With a slightly different take on the sport than THQ’s UFC 2010, EA Sports MMA aims to impress, and it does, for the most part.
MMA uses controls reminiscent of the control scheme used by the Fight Night series- the right stick controls the strength and direction of your strikes- with kicks, submissions and pins added. For players of the Fight Night games, the control scheme will feel very intuitive, though others may take a little while to get used to it. Overall, it is very responsive while allowing for a reasonable amount of error in the movements required for each strike.
There are 9 different fighting styles you can choose from, each with 2 strengths and 2 weaknesses. From Boxing and Wrestling to Judo and Samba, the variety of different ways to fight and win a match lends itself well to a lot of strategy and thinking during fights, especially against human opponents.
MMA is a bit short on playing modes, as the only real ways to play are the Career mode and local or online multiplayer. To make up for the relative lack of modes, EA made sure that the Career mode was fairly lengthy and satisfying. You’ll take a customized fighter into the cage and try to work your way from being a newcomer to being the ultimate MMA champion. Between fights, you’ll spend 8 weeks training, which is how you improve your skills in each area of fighting- Stand-up, Clinch, and Ground. By executing moves correctly and quickly, you’ll improve your stats faster, while eventually you’ll earn the right to pay to visit exclusive gyms that will help you learn special moves you can use for added punishment in the ring. Unfortunately, the AI is disappointing at the default difficulty. You’ll likely win most of your early fights easily and unsatisfyingly, though you can turn up the difficulty to make it more of a challenge.
The online portion of MMA is very robust. In addition to the standard ladder and ranked matches, EA added the ability to set up tournaments of all sizes. Additionally, special EA-sponsored tournaments are regularly help in which the championship bouts are broadcast on the official EA Sports MMA website, with commenting done by real MMA experts. Whether you are participating in it or just watching it, this feature adds a lot of entertainment to the multiplayer.
The graphics aren’t great, but the details are all there in replicating the look and feel of a real MMA event. From the announcing of the fighters to the cheering of the crowd, it sounds and looks like a real event.
This game doesn’t supplant UFC 2010 as the top MMA game out right now, but it is different enough that it can be enjoyed for itself by fans of the sport. It’s a great start for a new sports franchise, but it’s just that: a start.
Pros: Presentation feels like the real deal; Career mode is satisfying and lengthy; Broadcasted tournaments are fun to play in and watch
Cons: Controls can take getting used to; AI is easy to beat