Inside Pulse 12

Review: World of Mixed Martial Arts 3 (PC)

World of Mixed Martial Arts 3
Publisher: Grey Dog Software
Developer: Grey Dog Software
Genre: Sports Management Sim
Release Date: 12/11/2010

Disclaimer: I want to clue you in on a few things before you read this review. First off, I am a very active member of the Grey Dog Software community, less so now than in years past, but I still poke my head in from time to time. Secondly, I have played Adam Ryland’s games for a very long time. How long? I was playing his wrestling sims when they didn’t even have pictures of the wrestlers. So long ago that there was still a WCW and no one could figure out if Erin Bray was a guy or a gal. Thirdly, I have corresponded in the past with Adam and consider him an acquaintance. Basically, what I am saying is that I am a fanboy, but I will try to keep it in check for this review.

For me, MMA died May 25th, 2007, when Pride FC closed their doors for good. Pride had been the last bastion for the flavor of MMA I enjoyed: big, boisterous, and over the top. UFC always seemed joyless, dank, and small, like a snuff film, not at all like the spectacle of Pride. While watching my favorite Pride fighters get jobbed out in UFC was hard, even harder for me was the knowledge that the simple, magnificent concept of putting two finely honed athletes into a ring to fight was lost on the world. My MMA fandom died that day, as well.

I still love pro wrestling these days, though markedly less and in an assuredly different manner than I did five years ago. As much as I love wrestling, I have loved the games more. Fire Pro, Smackdown, and, most of all, Total Extreme Warfare, have eaten hundreds of hours of my gaming life. A good pro wrestling game trumps any other genre for me. In the back of my mind, however, I have always wanted an MMA game to be good. With the best part of a wrestling game, the fighting, without the worst parts, the plot and contrived moves, a quality MMA game could be a world beater.

The legacy of MMA games is muddy at best. UFC for the Dreamcast was beautiful, for the time, but it was also stiff and boring. Fights often turned into timed button press competitions and were unsatisfying. The last two UFC games were monotonous and still lack the feel of a big fight. Even EA’s attempt at an MMA game lacked the standup game to be enjoyable. After all these misfires, I began to suspect that the speed and danger of MMA ultimately make it impossible to produce a quality simulation. A real time simulation, at least.

When Grey Dog Software announced the first World of MMA, I was uninterested. Yes, Adam Ryland had produced my favorite wrestling series, TEW, but my interest in MMA was at a nadir and there was no reason to bring another management sim into my life. I almost bit on the second title, but a lack of time made it untenable. The third time proved to be the charm, as I have a limited amount of spare time and the desire to take a break from TEW 2010.

Upon loading WMMA3, the first thing I noticed, as a veteran of the TEW series, is the similarity to that series. The menu bar across the top is nearly identical, save one button I will get to in a moment. The stock skin and color scheme is very dark and metal, a notable difference from the brighter wrestling title. While the two games share renders for some fighters, there is a different look for the bulk of them. Nowhere to be found are the cartoonish renders that were so controversial in TEW 2010. Instead, WMMA3 has a number of almost disturbingly detailed warriors, with popping veins and too realistic skin blemishes. The customizable nature of WMMA is important here, as I have no doubt there will be more renders to choose from in the future, if there are not already, and there will assuredly be replacement skins.

The extra button is the Quick Match button. This fun little doohickey allows the player to bypass the limitations of the main game and book a fight between any two fighters they choose and watch the battle play out. Since this is available in the demo, it is a great way for potential players to find out if WMMA3 is the game for them. As with all text based management sims I have reviewed, I have a hard time unequivocally recommending this game without sending the potential player to the demo. The fights are fought via a barebones play by play that calls out the moves as they happen, with notifications for big moves, like takedowns or big strikes. I was rapt as I watched a couple of fights play out in this mode, while I can imagine most people being unimpressed.

The bulk of the game play is pure management sim: hiring and firing fighters, scheduling and booking cards, working the finances, and so on. In this area, WMMA3 is a step up from even my beloved TEW 2010. Contract negotiations have been overhauled and are a battle onto themselves, a game of chicken that is much improved. In fact, every aspect of management and the world at large feels more organic, more alive. Fighters have attitude and egos, even more than the wrestlers of TEW, and they can throw a monkey wrench in your plans, for sure. Unlike a wrestling management sim, there is always the risk of an upset. This alone makes fights more interesting than in TEW.

There are a few things I feel like I need to include, so that anyone who is interested in trying WMMA3 is not caught unawares. First off, there is no music or sound effects of any kind. Seeing as the average player might sink a hundred or more hours into the game and it is easy enough to play music on your PC, I see this as more of a positive than a negative, but it is something you should know. Another thing that cannot be stated enough is that this is a text based simulator, so do not expect any fancy animations or much in the way of graphics, aside from still portraits.

The biggest sticking point I can see for a potential player would be the default data. Like its wrestling cousin, WMMA3 is set in the Cornellverse, a fictional setting similar but subtly different from ours. This means you will be booking fictional fighters working for fictional companies and not the next UFC card. That is not to say that WMMA3‘s default data is bad, per se; quite the opposite, as I love the Cornellverse. Being freed from the reality I live in is a good thing. The promotions are different enough from reality and each other to provide plenty of challenge. There are a variety of promotions and fighters, making the Cornellverse feel very real.

If you absolutely, positively cannot live without real world data, it is out there. A big selling point of any GDS game is the community and WMMA3 is no exception. The GDS message board is full of people who want to help you learn how to play and enjoy the game. Trust me, I would have gone nowhere on this game without a little help from my friends. There are dedicated mod makers producing real world data sets of multiple persuasions, with pics and all. On top of that, there are already new skins to change the look of the game, something I did in a hurry.

Another reason to join the GDS community is because this game is not easy. Not even close to easy, really. I consider myself a veteran of this genre and I still had to consult the help file repeatedly. There is little obvious or simple about WMMA3, for better or worse. In the abstract, I do wish that there was more handholding at times. Perhaps a tutorial is in order? With a few hours of play, the game really opens up and makes sense, which is when WMMA3 really comes to life. If there were a way to get to that point a little faster, I think this game would be much more accessible.

The Scores
Story: Good
Graphics: Below Average
Sound: N/A
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Great
Balance: Good
Originality: Good
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal Factor: Below Average
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
World of MMA 3 is a hard game to love. It is dense, difficult, and demanding, but I loved every second of playing it. It is not a perfect game, nor is it one with wide appeal. I cannot think of anyone I know that would want to play a text based MMA management sim for hours at a time. The beauty of a quality niche title is that it only has to appeal to the people who are willing to work for it. I cannot offer a blanket recommendation, but if my review has not scared you off, download the demo and try it yourself. WMMA3 is a tough road to travel, but once you get going, it could go on as long as you want it to.