EA Sports MMA review
Electronic Arts is at it again as they attempt to stamp a name for themselves in another sport – this time in the world of mixed martial arts – in the video game realm, but don’t happen to have all the tools necessary to create a quality first entry.
The difference between their creation with EA Sports MMA and in their attempt to make ground with Arena Football, Rugby and even Cricket is that EA has given MMA a little more care. They went ahead obtained the license of the UFC rival, Strikeforce. They were able to include UFC legend Randy Couture and even included longtime UFC notables such as Ken Shamrock, Jeff Monson and Tim Sylvia. Beyond that, several popular Japanese fighters were included; Hayato Sakurai, Hidehiko Yoshida, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and even Bob Sapp are on the 60+ man roster.
Outside of known fighters on the roster, EA also included a tight presentation, incorporated EA Photo Game Face (players can graft their own ugly mug onto their fighter) and uploading/downloading created fighters or replays. They didn’t stop there as they even provided several rule sets such as allowing kicks or elbows to the head under Japanese, Unified, Vale Tudo and Strike Force rules. This extends to variances to rings such as boxing rings and circular or hexagonal cages along with time differences such as one round that consists of 20 straight minutes of battle under Vale Tudo.
So while it looks like they had all the little details of a hardcore MMA game in order, EA Sports failed to realize that intelligent gameplay is a must for such an in-depth sport that has so many aspects that continue evolve. From the terrible clinch to the amateur hour that is the Career Mode, EA Sports MMA is, by large, a disappointment to any hardcore MMA fan looking for an alternative to THQ’s UFC series.
Even with the amount of fake takedowns, teep/push kicks, uppercuts, leg kicks, side control to full mount transitions and parries couldn’t save EA Sports MMA from its inevitable failure to impress beyond the first couple hours of gameplay. Acting more as a rental rather than providing longevity for a retail purchase, EA Sports MMA doesn’t present a wide variety of maneuvers to keep the game fresh for more than 10 or so matches. Too many matches would play out similarly to the previous match due to the limited moveset.
The clinch work is even worse – too many times the AI would rely on grappling time and time again. After being pushed to the cage, they would lie against my fighter until I would escape and they would attempt it all over again to repeat the cycle. The problem is that the clinch work is too easy to enter and takes too long to provide any substance of defense or offense.
In addition, the ground game is even more disastrous. The transitions are inadequate when compared to the complexity of the sport. The submission controls come in two forms: Find the sweet spot to choke opponents out by spinning the right thumbstick in the appropriate direction and tapping a single button methodically for joint locks. Joint locks are incredibly easy to pull off while the choke submissions aren’t intuitive to keeping the gameplay flowing. If you haven’t caught on, the ground game doesn’t capture the authenticity of MMA, especially for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo fans.
Coupled with the excruciating long load times, the lack of knockouts in the stand up game, – TKOS instead are the primary path of referee stoppage – the computer AI that never uses much of its stamina while players lose theirs much quicker and it’s quickly apparent that EA Sports MMA is an obvious mess that has its heart in the right place, but fails to execute.
As for the Career Mode, it’s among the biggest reasons why EA Sports MMA fails to impress. The mode takes away control from the player from selecting their matches and instead serves as a ladder mode where players have only one matchup option to continue on. Implementing the idea of a handful of fight leagues to sign with and climb to the top was the right idea, but when players have no control of their careers outside of their training and the fighting, then it’s a vast understatement to call it a letdown. Having no other option to accept the one fight presented, EA Sports needs to beef up and create a real career mode that speaks to the nature of the fighting world rather than the abysmal one currently presented.
EA Sports MMA isn’t as intricate as the sport it represents; it never presents itself as an arcade-like representation, so it’s hard to not notice that it is a lackluster effort within the simulation genre.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360 & PS3]