Review: EA MMA (Microsoft Xbox 360)

EA MMA
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Genre: Sports
Release Date: 10/19/2010

EA Sports has long been the recognized leader in sports games. Madden is an institution, Tiger Woods swings a mean stick for them and they make buckets of money. According to Dana White, EA didn’t show him much love, so he took his game elsewhere. The big question going into the release of EA MMA was if it’s in the game, it’s in the game, but what happens when the biggest stars in the game aren’t in the game? This may be where EA suffers the most.

EA MMA includes some recognizable and historic fighters, including Randy Couture, Fedor, Bob Sapp and Nick Diaz, among others. The fatal flaw is that while many hardcore MMA fans will recognize and purchase this game due to the novelty of having these men to fight with, the casual gamer will quench their thirst with UFC Undisputed. Think of it as WWE vs. TNA, only EA is too afraid to say “Strikeforce” on their cover.

The game itself is actually very well done. There are your basic modes such as Fight Now and Career. Fight Now is what it says it is: pick two guys, pick the rules and arena and get it on. Big John McArthy is one of the refs, so be prepared to hear that. Career turns into a somewhat convoluted storyline where you work your way up from amateur to the big leagues, in this case Strikeforce and fictional company Mystic. Your main trainer is Bas Rutten, so watch your liver.

The career mode plays out with you fighting some cans to become a professional fighter. You will then fight about 4 or 5 fights in your first lower ranked pro league before winning their title. In all of my fights I was able to submit my opponent within 2 minutes. At that point I figured I was the most amazing fighter to ever pick up a controller. In between fights you train for 8 weeks, reaching out to other camps such as Xtreme Couture and Miletich. Don’t really worry about the money aspect, as I’m convinced it was just for show. It has to be said that going through these camps time and time again just gets ridiculous. After completing all training the thought of going back for kicks isn’t fun at all. However you can simulate the training if you feel like it. Regardless, either way is time consumption better spent on actual fights. The load times for some of these things get into ridiculous areas as well.

After winning the title in your first fight league, you are made an immediate offer to jump up in rank and status, which you obviously take. Walking into my new league with all the swagger of a 5-0 champion, I got wrecked in my first fight. Be aware, the learning curve is sharp in this game. Again, you make your motions and win the title before jumping to either Strikeforce or Mystic. I chose Strikeforce as I hate fiction. This is where EA MMA jumps the shark for me.

Upon joining the “big leagues” of Strikeforce, I am fed tomato cans, some of which are 0-3 or 1-4, which raises the question: Why in the blue hell didn’t I just start here? Thanks a bunch, Bas Rutten. After mowing through these guys all of sudden EA MMA looks at me through my screen and goes “Havin’ fun bitch!? Good! Heeeeeeere’s FEDOR!” Which provokes a simple head into coffee table reaction from me. Again, EA plays a sly trick on me as I proceed to dominate Fedor and win the title. On top of the world, I proceed to lose my next 3 fights to Overeem, Rogers and Overeem again. To say the career mode has an even balance is to say a drunk at a bar can walk a straight line.

However it plays out for you, you retire after roughly 40 fights. And when you retire, your character stares at you while the credits role behind him. That’s it. Nothing more. No pyro. No confetti. Nothing. This plays into what I like to call the EA Sports “EAT IT” finale. EA Sports always has the worst possible endings to all of their sports games. The pomp and circumstance is equivalent to a middle school dance. It sucks.

This isn’t to say the game isn’t fun. You do find yourself getting psyched and challenging yourself to do better and get your controls down so you can advance properly. The control scheme itself is a little wonky, as locking in a submission makes you look for a “sweet spot” with your left toggle stick that sometimes just doesn’t seem to be there. In addition, punching and/or kicking should be reserved for a trigger button. The right toggle stick just doesn’t seem to do the proper job as to what you’re looking for and a convoluted “swing the toggle” system for uppercuts that seemingly requires surgical precision can get frustrating. The ground controls, however, are very smooth and really work best when you’re properly managing your stamina. Stamina plays a HUGE part in this game, so keep it in check kids.

Creating your character is a paint by numbers that doesn’t really do anything to stand out. There is a definite lack of choices for trunks and shirts, as I’m sure there weren’t as many large scale sponsors for this game as opposed to UFC: Undisputed. My character was completely ugly but had a body cut from granite. In many ways, this is just like everything you come across in these kinds of games, be it wrestling, MMA or even MLB. You make the characters jacked and you wonder how ugly the guys in the studio are that they bring that kind of hate upon you.

Looking at online multiplayer, one can choose to have straight up matches versus another player online (Problem: Couldn’t find anyone to play with) and a cool new feature is having full on fight cards between different players, with commentary from people at EA. It’s a fun twist that could serve as a community builder for the game. The community is where the main issues lay for this game. Once again, the competition between EA: MMA and UFC: Undisputed completely kills the replayability of this game outside of running through the career mode on every weight class if you so choose. This is because people are naturally gravitating to the UFC because of their brand awareness. This leaves a small community for EA: MMA that will whittle down more and more as it becomes impossible to find a game to play online. Case in point: I’ve tried to play online 12 times. This game was released a week ago. I couldn’t get a match. That’s scary and doesn’t bode well for the online future of this game. Additionally, EA’s brand new “Online Pass” is included in this game. Memo to EA: Make me input the code when I go to multiplayer. There is nothing quite as frustrating as opening a package, getting ready to play and not only having to run an update on the game but also input a code just to get started. This continues and you could call your brand EA: Fort Knox.

Graphically the game is well done, especially considering they were pretty much tasked with creating entire fake companies and fighters. The camps you visit are sometimes based in far off places and the “world” they are in is built to put you into that mode mentally. Sound wise the game leaves something to be desired. Music cuts in and out and the announcers can get down right annoying as they always seem a step behind the fight or watching something completely different. For instance, my first loss was by TKO. During my next fight the announcers were talking about how I was known as Mr. TKO because I lost my last 3 fights by TKO. They’re friggin’ lying or the sound is poorly done. I landed an overhand right to hear “NOW HE’S GOT FULL MOUNT!” No I don’t… at all.

Overall EA: MMA is a decent try at penetrating the world of Mixed Martial Arts that suffers from a lack of awareness and overall gameplay that is a step behind their closest competitor. The main question one should have would be “Why should I get this game instead of UFC: Undisputed?” The answer to that question is probably not something that EA wants to hear. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind hearing from Dana White this time, though.

The Scores
Story: Decent
Graphics: Good
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Decent
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Decent
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME

Short Attention Span Summary

How much does Randy Couture or Fedor mean to you? When choosing between EA: MMA and UFC: Undisputed that is what really matters. The two games are pretty similar but EA: MMA lags a slight step behind their rival. None the less, it is a fun sprawl and brawl game that has its cool moments. However, your main point of concern when getting ready to shell out sixty dollars should be how much you like the two mentioned above and do you really want to choose the red headed stepchild? Maybe when it hits a bargain bin during the holidays.

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