Yesterday was the official demo-release of EA Sports MMA, the next modern day mixed martial arts video game that will look to take over where THQ and the UFC have recently found success.
The demo allows players to fight in both the Strikeforce middleweight and heavyweight divisions, using four fighters – Jason Miller, Jake Shields, Alistair Overeem, and Bobby Lashley. The demo gives the player the option of either fighting in a standard three-round non-title fight, or a five-round championship bout, and is a breath of fresh air for fight-fans who have grown tired of UFC 2010.
Alright, lets get cracking…
First things first, this isn’t UFC 2010 as you obviously know already. It doesn’t play like UFC 2010, certainly doesn’t feel like it, and will probably turn avid fans of UFC 2010 away initially because of the drastic difference in gameplay.
While I think UFC 2010 more accurately captures the "MMA simulator" feel, EA’s MMA certainly presents a fresh, new feeling that works just as well, if not better than its THQ rival. The fighters move with ease, and if you’ve played Fight Night Round 4, you should get a strong understanding of what I’m trying to say, considering it uses the exact same game engine.
The controls are obviously the games steepest learning curve. Default controls are much like FNR4, where the right thumbstick is how you throw your strikes. I hate that control setup, and thankfully, there is another control scheme titled "classic" that reverts to using the four right-side buttons to throw punches and kicks much like UFC 2010. Striking in EA’s MMA is simple and fun, and takes little to no effort to learn.
Holding down the left trigger (on 360), and then throwing a punch or kick allows you to throw body shots, which are extremely effective in this game. Default kicks usually go to the head, and I still haven’t figured out how to throw a goddamn leg kick.
Grappling is where the fun begins, and where most of your frustration will come from. The ground aspect of EA’s MMA has three "stages" to it. Stage one, is the takedown. Pushing the right thumb-stick towards your opponent when standing up, will allow you to shoot.
Takedowns happen often in the demo, get used to it, especially when fighting Lashley and Shields. If you’re looking to sprawl, you need to be fast, and you need to move the right thumb-stick away from your opponent when they shoot in.
Sprawling is very fluid in this game, and so far, after ever stuffed shot, the fight usually ends up back on the feet, unlike UFC 2010 where you or your opponent might spin around and end up in guard.
Stage two takes place after you get taken down. After getting planted on your ass, you will end up either in half-guard or full (closed ) guard. Using the right thumb-stick, and flicking it to the left or right, makes you transition. I’ll break it down for you from a defensive stand-point:
- If you’re mounted, and you transition out, you will end up in half guard
- If you’re in half guard, and you transition out, you will end up in closed guard
- If you’re in closed guard, and you transition out, you will reverse your opponent and end up in his closed guard.
Now, when being mounted, you can either transition out like I mentioned above, or you can try to get back to your feet and throw bombs. By pressing down on the left thumbstick, you will give your back to your opponent. Pressing the left thumbstick again will allow you to slip out the "back door" and get to your feet.
All of these moves require stamina, and every time you fail to get out of a bad position, it’s probably because your stamina is drained. Not doing anything will quickly bring your stamina back up, and then you can try again, but watch out because when you rest, you’re open to take more damage from your opponent.
Stage three, is the offensive side of the ground game. After shooting in, and getting a takedown, flicking the right thumb-stick, to your right, moves you into side control. From there, feel free to deliver punches, or knees to the body (which are extremely effective in breaking your opponent down), or, flick it again and move to mount.
When you move to mount, you will instantly be pulled down by your opponent, who obviously doesn’t want to get murked by some mounted ground-and-pound. To break free from this, press down on the left thumb-stick. This will separate the two of you, and will allow you to either throw bombs, or go for a submission, which leads me into the next section.
Submissions are easy as shit to attempt, and even easier to pull off. There are two types of subs in EA’s MMA demo, chokes and locks. Chokes are initiated when you’ve taken the back of your opponent (rear-naked choke), or when sprawling (guillotine).
When you try to pull off a choke, a white circle appear in the middle of your screen, with a red (you) and blue (opponents) bar circling around it. Your goal is to rotate the left thumb-stick until you find the red bar (which will appear and disappear as to make it somewhat of a challenge.
When you find the red bar, your controller will vibrate, and when it starts vibrating, you need to keep hold of that position until you force the tapout. Hopefully I explained it good enough, and if I didn’t, don’t worry, because once you do it you’ll see how easy it is to pull off.
Submission locks (armbars), are a button-mashers wet dream. When you’re in full mount or side control, and you initiate one of these submissions, it simply becomes a battle of who presses the "X" or "B" buttons more effectively. Button-mashing drains stamina, so make sure you pay attention to the stamina gauge, which can be seen in the top left corner of your screen. If you’re out of gas and going for a sub, you’ll either get reversed, or brought back to your feet.
The flow of EA’s MMA is good, and after learning the control layout, and playing twenty or so matches, you will see what I mean. One downside I initially saw was the fact that each round takes five minutes real time, unlike UFC 2010 where five minutes in game equaled a little over two minutes in real time (I think).
They are long rounds, but I think it adds a certain level of immersion that UFC 2010 doesn’t necessarily grant. Flash knockouts in the demo have so far been non-existant, but they’re possible according to the in-game tutorial.
What I do like about the demo, and where I think this game will get some serious props, is the "killer instinct" mentality it carries. I was playing a heavyweight match as Overeem, and after landing some big shots to Lashley’s dome, I sent the "Dominator" to the canvas, pounced on him, did a vintage Wanderlei Silva rape-choke and pounded him out in a few seconds.
It was pretty brutal, and is in my opinion more appealing than the finishes in UFC 2010.
Graphics are great, I think they look much better than the character models in UFC 2010. One downside to this game, which isn’t really a big deal to me personally, is the fact that unlike UFC 2010, the fighters in EA’s MMA don’t have their own unique styles.
Again, this is why I think UFC 2010 is a more effective MMA simulator, but nonetheless, this minor negative doesn’t hinder the potential of the game.
I believe that EA’s MMA is going to do much better than UFC 2010 in terms of reception and sales. The diversity the game offers in terms of locations, venues, rules, and downloadable/online features will force THQ, and the UFC, to drastically re-vamp and improve the way they make their next game.
Fans of fighting, regardless of what type of fighting it is, want diversion. UFC 2010, although offering more intimate and realistic fighting styles that stay loyal to the fighters in-game, doesn’t do much more than that.
Needless to say, I will be playing the shit out of this demo up until the full game comes out on October 19th, and I’m pretty sure EA’s MMA will get my complete attention after that. The only problem I find myself facing is this – When I go to Gamestop to pick up EA’s MMA, should I bring UFC 2010 and trade it in, using whatever I get for it to pay off my pre-order?