First off, I’d like to say that I completely expected to just hate this game. I was already angry about the very existence of it, because I’m about as big of an MMA nerd as I am a video game nerd. To see MMA evolve past the stereotype of human cock-fighting and then have a game that looks exactly like human cock-fighting filled me with impotent nerd rage. I felt that this game would probably set the sport back with having broken limbs flopping all over the place.
After trying the game, though, I realized my inner video game nerd was stronger than my inner MMA nerd, because no matter how people view Supremacy MMA, I had a hell of a fun time playing it.
The game stars Jens Pulver and a number of other real MMA fighters, some unknown and some up and coming MMA fighters. I was told that there would be 12 fighters, 2 female fighters, and two pre-order bonus fighters. This number pales dramatically to the number of announced fighters in UFC Undisputed 3 (150!), and is closer to the number found in fighting games, which is what the developers kept saying this game should be compared to.
You know what though? Screw that noise, I’m going to compare it to the UFC Undisputed games. The developers shouldn’t be concerned about that, because I personally think that the game compares favorably, even when held against the UFC video games. Sure, there are significantly less fighters, but in some ways Supremacy embraces more of the early days of MMA, before the term Mixed Martial Arts existed and it was just no-holds-barred fights between people who specialized in a specific type of martial art. In Supremacy the 12 fighters all had just one specialty listed for their fighter, and during the course of a fight this gave the character specific advantages or disadvantages.
For example, I choose a Muay Thai fighter against a Jujitsu fighter. My fighter could throw kicks and elbow combinations and had some show stopping special kicks. The Jujitsu fighter the developer chose took me down and was able to try to work for a submission. When I got out of the submission and passed to a dominant position I was able to drop elbows but not actually go for a submission myself. I got up, and back on our feet, the developer hadn’t instructed me to do so, but I thought I’d see if I could clinch. As a Muay Thai fighter, I could clinch, and there were devastating elbow/knee combos that I could do from the position.
Trying two different fighters was the same. Boxing versus Judo turned into striking versus throws. Each character was different and had their own set of moves, advantages and disadvantages. Sure UFC Undisputed 3 will have 150 fighters, but if it’s anything like the last one, then it will really feel like 15 fighters who have been copy/pasted ten times each without the level of individuality presented in Supremacy MMA.
While UFC Undisputed 3 is moving towards a less complex system, Supremacy has an extremely easy system to be able to pick up and play. One button for punches, one for kicks, one for grappling, one for parrying strikes. Left stick is for blocking and movement, up to block high, down to block low. The trigger buttons activated a mode where you could do more powerful attacks that used up a meter, and the L1 button could be used separately for a quick boost during submissions, for both offense and defense at the expense of that same meter. I didn’t catch the name of that meter, but it built up with successful strikes, throws and so on. Passing and ground movement didn’t require any half circles or button presses. You’d just press the direction you wished to pass with the left joystick.
Within minutes of being handed the controller I was able to have a very fun back and forth match with the developer. This was less on skill and more on how easy it was to understand the controls, as well as the balance of the game. Balanced gameplay seems like a big deal for these guys; you’re not going to see anything like auto-block in this game, or one fighter have quicker punching animations so that they’re better than anyone else. Here, if you are a Boxer facing a Judo fighter, and you land strikes more often, if the Judo guy manages to take you to the ground and tries a submission then you will have built up energy in that meter mentioned earlier to give you a boost to get out of it. So even if you aren’t a submission based fighter, fighting well will help you counter one who is. As a Judo guy you can clinch, and the other guy will assume you want to throw them. You can throw some knees to get them to block the strikes and then throw them.
So instead of having a lot of similar fights with similar fighters, each time you use one fighter against another it will feel fresh. Some of my favorite fights in UFC Undisputed happened as back and forth battles, and with how balanced Supremacy MMA is, I can see those kind of battles happening, and more often.
That’s not even getting into the animation. In the video demonstration of UFC Undisputed 3, guys were getting kneed in the face on the ground without their head even snapping back. In Supremacy MMA, every move looks painful. A mix of mo-cap and hand drawn animation results in some of the most brutal animations you will see outside of Mortal Kombat. At the end of a fight both fighters look will like they’ve been in a car accident. Head stomps don’t look painful, they look like they just killed the other fighter.
Submission moves are even better. None of this two icons chasing each other in a circle bullshit. It’s wiggling (not shining) the right joystick back and forth faster. Getting it doesn’t automatically end the fight, it just damages the limb. Now if the other fighter is hurt and you lock a submission on and turn on the mode where you do extra damage, you might not just make them tap out, you might just snap that limb in two.
Oh, and despite what I said about how I was concerned over the level of violence in the game making a mockery of the sport of MMA, the first time I pulled off an insane move like that just felt awesome.
So sure, Supremacy MMA might have less fighters, but I’d rather have a tightly balanced, viciously violent, and easy to pick up and play game. After playing a few matches with those guys all I wanted was to play a few more matches. They have at least one person sold on this game and I look forward to seeing what the final product will look like later this year.