EA recently held an event to promote their new game EA Sports MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) in London. The event was held at London Shootfighters MMA Gym, home of many of the top MMA fighters in the country. At the event was the Producer, Nick Laing, along with several top BAMMA fighters including Mark Adams (Featherweight Champ), Ash Grimshaw and Alex Reid (aka Big Brother winner and Katie Price’s Hubbie). Joe went along to the event to have a look at the game, which will be available on October 22nd. Also look out for the demo available from 28th September.
The day started off badly due to the ill-timed London tube strikes, which put the event into a little disarray and ruined my chances of having a head to head with Alex Reid. I did, however get a personal tutorial and a nice chinwag about the game and MMA from the Producer, Nick Laing. Nick was very clear about how he wanted to handle the gameplay in EA Sports MMA, to properly represent the depth of the sport. It’s not all about sweaty men straddling each other.
Nick took me through the main controls and tactics. Movement is, as expected, handled with the left stick. Something that I’m very thankful for is the inclusion of ‘total punch control’, carried over from the Fight Night series. If you don’t know what total punch control is then you are missing out. Gestures with the right stick are used to control the power of punches; a forward flick to jab, rolling the stick from bottom to top to hook left or right and straight up the middle for an uppercut. It’s easier to do than explain. Holding the left trigger will allow you to use kicks instead of punches.
MMA, however, is not kickboxing and those who only know how to strike won’t win many fights. Many MMA fights in reality and in the game are decided on the ground. Press A (Xbox360)/X (PS3) and your fighter will perform a take-down, similar to a rugby tackle, and mount your opponent ready to pound them into the ground or wrestle them into submission using arm/leg/head locks.
When on the ground the attacker can try to get into a good position using the A/X button and then either strike using the right analogue stick or use X/Square to attempt a submission. During a submission the success of your attack or defence depends not on how fast you can bash a button but how well you can control your fighter’s stamina. If you try to apply your full strength too quickly you won’t be able to keep hold of your opponent as you will run out of steam. The same stands for the one being attacked. Flailing around will drain your energy and you will be tapping out in no time. Stamina is something you have to keep your eye on from the start because going out swinging for the fences will also tire you out. If you are taken to the ground you’ll need all your strength.
One innovative mechanic that’s been introduced is the ability to “feel the fight”, as EA put it. When your opponent is tensing to make a move on the ground the controller will rumble giving you a natural heads up that will quickly become part of your muscle memory while playing and allow you to defend accordingly. This is more natural than trying to spot the change in on screen animations and it adds to the depth of the experience.
After beating me in the first couple of fights I got used to the controls. I chose a fighter with great submissions and stamina Shinya Aoki and Nick chose Frank Trigg who is better suited to staying on his feet. I managed to win a couple of fights this time because he just couldn’t catch me before I took him to the ground and put him into all sorts of sexy, yet painful positions. In a later match I managed to beat Aoki using Nick Diaz using only boxing skills and escaping from take-downs. The tactics are well balanced between the different styles of all the fighters.
The graphics were looking pretty good on the build I got to play but they are still working on the game. The most important things are that the framerate was slick, the animations are good and the characters look like who they are supposed to be. I also liked the addition of x-ray close ups on joints during joint submissions to show the bones and muscles under pressure. It looks pretty cool and the movement of the camera closer into the action adds to the feeling of intensity in these moments.
Although I only got the chance to sample simple one on one fighting, here are some of the features that are going to be part of the game:
- Career Mode – Train around the globe with top MMA trainers like Randy Couture, Pat Miletich, Rickson Gracie and Bas Rutten. Visit gyms in Japan, Brazil, Thailand and the United States to learn new skills and techniques. Choose what techniques you want to improve and then go out and perform the actual drills to improve your skills. Bring your created fighter up through the ranks to attempt to make one of biggest stages in mixed martial arts – STRIKEFORCE. No career mode will ever be the same, ensuring a unique experience each and every time.
- Fight on a Live Broadcast – Once selected by an EA SPORTS promoter, you will have the opportunity to have your online fight broadcast viewed by gamers all around the world via the console or web! EA SPORTS Live Broadcast is one of the new and highly innovative online features for EA SPORTS MMA. Create your fighter, produce your hype video and get noticed by an EA SPORTS promoter and fight for real world prizes and online fame! In addition, your fight will feature live commentary calling every move!
- Create a Fighter/Fighter Share – Put yourself into the world of MMA training and fighting and begin your quest to become a champion! Upload photos of yourself or others and use Photo Game Face to create your own, personalized roster of fighters. Display and share these create-a-fighters via Fighter Share by uploading and browsing other created fighters. In addition, through Fighter Share players can download and try out any fighters!
- Customize Your Own Fight Card – Become a fight promoter and set up a night of fights with your friends. With the ability to host four fights per card with up to 10 people connected, you can challenge each other to fights, talk trash and provide your own commentary.
- Belt Race – Fighting online allows you to earn experience and level up through the belt ranks so everyone can see your skill and dedication. In addition, you will gain contender points which will earn you a shot at a STRIKEFORCE championship bout where you can win an online belt and take on all challengers to defend your title.
- EA SPORTS MMA will feature a vast array of fighters in its roster, including world class fighters Fedor Emelianenko and Randy Couture. MMA legends Frank Shamrock and Dan Henderson, as well as international stars Shinya Aoki and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza showcase global variety. Every fighter will use their distinct style and fight like their real-life counterparts.
EA Sports MMA is shaping to be a great alternative to THQ’s UFC Unleashed series and I can’t wait to get my hands on the final product, which will be releasing on October 22nd. It will be interesting to see how the EA Sports brand stacks up against the UFC name.