One of the biggest challenges when trying out a game that belongs to a particular property, such as UFC, MMA, or even something like WWE, is that most of them are built as simulators. What I mean by that is they are constructed primarily for the fans, and random onlookers who may not have much knowledge of the brand are left out of the reindeer games, so to speak. So when Jonathon Widro and I sat down to play Bellator MMA Onslaught, it was refreshing to see a game that doesn’t seek to alienate a potential audience.
If you didn’t catch it by my opening statement, I’ve basically admitted to knowing next to nothing about MMA, or Bellator for that matter. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t sit down and enjoy a game based on those brands so long as it was fun and was something I could get into. I’ve attempted on numerous occasions to get into UFC games, and they just aren’t for me. From what I’ve seen of Bellator MMA Onslaught, it leans on the more arcade style of gameplay while still keeping enough of a simulation intact that it still ties in with the license.
When you choose your fighters (of which there are eight, not including created fighters) and venue, the match begins. As you play, you have to keep an eye on both a health and a stamina meter. When you take abuse from your opponent, the health goes down, and you with it should it run empty. Stamina, on the other hand, will recharge on its own if you stand still a bit. Every action you make will drain stamina, so you can’t just come out the gate swinging endlessly, otherwise you’ll be too tired to defend yourself. If you’re left in a state where the stamina is completely drained, your opponent can easily knock you out with one blow. You can also engage in a series of grapples or submissions in which to subdue your opponent. Learning how to block and counter both situations felt very intuitive and wasn’t as daunting as, say, the UFC titles I had played previously.
Aside from the stable of already existing fighters, you do have the option to create your own (of which there are slots for four). Not only can you customize their appearance, but also each individual ability they have at their disposal, which you can come back and modify at any time. And you’ll likely want to, as your created fighter can earn experience which can be traded for more advanced maneuvers for your fighter. You don’t have to retire your fighter at any point either, so if you build up a good rhythm with your stable of personal concoctions, you don’t have to worry about parting with them.
I have to say, I was impressed to hear that this was going to be a downloadable title, as despite the low roster count, the amount of features seem fit for a full fledged retail game. Championship Road, Super Fight, and online ranked matches are just a few of the things waiting for players in the game at launch. Not only that, but 345 Games has stated that they will be listening for player feedback, and will add content that is highly requested among fans. Hopefully by hovering in the middle ground between arcade and simulation, this title will win itself fans from both camps rather than alienate them. We’ll find out this summer when Bellator MMA Onslaught releases for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.