|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Kung Fu Factory|
|Pub: 505 Games|
|Release: March 27, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 544p||Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of drugs, Violence|
by Shelby Reiches
The original appeal of MMA came from what the name described: Mixed Martial Arts. Early UFC competitions were more about a meeting of various fighting styles than the conditioning battles of today's productions, the first eight conducted with a tournament bracket that would crown the ultimate winner only after he had fought his way through multiple matches. It was more bloodsport than boxing, with as few rules as possible, no safety equipment to speak of, and a complete lack of weight classes.
Supremacy MMA wants to be a return to this forgotten era, one that the current UFC would like nothing more than to sweep under the rug and leave as ancient history, undisturbed. Whatever your feelings on that decision, or attitude toward UFC head honcho Dana White, I can assure you of one thing: Supremacy MMA for the PlayStation Vita is not the way to relive that past.
We already reviewed the console versions, but the Vita version of the game, dubbed with the extremely ill-fitting subtitle of "Unrestricted," contains a few new features and fighters. These new fighters represent Jeet Kun Do and "Kung Fu" by way of Novell Bell, "The Black Taoist." His website cites experience in multiple classical styles of Chinese martial arts, as well as in modern San Shou competition. He cannot save this train-wreck of a game.
The new touch controls don't, either. They relegate all actual combat to the touchscreen and rear touchpad in extremely awkward combinations, but still require one to move the left stick to navigate the ring or choose between strike heights. It's both unintuitive and obscenely unresponsive; in the end, it's best not to bother and just look to the face buttons for your mashing needs (and you will be mashing, but not for the reasons you'd expect). Shaking the system when the adrenaline bar is full does, as advertised, activate rage mode. So there's that.
The core fighting action, though, is atrocious. It feels muddy and stiff, with tremendous delay on each and every input. It's almost impossible to tell which button press caused which movement from a fighter, so strategic attack quickly goes out the window. It's based on the same basic idea as Dead or Alive, with individual buttons for punch, kick, grapple, and parry. Parrying is only divided between high and low, though, which makes it absurdly easy to counter all strikes (except leg kicks, which do negligible damage to a standing opponent). The computer will spam this. It will spam this even in the tutorial mode, which doesn't actually give you a chance to try out your techniques.
What's strangest about the fighting engine, perhaps, is that all fighters have a full arsenal of strikes, throws, and submissions regardless of style. Things look different, but all fighters play more or less the same, with their style determining whether they do more damage through striking or grappling. Grappling is absurdly easy in this game, though, with a basic takedown demolishing a sizable chunk of the opponent's health bar. There is no reason to play as a striking style, unless you're a masochist. Notably, the A.I. pretty much limits itself by its fighter's style. Strikers will hit you a lot; grapplers will initiate takedowns until you're dead. Oh, you can counter them (if your timing is very good; the window is much tighter than on strikes), but it's kind of moot since the computer will just parry your follow-up strike (grappling styles, by the way, automatically counter with takedowns).
It ends up feeling segmented, as it's all too easy to see the seams between the various systems at work. As you input commands and the fighters act, they are forced, by each action, to transition from state to state; there's nothing organic about it, no fluidity. It doesn't convey the illusion of realistic combat or even human motion. You'll catch yourself pounding the buttons not to fire off a rapid stream of attacks, but in hopes that something akin to what you're trying to do will actually happen at some point, on screen. It's all very stiff and awkward. Sadly, that's also a good description for the graphics.
Yes, the graphics—the best part of the console versions of the game—are inexcusably bad. Everything is washed out and blurry, with flat textures and dull lighting. There's the occasional blood-spray, but the brutal bruising of the console versions is wholly absent, and the fighters are barely distinguishable from one another in appearance. Bones still break when a fighter is knocked out, but since they look like mannequins anyway, it carries none of the impact or gross-out factor of the console original.