When sports giants EA announced they were looking to move into the world of MMA, it seemed risky-ish, given the success that THQ had with their platinum-selling UFC: Undisputed series. But the sports giants look like they’ve put in a hu-uge effort to topple their rival. As is the way with EA, they don't just want a slice of the action. They want the whole pie.
Whats good about it?: As soon as you jump into exhibition mode, gamers that played UFC:Undisputed will realise quickly that EA MMA is a whole different ball (read: fight) game. For starters, the controls are the polar opposite to Undisputed’s, with MMA using the right analogue stick to strike, and the face buttons to grapple. As strange as this may sound to fans of the genre, just trust us: it works.
The submission systems are also far more satisfying than they are in Undisputed, with some real skill required to escape or lock in a sub. Likewise, the methods in which you can KO or TKO an opponent also require skill, and are hugely varied and fist-pumping fun when you pull them off.
The presentation in MMA is as slick as you can get. The effects that fighters begin to show as fighters go on look scarily realistic, to the point that (very occasionally) you’ll feel a degree of remorse as you see your opponent's bloody face grimace as you unleash the ground’n’pound.
While the roster is not stacked full of household names like Undisputed’s, there is still a decent wedge of the sport's stars, including Randy Couture, Fedor Emelianenko and Nick Diaz. Each and every character looks and acts like their real-life counterparts, which makes for some very interesting style matchups. Fans of the UFC will be pleased to know that EA have brought back FNR4’s Fighter Share system, as well as ‘Gameface', so you should be able to download accurate models of every MMA fighter - and their mothers - within a few days of the game’s release.
The team behind MMA have put in a lot of time and effort into career mode, and it shows. As a rookie fighter, you start of by learning the basics with legendary fighter, trainer, and all-round fruitcake, Bas ‘El Guapo’ Rutten. You progress to train in numerous gyms across the globe, learning different disciplines, competing in different locations and fighting under different rule sets, as you work your way to fighting in the game’s premier organisation: ‘Strikeforce’. The career mode is great fun and really encapsulates the international flavour of the sport, which is one thing which has been neglected in other titles in the genre.
Needless to say with an EA title, the online experience is also extremely smooth and packed full of cool stuff, including live broadcasts of other players' matches, title bouts and a martial art-style belt-based ranking system.
What’s bad about it?: One thing that's not as smooth as it could be is the learning curve. While the control scheme isn't complicated, learning the tactical side of the game is something you are expected to pick up by yourself. There’s also a slight lack of depth in terms of features, as your only real options are a single fight, online, or career mode. While it’s not a big problem, a tournament or event feature would have been a nice option. But hey, maybe EA are saving that for the next release.
The ‘MMA 101’ feature, which is meant to act as the game’s tutorial, is largely pointless. For some reason you are only shown how to do things once you have already done them. It’s a shaky area, in what's otherwise a very solid entry title from EA.
Verdict?: EA MMA looks like more than just a contender for the MMA title. The intuitive controls, entertaining combat system and solid online offering make this game a must-own for fans of the genre. The next round will be very interesting indeed.
EA MMA is out on Xbox 360 and PS3 on October 22