Quite a bit of attention has been put on mixed martial arts due to the marketing efforts of Zuffa, UFC's Parent company. This attention has not only made UFC a household name, but has changed the sport as well.
EA Sports MMA is not just an alternative to the UFC game, it's an MMA history lesson. So many aspects left out of THQ's UFC game are featured in EA Sports' title. From the various fight rule types to the legendary commentators, this is an MMA fan's MMA game.
Perhaps not a complete knock out blow, this is still a hard, stiff right to the THQ's reigning champ.
EA Sports MMA (Xbox 360 [Review], PlayStation 3)
One can notice from the anecdotes layered in the loading screen that the history and overall spectrum of extreme fighting was researched by the developers. As a fan of the pure intensity of early MMA fighters, I was immediately blown away by the classic combatants featured in the five different weight classes. You can slug it out using legends like Frank Shamrock and Fedor Emelianenko, as well as some of the most vicious names from Strikeforce, another MMA league.
Perhaps one of the most important things EA brings to the table is its showcase of many faces that may be unknown to fans outside of UFC. Fighters such as Cung Le and Allistair Overeem are some of the most dangerous men in the sports, yet have never signed a UFC contract. Playing as a hardcore fighting machine is very interesting once you take a few moments to understand the control scheme.
EA Sports MMA draws from the controls of Fight Night and modifies them to a complex degree. The intricacy of fighting may end up being a reason non-MMA fans don't give this title a chance. Yes, you can go toe-to-toe with a friend at home, but to truly be a champ one must spend time in the Career Mode being trained by the legendary and hilarious Bas Rutten. One of the problems with the controls is that even if you use all of the complex techniques presented, simple button mashing can get you a win. Button mashing may work with some fighting games, but this is supposed to be realistic. In the hands of pure MMA aficionados, the full depth of the fight controls may want to be explored to create classic duels, so it comes down to how much you care to make this a realistic fight simulator.
For those who want a challenge, EA Sports MMA has several online options to test your might. Live broadcast mode allows for much smack talk and anticipation for bouts by promoting an upcoming battle before hand. One can imagine dojo's and MMA academies around the world virtually throwing down for online respect.
There are a few aspects of the game that seem like pulled punches, but the most important are the actual pulled punches. Many of the knockouts that happen in the game don't seem to match the drama associated with the sport, and the fight animations are very lackluster. Overall, the big fight element seems missing from this game, which is a shame given the multitude of fight rules and ring styles to chose from. EA put in the time to break out of the octagon mold, allowing for ring styles and rule adjustments that can bring matches back to the no-holds-barred days of early MMA. However, it still feels a bit more like a session of light sparring, rather than a full fledged cage war.
Still, if you are a fan of MMA, I recommend picking this game up. The career mode is in-depth, and offers very realistic training methods. The pre-match activities in career mode are important in developing your in ring work, unlike UFC's simple system of fatigue management. The drill system in MMA allows you to improve your in-ring skills as you level up and travel to learn from legends like Randy Couture. One of the details the struck me is the variety of good music in this game. Though, not the most important detail to have in a game such as this, EA has once again delivered an excellent game soundtrack. I know EA has put several great artists in many of their sports game, but was pleasantly surprised to hear KMFDM, Hadouken!, and Gogol Bordello on this one. Though not brilliant in all it does, EA Sports MMA attempts to bring a whole package to the table, not just a simple fighter.
Despite a few flaws, EA has developed a legit challenger to the MMA game championship. They have quite a few things going for them despite not having the UFC license. EA seems like it wants to make this work and if this first shot is any indication of the future of the series, they have come to fight hardcore.
THE VERDICT - EA Sports MMA
Reviewed by Neranjan 'Venom' Bissoon