NZGamer.com were fortunate enough to attend EA Play last week; a gig by the Auckland waterfront dedicated to showing off EAâ€™s latest wares. Included was their rival to THQâ€™s UFC franchise, EA Sportsâ€™ MMA (or Mixed Martial Arts).
Iâ€™ll be honest, Iâ€™m not a fan of either with regards to the sport. On one hand, the red-blooded male in me gets caught up in the primal, testosterone fueled brawl between two highly trained killing machines. But on the other hand, itâ€™s two sweaty dudes wearing next to nothing and hugging each other a lot in a cage. But for those who follow the sport, MMA is looking set to give UFC a good run for its money this year in a surprisingly popular game market.
Despite my lack of practice with these sorts of games, I found EA Sportsâ€™ MMA a rewarding experience. While THQâ€™s UFC seemed clunky at times, MMA was fluid and responsive with a more intuitive control system. With similar button mapping for attack and defensive moves, regardless of whether you're on your feet or on the mat, made for a much gentler learning curve. It was reminiscent of the fun to be had with the Fight Night series, where, regardless of your knowledge of the sport, it's still fun to throw punches.
EA Sports have a solid reputation with their attention to authentic detail and MMA is no exception. The game features a huge roster of recognised fighters from around the globe, with each looking and behaving like their real life counterparts. Not that I would know, as I was calling one of them â€śSasquatch Billâ€ť. But the player I was fighting against was a huge fan, often praising the character likeness and enjoying the control system. Needless to say I was soon semi-conscious and caught in a knee busting grapple hold that ended the match promptly.
When in a grapple hold, MMA features a striking X-Ray window view that highlights a joint being damaged with red stress points on the bones. Failure to counter, evade or simply hold will result in tap-outs or broken limbs. These same full skeletal and muscle structures are in place to replicate body movement and accurately mimic damage as the fight takes place. Just like in Fight Night, players will soon start to see swelling, bleeding and bruising according to each blow. A fatigue / energy meter in the top corners of the screen also let you see how your player is faring.
Even in my naivety with the sport, I could see the difference between the weight classes. In fact it was my excuse for being pummelled by a heavyweight when I was a little weedy dude. The bigger fighters require a completely different tactic, as they punch and move more slowly. The lower weight divisions are quick and can use their speed to throw punches and nip around their opponent. But if you get caught in a grapple, you can expect the smaller fighter to hit the deck quickly. Itâ€™s not that the game is unbalanced, itâ€™s a matter of basic physics. But it will encourage players to try out and experiment with different weight divisions as the gameplay is different every time.
With the game launching late October, NZGamer.com will be sure to bring you a review from a fully qualified MMA fan closer to the time. However even fans of Fight Night will get a kick out of this (puns are awesome).