It’s no surprise that with the success of THQ’s “UFC Undisputed 2009” last year that other companies would also want to get in on the MMA video game racket.
One year later enter EA Sports, the company that produces such hits as the Madden and NHL series, with their take on the MMA fighting game, simply named EA Sports: MMA.
Giving his impressions to MMAWeekly.com on EA’s take on MMA and whether or not the game can survive not only against it’s THQ UFC branded rival, but also the slew of top releases coming out this holiday season, is Blair Herter of G4 Television’s X-Play series.
“Overall I think EA Sports: MMA is a respectable entry into this genre,” said Herter. “I applaud their embracing of the global appeal of this sport and all their efforts to represent it in this game.”
Herter feels that EA’s game succeeds best in its career mode, where a player-generated fighter can actually learn and develop MMA skills by visiting various locations, including actual MMA teams such as Xtreme Couture, and thus also educate the player on the nuances of the sport.
“You’d think that with the UFC license allowing THQ to reach a broader audience, Undisputed should have been the game to educate the great unwashed masses on MMA,” commented Herter. “However, I think EA Sports: MMA did a better job of breaking each style down to its core components and slowly introducing the player to them.”
While top gaming site Kotaku gives EA Sports: MMA the overall edge to its THQ counterpart, Herter feels that the Undisputed series succeeds on a critical aspect of gaming.
“THQ made a more accessible, pick-up-and-play experience, and in today’s ‘I’ve only got six minutes to play’ world,” he stated, “that’s very important to focus on during the development of the game.”
Where EA Sports: MMA really shines in Herter’s mind is how the game’s combat mechanics makes for a much more strategic and less arcade-style experience.
“The offensive aspects of the game, both stand-up and on the ground, require much more than just typical fighting game button mashing and personally, I’m a fan,” he said. “I like the ‘find the sweet spot in the circle’ aspect of certain submissions and the ‘stamina vs. stamina’ element of others. It makes me feel like I’m actually on the ground figuring out a way to work through my opponent’s defense.”
While gameplay news is good, sales figures since the game’s release have been below expectations to the tune of 70,000 copies sold in its first week of release.
When asked if the release date so close to many AAA titles along with the lack of a UFC license lead to such low numbers, Herter replied, “I think the numbers speak for themselves on this one.
“We’ve have had many a conversation about whether or not having the UFC license is important and, clearly, the answer is yes.”
Herter further commented, “EA did a great job of offering up a gameplay experience different from THQ’s product and it didn’t matter. Apparently, people want to play as recognizable athletes. I’m very interested in where they go from here, assuming they even want to make another game.”
With THQ locking up the UFC license until 2018, it could be an insurmountable mountain for EA to climb should they choose to continue the MMA series.
However, competition breeds innovation, and if MMA fans want to see more realistic games with improved graphics and controls, it’s imperative that EA not give up the fight just yet. They proved with their game that the bar can be raised, and should they continue to compete with THQ, MMA gaming fans will be all the better for it.