EA Sports MMA Review

By Mike D'Alonzo - Posted Oct 26, 2010

In all, MMA is a strange beast. There are a lot of good ideas here, and the bells and whistles are all pretty impressive. The actual game mechanic, however, is another story. I think there's a really good game to be made in the MMA arena, but this effort just adds up to something that, if you're not completely inside the sport, fails to really grab the gamer fully.

The Pros
  • Training with the notables of the sport is really fun.
  • Character creation is immensely satisfying.
  • Comprehensive online community features are innovative.
The Cons
  • You're going to end up button mashing, even though they preach against it.
  • Learning curve is WAY too steep, and AI too smart, equalling frustration.
  • Despite being interesting concepts, the community features need a community to work.

EA Sports MMA Review:

For those who don't know a thing about the sport, mixed martial arts is just that, a combination of many disciplines of martial arts, including boxing, wrestling, kickboxing, ju jitsu, and submission wrestling (just to name a few). Each fighter has a specialty discipline, which means they're going to be better at some things than others. The end result is a match that features all of these things, meaning there are many different ways to win -- and lose -- an important match.

Despite being born among controversy surrounding the creation of the game and the involvement (or lack thereof) of UFC, which caused UFC head honcho Dana White to say some pretty nasty things about EA Sports, EA Sports MMA features some of the more prominent figures in the sport, including Randy Coture and Fedor Emilianenko, who grace the cover of the game.

Let's Get It On!

has a bunch of different modes to explore. You can jump right into the ring and fight using already-established personalities from the world of MMA. You can get online and seek out an opponent in a quick match fight. You can set up a match card that features a bunch of different bouts, and let people watch a stream of the entire card either on their console or online, or invite them to watch single bouts, complete with pre-match hype videos.

The best mode in MMA, however, is Career Mode, which lets you create a fighter, give them a definitive style, and set them on a path that involves training through many disciplines in an effort to get to the elite position of Strikeforce champion. To do that, you'll need to fight through some smaller promotions and win their championships to get recognized as an up-and-comer, and then fight your way to the top.

Character creation in MMA is pretty awesome, and allows you to customize everything there is about your fighter without having to crawl through endless screens to do it. It's easy and quick, but comprehensive at the same time, including character intro music, signature celebrations, and in-ring attitude.

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Party On!

By far the best thing about MMA is the training modes, which run you through some very complex techniques for striking, ground fighting, clinching, and submissions in bite-sized mini-games that result in you being graded on your work. Since you need to train for 8 weeks prior to every fight, and can simulate those mini-games to level up, you'll want to get to an "A" grade as quickly as possible.

Don't worry, though, you'll have help. The first person you meet as a trainer is Bas Rutten, who is a perfect addition to this game. The voice acting is fun and funny, and you will actually find yourself liking him so much that you don't want to let him down. Rutten works as a promoter on your behalf, setting up fights for you and training you in the basics out of his gym. Like any good sensei, though, Rutten knows how to let go, and will pass you off to other trainers, who will teach you in their specialized discipline. Rickson Gracie, Pat Miletich, and Randy Coture will help you not only get stronger in each phase of your game, but teach you some of the specialized moves that make them famous along the way to add to your arsenal.

He's Achieved Full Mount!

The control scheme in MMA is a mixed bag. While the free-flowing use of the right analog stick, borrowed from the Fight Night games, adds a certain amount of variety to the move set, there doesn't always seem to be a correspondent reaction from the controller to the game, which will add up to you frantically button mashing to try and get out of a bad situation, and screaming at your television when you can't. This will cause you to lose stamina and become a sitting duck in the ring. Complex analog moves that don't read, as a matter of fact, end up getting you so deep into trouble that you can never get out.

Especially frustrating is the learning curve from beginner to intermediate and above. You might ace the traning sessions, whip your sparring partner, run through the lower ranks like a hot knife through butter, and then get to the intermediate promotions and lose five bouts in a row, after which Bas and his team will refuse to train you any longer. Even more frustrating is a bout where you are completely grounded, and fight in vain to try and get out of a full-mount position for minutes, only to have your fighter knocked out while there seems to be literally nothing you can do about it.

Since your training tops out at certain levels, it feels like you're ill-prepared to take on these fighters that are higher up the food chain, and, no matter what your skill level is relative to the opponent, you find yourself completely dominated from the opening bell. The other thing is that, though you can acquire special moves in your training, there's no tutorial on how to use them.

Also, some of the submission controls seem to have been tacked on and are arbitrary in their use. Using the left analog stick to find a "sweet spot" to either choke out your opponent or avoid the same happening to you isn't a bad idea, but the display and the function of that move needs work, as you have no idea where you are relative to the small circle in which said sweet spot is contained. Furthermore, arm and leg submissions are unclear. All you ever find out is that you have to hit "X" once to start, and then hit it a bunch more times without hitting it too much to finish. How many more times? You'll have to figure that out. How much is too much? Who knows? Sometimes your stamina runs out and you still get the win, and sometimes you are unsuccessful with a bunch left in reserve.

Unfortunately, the overall game tutorial, called MMA 101, isn't much of a help in this regard. Sure, it covers some of the very basic moves of the game, but falls far short in showing you the intricacies of how to actually play. This means that if you're only a casual fan of MMA, and don't know your in-ring philosophy particularly well, you're going to end up with a maddingly small skill set.

Lights Out!

EA has done a lot of work creating online and community features with MMA, offering the standard online matchmaking, along with the ability to create bouts and cards by appointment through Live Broadcast, which lets you stream them to others who might want to just watch. You can view public match cards as well, as set up by others. The Live Broadcast stream is viewable either on your console or online at easportsmma.com.

These are great ideas, but, after the official release of the game, it was hard to find any sort of definative community presence online. Quick match opponents were hard to come by, and nonexistant in any weight class besides heavyweight, and Live Broadcast seems to be underutilized, as well, offering only a stream of some tips on refined fighting from some of the game's developers, and an upcoming public bout card. Perhaps it's that these things are happening in private, between friends, but that seems like a criminal waste of a good idea, akin to having built a beautiful house that no one seems to want to live in.

In All Your Life, Make This The Goal/Watch The Donut, Not The Hole.

In all, MMA is a strange beast. There are a lot of good ideas here, and the bells and whistles are all pretty impressive. The actual game mechanic, however, is another story. I think there's a really good game to be made in the MMA arena, but this effort just adds up to something that, if you're not completely inside the sport, fails to really grab the gamer fully.

Here's hoping that EA, who are normally excellent at not only creating sports franchises, but learning from previous iterations of their games, will make the logical leap to correct some of these issues and make the sequel something special. The groundwork has been laid, and, in the parlance of the sport, they've struck first, but now they need to use that strike to set up a pass onto something more substantial.

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?