|System: PS3, X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Tiburon||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 19, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
MMA is a captivating sport to watch, but as a spectator it's hard to fully appreciate the complexities of the sport: the strategy that goes into every kick, the timing required to get a full mount on an opponent, and the diligence required to avoid attacks and get into that sweet spot where the opponent's weakness can be fully exploited. However, playing EA Sports MMA gives you a window into the nearly-scientific process that MMA fighters go through during a fight and training. And the gameplay experience that results is something extraordinary, especially for MMA fans.
The focus in EA Sports MMA is obviously placed firmly on the game's expansive combat system. Although other MMA titles have definitely played to the strategic aspect of MMA, button mashing has been at least somewhat effective in practice. This hurt the gameplay experience overall, and made the combat system feel shallow when playing opponents who only have a button-mash strategy. However, in EA Sports MMA you have to really pay attention to the controls or you will lose matches very quickly. The controls are compartmentalized in such a way that throwing left and right hooks while in a standing game looks and feels completely different than hammering on the left and right attack while someone is in the ground game. When you start a match, both you and your opponent will be evenly matched, but as you progress you can get them into a clinch, beat them into submission, and of course go for the mount. Although the basics in each of these positions is the same, the way you choose your attacks and go after different body areas will dramatically affect how the match turns out, and the tactics your opponent will use to overtake you. You cannot simply go up to someone and hammer on your favorite attack, as your opponent will likely find an opening in your lackadaisical attacks, and you'll be taken down with relative ease. However, if you go through the proper stances and create your own strategy, you're much likelier to succeed.
The controls themselves are actually split into two different types: button-based and total strike control. The button-based controls are designed for casual/moderate users, and allows the user to tap on the face buttons for simple strikes, while the right thumbstick is used to change stance. This input method works well for those who aren't immediately familiar with fighting mechanics (especially those found in the latest iteration of Fight Night) and want to take a more traditional approach to the combat system.
However, to get the full experience of the game, I heavily recommend mastering the total strike control system, which allows you to control the precise direction, intensity, and style of your strikes using the right thumbstick. The total control system does take some time to master, but the good thing is that the game provides plenty of tutorials for the system, and the directional strikes will feel very natural after a while. The total strike control system also allows you to have greater control when you are changing stances or trying to block specific moves.
Because the combat system is so complex, EA Sports MMA's single player modes all have an extensive training focus. The MMA 101 tutorial mode is very deep and allows you to react in a real-time environment with suggested moves and tactics. However, if you really want to master the combat system, the easiest way to do so is through the game's career mode. Like all good sports-focused career modes, this one starts off with a substantial creation mode, followed by a lengthy tutorial mode which can take nearly an hour to complete. Since the game has quite the learning curve, the game also includes extended training sessions that are spaced out between matches. The extended training sessions are actually a really great vehicle for learning the nuances of the combat system, as they force you to learn the basics and then use advanced techniques which build upon these basics to get a passing grade. And you'll definitely want a passing grade, as the higher you score, the more points you can add to your fighter's stats, which will affect the relative difficulty (or ease) of the next fight.