Sunday, June 27, 2010

EA MMA better than UFC UNDISPUTED? Many signs point ... YES

( Hands on demo at E3 2010 for Xbox360. Control set-up may vary for PS3 )

As I waited at the EA MMA booth, eagerly looking for my opportunity to get my hands on the game. I see someone reaching out to hand me a controller to play with him. I see on his shirt, "THQ." He quickly indicates to me, "I worked on UFC UNDISPUTED 2010. I'm checking out the competition." That's when I realized, this experience will be much better than I ever expected.


The first thing you will immediately realize is, this game is beautiful. Even the THQ Representative agreed with me on that. The graphics engine is a modified version of the one used for FIGHTNIGHT ROUND 4. The natural movements of the characters in action, and while being still, feel more organic and smoother than its competitor. We can all agree many of the fighters represented in UFC UNDISPUTED are just not that ripped in real life, and look very rigid in many of their movements ingame. Giving EA MMA a more realistic visual feel.


The striking and movement is also a modified version of Fight Night Round 4's. When moving your character with the left thumbstick, the movements of the characters appear fairly quick in the ring, so adjusting where you place your fighter as you gauge your distance for attacks is pretty easy. The striking is done with the right thumbstick. Quick flicks into various directions will throw various straight punches. While rotations of the thumbstick will throw hooks. flicking the thumbstick, down then up, will perform your uppercut strikes. To throw kicks, you hold down the left trigger, which acts as your striking modifier, and all the movements on the right thumbstick will become kicking strikes in the same amount of variations as your punching strikes, like leg kicks, head kicks, front push kicks, etc. To switch the levels of your strikes, just hold down the right bumper. You can immediately imagine in your head all the different combos you can come up with using this intelligent and intuitive gameplay format. In addition, the left bumper acts as your Feint/Dodge modifier. Holding the modifier while moving the left thumbstick makes your fighter dodge, and while the right thumbstick will throw fake attacks, instigating your opponent to make errors, giving you opportunities for counter attacks. And ofcourse, the right trigger button is used for blocks.


The truly surprising aspect is the grappling system, using the face buttons A,B,X,Y in a way that was adapted directly from ASSASSIN'S CREED. In a standing position, button A represents lower body , Y represents upper body, B represents your right side for grappling defense, X represents your left side for grappling attacks. For instance, if your press Y ( upper body ) from a standing position, your fighter will clinch your opponent. From there you can perform strikes with the right thumbstick, or press X to perform a submission from the standing position, like a flying armbar. Or, from the clinch, you can press A to switch to lower body grappling, performing a takedown. Then press X for a kimura, armbar, leg lock, etc. depending on your positioning on your opponent. If you want to stand up and strike instead of grapple on the ground, press Y. If your opponent tries to take you down, or perform submissions, the controller will vibrate, hinting for you to press B to defend in a sprawl. The same idea applies on the ground. If you're opponent is in your guard, and wants to advance his position, he will press A. Your controller will rumble, and you will press B to deny his advance. If you're opponent wants to submit you on the ground, he will press X, again your controller will rumble, prompting you to press B. As your opponent tries to submit you, a few things will occur. the first thing you'll see is the Stamina bar under your fighter's name activate. Both of you will have to manage your stamina. The faster he presses X to submit you, the more stamina he uses. The same applies to your fighter depending how you rapidly press B to defend. If your opponent has spent all his energy trying to submit you, but doesn't succeed. You will clearly have an advantage on him later on, as his character will perform sluggishly. The second, and coolest thing, about the grappling, is when you perform a submission, like an armbar, the camera will zoom in and create an x-ray of your opponent's arm so you can watch his bones break underneath. Grappling becomes more of an issue of timing your moves and managing your energy, very much like in reality.


Unfortunately, the hands on time i had was only for the fighting demo. Other aspects of the game like Create A Character, Career, etc. I wasn't able to experience. A second review might have to be written when the game comes out. As for now, the game looks very, very promising. EA MMA is a definite contender to compete at the level of UFC UNDISPUTED. The biggest weakness of EA MMA is that it just doesn't have UFC's roster of fighters and large fan base. In the world of MMA, UFC is number one. However, in the world of gaming, EA MMA's approach to focus on the gameplay to be as intuitive as possible, allowing the player to feel as close as they can to what actual combat would be like while performing these moves, may be the key to its success, fun factor, and replay value. The FIGHTNIGHT series was the best depiction of boxing in videogames. EA may have just done the same for the sport of MMA.

Available Oct. 19, 2010 for XBOX360 and PS3.