Recently, the award winning “Madden Football” video game series has been receiving a great deal of credit for introducing fans to the X’s and O’s side of the game. Anyone who plays the game can tell you the difference between cover two and three deep coverage.

The same thing has happened with skateboarding thanks to the “Tony Hawk” series. A sport once reserved for stoners and slackers is now understood by millions of video gamers. It would not be out of place at all to hear a few prepsters arguing over the quality of a switchfoot pogo.

Last week EA Sports launched their demo for “EA Sports MMA.” Could this game and the “UFC Undisputed” series do the same thing for MMA?

Personally I am terrible at video games. Once in college, I tried to play “Halo” and spent two hours so lost people were not even shooting me. So, to discuss the game, I enlisted the services of an old friend. Brad Behles is an avid gamer who has played everything from “Def Jam Vendetta” to some Japanese game in which you roll around a giant snowball. He is also an Information Technology graduate student and freelance video game blogger.

Mann Talk: Let’s get to it. What was your first impression of the demo?
Behles: How do I put this? My first impression of the demo is that the game is average at best.

Mann Talk: So, what bothered you about it?
Behles: Control and presentation are really where that game falters. Strikes and kicks are mapped to the right analog stick, while clinching and takedowns are aligned to the button layout.

I can see how using the analog stick to simulate strikes and kicks could be innovative, but when the analog stick doesn’t seem to register a jab from a uppercut, it just becomes a mindless rapid moving the analog stick in random directions praying that something will register.

I don’t understand. If the button layout works fine, why change to a different layout when punching and striking? From my experiences playing against the AI, almost every match started with the AI immediately going for a clinch or takedown. It never tried to give a second thought to try to win the standing game.

I imagine that they wanted to modify the “Fight Night” controls to include the ground game mechanics into the game.

Mann Talk: How were the visual aspects like the characters and movements?
Behles: Out of the four characters that you can play in the demo, Jake Shields, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Bobby Lashley and Alistair Overeem, I’ll give EA Sports points for resembling each fighter.

The animation is solid and fluid. However, I noticed that there was more detail in character models when viewing the replay of the finishing move. I also found that each fighter rarely showed any emotion at all, with the exception Overeem’s victory scene.

Mann Talk: Did you know Overeem eats tons of horsemeat?
Behles: Well, that explains that.

Mann Talk: With these games people always complain about the grappling, how is it here? Do you think video games can develop a realistic and enjoyable grappling system?
Behles: The grappling system, which you will use often, relies on button commands. However, I found a steep difficulty curve when playing on any mode higher than easy. When trying to change positions in a clinch or on the ground, the AI appeared to instantly counter or deny your efforts. Plus, even attempting moves diminishes your stamina bar. In the end, your character can be left helpless.

The player must rely on quick sudden gestures by the AI in order to counter their takedown or change position. The majority of players will not notice and quickly be taken down or submitted.

I would give the grappling system a B-. The simple button layout is a plus, yet I found myself in multiple situations wanting to change positions or go for a submission. Instead, I ended up standing back up.

Mann Talk: Tell me about the game’s tutorial.
Behles: They start out on the main menu with MMA 101. It is an already predetermined fight between Jake Shields and Jason “Mayhem” Miller. As you walk around the ring, little cues will come up explaining button combinations. It gives a nice introduction to the moves. It is set to easy, so basically anything you do works.

Mann Talk: Are there any major problems with the striking?
Behles: To do a kick you have to hold down a trigger, so it will register ‘now I want to kick,’ but it is a lot easier to punch. Often nothing comes out when you try to kick.

I gave up trying to strike. Even the AI goes straight for a clinch of takedown right off the bat.

Mann Talk: Do you think this game will appeal to non-MMA fans? As a gamer would you be interested in purchasing this game?
Behles: From the presentation I get the feeling that they are directing it towards to the sports genre of gamers, like “Madden” or “Fight Night” people.

The Menus are very subdued and plain, unlike “UFC Undisputed 2010,” which has a lot more flash and pizzazz.

The one thing I notice when I look at the box art is that there is a big logo of “EA Sports MMA.” The name EA sports mean the prominent figure in sports game. I guess they want to show that the people behind “Madden” and “Tiger Woods” have made an MMA game. That should appeal to fans of sports games.

Mann Talk: Is there anything else you want to add before I let you go?
Behles: Sure. The audience or crowd does not even seem to notice when the fighters make their entrance. The crowd just continues doing its motions. Fighters are strutting out, fireworks are going off and the crowd isn’t even paying attention to them. No wonder the fighters look emotionless, no one is watching them.

2 thoughts on “Mann Talk – A gamer’s view of EA Sports MMA”
  1. I agree with this assessment. I played the demo and was highly unimpressed. Having said that, it is EA’s first shot at an MMA game, so hopefully it will keep improving and get up to par with their other sports games. Also, I’m hoping in the full version the player is able to change punching controls from right analog stick to buttons as it does not work very well with the numerous MMA strikes. This is a feature that can be done in the Fight Night boxing games, so hopefully this will have it too.

  2. Wow.

    I can’t wait to check out the game myself.

    I follow Jason High on twitter and he said this game is 100 times better than UFC Undisputed.

    Interesting how different the opinions are here.

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