforward with your right analogue stick throwing punches and kicks, the left analogue stick moving your character, bumpers and shoulder tabs changing the style of kicks and punches thrown and face buttons for the technical ground-play, submissions, clinch game and grappling. For newcomers to the sport, there are of course modes that help explain the more technical side of mixed martial arts and thankfully EA MMA makes these technicalities very easy to perform so you do not necessarily have to understand exact body positioning in wrestling like UFC forces upon you. This then makes EA MMA a much more accessible fighter for those wanting to see what all the fuss is about in Mixed Martial Arts.

Upon entering the career mode it is inevitable that you will require some basic knowledge at least of different martial arts and fighting styles. Fortunately EA MMA offers you specific strengths and weaknesses of these arts, for example Muay Thai fighters have strong striking power and are devastating in the clinch, while Greco-Roman wrestlers will prefer to get the action down to the ground and work submissions and ground’n’pound. Whichever way you ultimately choose to take your character, it is always worth replaying the career mode to experience all the different fighting styles that are all fun and interesting in their own ways. EA MMA offers other customizable additions so you can personalize your fighter’s looks, clothes and so forth, some of which a little more useless than other segments, nevertheless it is always fun to put some personality into your fighter.

The game’s tutorial is set in a boot camp training regime run by former MMA fighter Bas Rutten. This takes you through the steps and familiarizes you with the game-play. Once this is all done and dusted you turn professional and choose one of six different leagues to compete in. Each league varies slightly based on rules, but these are subtle changes that rarely change the action drastically and if they do, it’s easy to adapt to the rules to avoid penalties.

Unfortunately EA MMA lacks significant challenge unless the difficulty settings are put up almost immediately. This is a real shame as cheap wins are easily accomplishable against default AI opponents who have a hard time blocking effectively and allow you to dominate fights without any issue. As the career progresses and you beef up the intensity, the game does prove a lot of fun and it becomes that much more satisfying finishing a fight with a deserved K.O. or finally pining down a fighter in a submission and watch them tap out.

EA MMA also forces you to train in-between career fights and unlike UFC, it does so in a non-boring manner. You are offered various tasks and challenges to complete that are all relatively fun, quick and painless. Also tasks that have already been completed allow you to reap the training benefits from them again without the need of actually going through the monotonous process of re-doing the challenge. There is a catch however; you are graded on your performance for each challenge so if you get a poor grade, then simulating the challenge offers minimal rewards. So the game does force you to replay challenges until you get a perfect A grade, then you can really reap the benefits. Another awesome and rather quick procedure is the ability to travel around training camps before fights and learning new moves for your fighter. This helps keep combat feeling fresh and there’s no more satisfying feeling than finishing a fight with a brand new move. As a result, fights come round the bend a lot faster and you find yourself getting a lot tougher much quicker.

Of course the most satisfying part of EA MMA is playing against human opposition. Those looking for a challenge other than the AI will find quite a technical and competitive experience that begs for bragging rights and dominance. The sport itself has such an ability to go from one fighter’s momentum to another, that there is rarely a boring moment as punches are being exchanged and so forth. The stamina gauge that represents the energy left in your fighter helps keep an entertaining balance of offence vs. defense. It is virtually impossible to go on an all out assault, as your stamina will decrease dramatically leaving you vulnerable. Therefore picking your shots and blows wisely makes it quite a strategic and technical fighter, offering lots of different ways to tackle the different martial arts, their strengths and weaknesses. EA MMA really keeps you on your toes and it serves as a really entertaining experience as a result of this.

EA MMA’s online mode also offers some exciting content to get involved with. Ranked tournaments, ladder matches, custom fight cards all help make the fluid online experience that much more fun. On top of all that, tournament finals are often broadcast online allowing players to watch others fight while listening to live commentary. Being part of this experience really drives motivation and makes you want to be that guy in the finals.

In terms of presentation, EA MMA is a good-looking game. Events are presented with lots of enthusiasm, there is plenty of hype, fighters look great and their entrances are stunning. The commentary and general audio is also very good. It is a shame that there are very few well-known fighters on the roster but that’s to be expected since they are all licensed to the UFC. Fortunately you will develop such a bond with your custom fighter that you will find yourself using him throughout your online ventures more than actual in-game fighters.

Ultimately EA Sports MMA is a little less serious than UFC Undisputed 2010 and this actually works in its favour. It is a lot easier to pick up and fight here than it is in the UFC games. EA MMA offers a great career mode, much better than UFC 2010, it offers plenty of replay value online and offline and it is all packaged together in a wonderful and thrilling experience. Is it better than UFC? That is a difficult question to answer, but it is definitely worth your time and then you can make a decision for yourselves.

Technical presentation – 7.5

Graphics – 7.5

Game-play – 8.0

Replay value – 7.5

Final score – 7.5 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl