EA Sports MMA Preview

EA has proven its ability to beat the competition at its own game on multiple occasions. FIFA dominated Pro Evolution, Skate threw down with Tony Hawk, and Rock Band struck a massive blow to the beast that is Guitar Hero. Can the streak continue with EA Sports MMA?

The generic name doesn’t have the same ring, or recognition, as UFC Undisputed, and as you may recall, controversy ensued after UFC threatened to ban any player who crossed the battle-line. Still, EA is determined to pack the roster with well-known fighters. The full count has yet to be publicly finalized, but names like Cung Lee, Bobby Lashley, and Randy Couture have no troubles standing out in the public eye.

EA Sports MMA uses a modified version of the analog controls from the Fight Night series. A diagonal flick up and to the right yields a right jab, while a semi-circle along the right edge tosses a right hook. Hold the shoulder button and the analog stick throws body blows, while a trigger switches to kicks. Players can sway to avoid hits or use another trigger to block.

Throwing jabs, hooks, and uppercuts in an effective, left-right-left succession requires rhythmic timing – too early and nothing happens, too late and you’re left open. The controls are surprisingly intuitive. I wanted to throw a left hook to a spinning right elbow, so I took a shot in the dark with a few rotations of the analog stick and my combo flowed out like I had done it a dozen times before.

Kicking feels equally instinctive, and more robust than the button-presses of UFC Undisputed allow. Spinning kicks, straight kicks, head kicks – they’re all here. As smooth as the controls already are, I wonder how many fans of UFC Undisputed will be willing to trade their raucous bouts of throttling buttons for the calm and collection that analog sticks require.

I got into a handful of grapples, which are similarly subdued. The attacker presses a button to activate the submission-hold, at which point the opposing player’s controller rumbles, giving him a moment to react by pushing a predetermined button and escaping. If the submission move takes hold, the defending player must quickly tap a button, but not so fast that his stamina is drained.

EA Sports MMA is still in development, and although the character-models and movements look spot-on, I never felt the level of visual intensity that UFC Undisputed 2010 offers. The way the screen shifts to black-and-white during a severe beating and the blood surging onto the mat make the matches truly intense. In EA Sports MMA, I pummeled my opponent’s face for 20-seconds straight. It was like punching a mound of clay, and the only mark left was tiny scratch above the eye.