As I sat down to play EA Sports MMA I have to be honest, I was skeptical. Skeptical that EA Sports MMA could in anyway come close to the brilliance that THQ delivered with their last two UFC installments. Guess what, I was wrong. Not only has EA delivered an MMA title that provides more than worthy competition, they may have delivered an overall better game. It’s hard to compare since THQ announced that we wouldn’t have a UFC title this year, but after playing EA Sports MMA I have to wonder is that because they got wind of how good EA Sports MMA was going to be and decided they needed to do a complete rework. Since we aren’t hanging around the THQ offices it is hard to know, but one thing I do know is that THQ and UFC aren’t the only great MMA games in town anymore.
When EA Sports announced that EA Sports MMA was in the works, there was quite a bit of trash talking because there was a whole lot more to the story. Originally, UFC had approached EA about developing an MMA game featuring the UFC brand. EA declined and UFC took their idea to THQ which not only accepted, but turned around and delivered the best MMA game to date. Lots of folks had believed that EA Sports MMA was a response to THQ’s UFC franchise, but evidence later surfaced proving that EA Sports MMA had actually been in the works way before Undisputed ever hit the street. To further complicate matters, UFC president Dana White initially threatened any fighter that agreed to be in EA Sports MMA with being banned from the UFC permanently. While that did keep some folks out of EA’s game, once heavy hitters like Randy Couture and Fedor Emelianenko crossed the proverbial line in the sand lots, other fighters did so as well, and White backed off his threat. From there, EA had only one big problem and that was with THQ owning the exclusive UFC license, what MMA brand would they use to sell their game? While lots of folks think of EA as the Microsoft of the video game industry, they proved that they still know how to think out of the box when they have too. EA decided that it wouldn’t focus on a major MMA brand to hype its game around, but would instead include MMA operations from around the world to deliver what they called a “global” MMA experience. I am here to tell you that they did that and a whole lot more.
The most impressive aspect of EA Sports MMA has got to be its career mode. All I can say is that it looks like THQ wasn’t the only ones listening to the feedback from fans and critics about the last two UFC installments, because they seemed to have addressed most of them. Career mode in EA Sports MMA is excellent, and you start to notice it from the moment you create your fighter. The fighter creation mode is simple, but really excellent. You have lots of different options to customize your fighter in almost every aspect. The thing that stuck out to me at this point, oddly enough, was the tattoos. The tattoos just looked really authentic and better than any tattoos that I have ever seen in a video game to date. But enough about aesthetic stuff, let’s get to the gameplay.
EA definitely decided to take a much more controlled approach to its career mode and I think its works out well for them. You start off as an unknown who walks into Bas Rutten’s Elite MMA looking to find out if you have what it takes to be an MMA legend. The game does a really job of introducing you to the gameplay mechanics through very simple and straightforward tutorials. After you have gotten the basics under your belt, you are quickly thrown into your first amateur bout which you should win easily. From there Bas will choose your fights for you because as they will tell you, if they let you choose, you would just pick the fights with the biggest purse. As you progress through your career, you will have the opportunity to fight for several MMA organizations, travel all over the world to train with some of the greatest names in MMA history, and customize your fighter to be dominant in just the way you want to play. Do you have what it takes to become one of the greatest mixed martial artists the world has ever known?
Additionally, one place that EA Sports MMA really shines, which happens to be where I was always frustrated with UFC Undisputed, is when it comes to submissions. In Undisputed it seems like I could never tell how effective I was when I had a submission applied, and I could never quite press the buttons fast enough to escape them consistently. Not only does EA Sports MMA take the guess work out of it, it also makes it more about skill than who can mash the buttons the fastest, and that should be welcomed news to folks like myself who don’t have the fastest of fingers. In EA Sports MMA there are two types of submission systems. For choke submissions, a ring appears at the top of the screen with a ball of light going around it, follow the ball of light correctly with the analog stick and lock in your submission. On the other hand,mess it up or run out of stamina, and your opponent will escape. For limb submissions like armbars and Kimura’s, you simply need to repeatedly press the X button, now you’re like but didn’t you say there was no stupid button mashing. I did say that and even though you need to repeatedly press a button down in these types of submissions, it isn’t mindless mashing. You have to monitor your stamina and watch the on-screen display to see the amount of pressure you are applying to your opponents joint, and when the time is right you lock in the hold and make your opponent tap. The submission system is so simple anyone can get the hang of it.Even if your fighter isn’t a submission specialist you should be able to utilize submissions as an effective part of your offense.
If EA Sports MMA stumbles anywhere, it has to be online. While the game features an awesome online feature called Fighter Share, which allows you to upload your favorite created fighters for others to use and allows you to download the best fighters uploaded by the community for your use – which is great, still doesn’t make up for the shaky online play. Not only did I have trouble finding an opponent, but when I finally did the matches were less than smooth.
Online play aside, which I am sure will be improved through patches, EA Sports MMA sends a very clear message to the team over at THQ working on the next UFC Undisputed title, and that message is simply..bring it. EA Sports MMA delivers a compelling and authentic MMA experience even without any MMA brands that are very popular in the U.S., or a whole lot of fighters that most of us will recognize. I think it may have been that fact that drove EA MMA to be so good in the first place. If gamers didn’t recognize the names and faces the gameplay had to be great, and it is. EA Sports MMA still has room to improve, but this is an excellent debut for the franchise that I expect to be around for years to come. If you haven’t played EA Sports MMA yet and you’re a real MMA fan, then trust me you’re are doing yourself a disservice. For not just copying what worked for THQ with UFC Undisputed and instead coming up with a game that definitely has an identity all its own, ZoKnowsGaming gives EA Sports MMA 8.5 out of 10.