EA Sports MMA Hands-On

We wrap our gloves around the controller and find out what it takes to choke an opponent out in EA's new fighter.

A lot of competitors can talk a good game, but the true test of a fighter is how he performs in the ring. We have heard a lot about EA Sports MMA, from the developer’s goals when crafting the game to detailed descriptions about the controls, but it wasn’t until yesterday at the EA3 event that we were able to take the Xbox 360 controller and step into the ring. Read on for our impressions of how the controls feel, as well as more details on how submissions are handled (hint: frantic button mashers need not apply).

As described in our updated impressions, the controls are extrapolated from those of Fight Night Round 4. Strikes are mapped to the right analog stick: flick forward for a jab, pop out to the side and rotate a quarter-circle forward for a hook, and tap two opposite diagonal directions (back and forward) for an uppercut. If you hold the left trigger, all strikes become kicks. Jabs are leg kicks, hooks become body shots, and uppercuts turn into roundhouses. Of course, all these strikes are subject to slight variation given your individual fighter, but they are easy to pull off and they animate well. Whipping out quick combos of punches and kicks will come naturally to anyone who has played recent Fight Night games, and newcomers need only quick thumbs to make themselves a force to be reckoned with.

The left trigger is just one of the modifiers in play. Holding the left shoulder button turns any strike into a feint, allowing you to work some deception into your repertoire. Holding the right trigger brings up your guard, significantly reducing the damage you take from any punches or kicks. If you want to be more active in your defensive strategy, you can flick the right stick left or right while your guard is up to parry a blow on the left or right side of your body. Successful parries give you an opening to counterattack, which might be as brief as an arm lingering just out of position or as significant as a stumble. Moving the left stick while blocking allows you to lean your torso to avoid strikes, a move Fight Night veterans will be very familiar with.

Using our index and middle fingers to activate these modifiers while moving, striking, and blocking with our thumbs came quite naturally. The control scheme is straightforward, allowing a diverse range of maneuvers while remaining relatively uncomplicated. While tougher hits landed with significant audible and visual impact, fighters often appeared unfazed by quicker, lighter blows. This could be meant to reflect the fighters' discipline and focus, but we couldn't help but wish that hits landed with a little more oomph. Of course, the game is still in development and the build we played was far from finished, so there's no telling how a punch will sound down the road. We were impressed by the character models, who, in addition to looking quite like their real-life counterparts, had well-animated musculature that made it seem like powerful forces were at work.

Yet even the most formidable fighting abilities are governed by stamina, an element that plays a huge role in EA Sports MMA. Throwing (and taking) punches and kicks will wear down your stamina, especially if you are on the receiving end of an unblocked strike. Putting your guard up drastically decreases the stamina you lose, and avoiding the action for a few moments can give you a window to recharge. While your stamina does regenerate, your meter can decrease over time, especially if you take too many body blows. Diminished stamina doesn't necessarily put you at greater risk for a knockout, as damage is measured separately in three different areas: head, gut, and legs. However, low stamina means you can't strike as effectively, and it puts you at even greater risk when the fight goes to ground.

A simple tap of the A button is all you need to take your opponent to the mat. Press A again and you'll advance to a more advantageous position on top of your opponent. That is, if your opponent doesn't rebuff your attempt. A timely press of the B button is all your foe needs to resist your maneuver, but it isn't as easy as that. The defender's timing depends on his response, a telltale controller rumble that mimics the attacker tensing his muscles to make a move. However, if the defender is busy blocking or trying to make a move of his own, he may not be able to respond in time. This system relies heavily on timing, and in the middle of heated bouts it was tricky to get a handle on all the factors at play. The relatively simple building blocks made it easy to know how to perform moves, but mastering the timing is another challenge altogether.

On foot, EA Sports MMA feels much like Fight Night 4; on the ground, it's an entirely different matter.

Timing is also key when you are trying to submit your opponent. By tapping the X button you can attempt a submission, and you'll soon see an X-ray silhouette of the joint in question. As you tap a button and apply pressure to, say, your opponent’s shoulder, the bones grow red, indicating that a submission is near. Meanwhile, your opponent is tapping a button to resist, causing the image to grow whiter and fainter the closer he gets to freedom. Once again, the key is stamina. Each button press takes stamina, and if your meter runs out first, you will be powerless to resist or press the submission. Tap the button frantically, and you’ll soon exhaust your stamina pool. These struggles play out at a brisk yet strategic pace, as both players try to maximize their stamina use to achieve their goals.

Chokehold submissions play out slightly differently. Rather than button prompts, a large circle appears in the center of the screen. You then tilt your analog stick in the direction of the moving prompt, hoping to match its position better than your opponent and emerge victorious. Nimble thumbs and quick reflexes will win the day here, though stamina plays a part as well, allowing tougher players to hang in longer.

Both submission systems seemed geared toward timing rather than speed, meaning that your fate on the mat is not tied to your brute twitching strength. These different challenges create their own kind of tension, and by the end of our session we had weathered some fraught contests. EA Sports MMA is endeavoring to lay down relatively simple fundamentals that nonetheless allow for subtlety and eventual mastery, and so far things are looking good. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more big news from this fresh entry in the MMA ring.

Written By

With his Apple IIGS as the spark and his neighbor's NES the fuel, Chris Watters' passion for gaming caught fire early. Y

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Discussion

66 comments
HomicideLegend
HomicideLegend

What im gonna love the most about this game is gonna be stopming on peoples heads like the good old days of mma ( Shogun jumping on peoples heads , or Cro Cop soccer kicks people ) I cant say i hate UFC undisputed but i can say i think EA MMA will be my pick

biskutsngravee
biskutsngravee

I and most of you haters owe EA an apology ,majority of people complain about everything they make.The fact is there games are just better than the rest of their compitition.ufc undisputed 2010 is terrible MMA is gonna crush it.Backbreaker is terrible(great new look on football but sucks)and all i hear is how bad EA is(true there has been nothing new on madden sinceit came to the next gen but F it its fun.If EA would just find someway to limit the cheaters and glitchers there games would be probaly the most fun out there.

Austin096
Austin096

i wish they make like a fight 2 death mode. it sure would be cooler 2 play.

jenguando
jenguando

I have always felt UFC Undisputed controls were horrid and clunky.The physics were horrible in the demo. EA are so much better at making sports game.I hope they polish this game up and make the punches have more weight to them.Then it will be gold.

watch2
watch2

honestly i believe EA might actually make a better mma game than THQ still dont mean i will buy it for the used games were you have to pay extra money

vienem
vienem

Dana is too stuck up his own A** to let EA make a UFC title game now. Cant believe they used THQ, Did he even see there wrestling games? lol EA is king at these type of games and no doubt this will be better then UFC 2010 (well the bar wasnt set very high to begin with haha)

Giflow
Giflow

Animations seem more realistic and smoother than Undisputed,Character model's skin looks more realistic can't really figure out why.Don't really like punches and kicks mapped to a stick though ,hope they have a option to reconfigure that,but EA's more detailed ratings like hand and kick speed,punch accuracy and etc is the hook for me,it seems more like a MMA fight simulator than Undisputed(too arcadey)i wish EA will do a UFC game in the future .

hockeyfreak611
hockeyfreak611

omg...I dont know what to think.it looks really good actually way better than I expected,but why is the striking SO SLOW!? im hoping its just because its an early build,no fight night game was this slow this looks like slow motion.if they fix the striking speed I will be all over this.

madbigj78
madbigj78

stick to fifa ,nhl ,nba and madden nfl latest fight night was crap and this no doubt just as crap trying to cash in on ufc hype no deal!!!

jakcul
jakcul

This game is looking pretty good. I like UFC but this game is definatley going to give it a run for its money. I like how the submissions are sounding better than the whole rotate the stick faster bit.

Brentsta007
Brentsta007

How can you say Unidsputed is better? Its like Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots with a fighter's skin

Seifer-fx
Seifer-fx

UFC looks the better game, but MMA has some of the best fighters, Fedor, Dan Henderson , Randy etc...love to be using them in UFC 2010. Oh well create a fighter here i come :)

nwbsdapwner1174
nwbsdapwner1174

contracts420 i agree, i hate people who say they are mma fans and then i ask what they watch and its all ufc, theyre like ufcs a great sport (idiots)

contracts420
contracts420

lol A lot of people taking Dana White's word for the whole EA/UFC fiasco. To be honest, Dana White is blowing it out of proportions and make things sound soo much worse. I won't take his word for anything. Plus, Peter Moore wasn't around back then and to be honest... EA has been doing much better all around since then. I have faith in this game. Plus I am an MMA fan as a whole, not just a UFC (just a part of mma) fan.

jaik
jaik

im going for it! They have awesome roster! They have emalianenko! Its going to be perfect game for a party.

ebookerd1
ebookerd1

EA showed how much of a bunch of tools they are by dissing Dana White when he made his proposal to make the original and then deciding that it was a good ideah to make their own. That's get back to being original EA... That is what the gaming market is about... Not repeating the same product and expected drones to respond be original!!.

Lordan007
Lordan007

I think it looks great,im playing UFC but in MMA i see some smooth moves,hands,legs,body movement,impressing,im a new MMA fan :))

advocacy
advocacy

Not better than Undisputed, eh?

Lord_Daemon
Lord_Daemon

It looks a little wonky but I'll probably still give it a go as it will be kind of nice playing with some non UFC talent.

THA-TODD-BEAST
THA-TODD-BEAST

This game is not going to beat UFC like I thought it would . . very, very disappointing.

Brennios
Brennios

Yea UFC still looks better. this game still looks good though who knows until it will be released

hahnasty
hahnasty

No doubt in my mind that UFC Undisputed will always be the better MMA game compared to EA's version. I think EA just limped into the genre since they saw how successful the official UFC game did.

BladedNuiasnce
BladedNuiasnce

Gigas_Yuu, hes getting thumbs downed because that decision was made by the former, before the the current lead there, one man turned it down, hes now gone!!!

jayd02
jayd02

this game looks slow and disappointing. Watch the fight in the back ground and either the people playing sucked or the game play is really slow. What he said about submissions sounds pretty dumb if I say so. I like the fact that they involve stamina a lot but you can still get chocked out, or get an arm bar pulled on you if you get caught off guard or if they have it locked in.

arqfran75
arqfran75

slow movements ?!!, why ????!!!!!!!!

toyungu
toyungu

Another Ea takeover.. I bet once they offer coture the money they can the THQ deal is done.

jerkface96
jerkface96

IM sure theres a button configuration for strikes also, cause fight night has the option to change to button control scheme

Uesugi-dono
Uesugi-dono

To bad about the fight night controls. Working nearly the whole fight on the stick? Pass. Otherwise it looks good.

sboy1345
sboy1345

I dont like the way it sounds like the ground game will work.. .tap A to move to a better position??? What if I want to pass to side control the 1st time I take a guy down then try for a mount the 2nd time, how can I accomplish this just tapping A? " simple tap of the A button is all you need to take your opponent to the mat. Press A again and you'll advance to a more advantageous position on top of your opponent" I want more flexablity in my ground game...

waw003
waw003

I wish we could give EA's foot movement, Randy Couture and Fedor to THQ. Then, UFC 2010 would be closer to perfection than almost any game I've ever seen.

MatrixTheGreat
MatrixTheGreat

I'm a huge fan so I'm sure I will have both of them this year. EA movements are great but I hope the ground control aspect is better than UFC's. That has to be a tough job for the programmers to make it balance out well for both players.

Gigas_Yuu
Gigas_Yuu

Pete is right. Why are you thumbs downing him? That's fact.

Zacmaccraken
Zacmaccraken

IMHO UFC2010 looks waaaaaay to stiff, character movements are not soppose to look like a robot, fighting is not that stiff, its much more like , by looking the video here, EA is trying to emulate.

parhar67
parhar67

Tumult- Have you played the game? No? Then please do not sound like your and expert at this game. lmao.

veeto360
veeto360

this game is just like ufc 2009 and 2010

Tumult-
Tumult-

Ppl dont listen to them talking and just watch the gameplay very close. The striking looks horrible and very very slow and very tiny impact. THe graphics are smoother than UFC but the actual gameplay def does not look better. Notice they slide across the ground on many of the moves and the submission system sounds like a joke.... then add in lag online and then there will be problems.

pete_merlin
pete_merlin

I have no respect for this game due to the fact that the company making it turned down the ability to make UFC 2009 because they didn't think it would make any money.

Zacmaccraken
Zacmaccraken

This game is making UFC2010 looks like crap!! Im hyping for Ea sport MMA everyday more and more! :D

nwbsdapwner1174
nwbsdapwner1174

honestly it looks alright, but the whole thing seems so slow paced, just like every other EA game that they make. i already pre orded the ufc game and i can tell you that the striking looks like poop compared to the ufc striking system. i will probably rent this when it comes out to see how it works

Sparda_13
Sparda_13

wow! THQ has the right fighters but EA definately has the right visuals... EA surely looks better, even the movements look more realistic, buuuut pitty I'm gonna buy THQ's cause it contains my favourite fighters. Even though I don't like the fact that the one I'm buying doesn't look as good as the one I'm passing, at least some good will come out of it, which is competition. Maybe in UFC 2011 THQ will focus on the visuals and realistic movements to try and totally top EA's game. BTW, look at EA's game, are there so many people in the crowd with cameras as bright as that in real life mma stadiums?

B_O_L_T
B_O_L_T

Dana White approached EA sports more than 6 years ago asking them to make an mma game for him, to promote the UFC. EA games told Dana that they didn't believe "at that time" there were enough people likely to purchase an mma game to make it viable to produce and make a profit. EA have never said they didn't think mma was a sport and would never be interested, in fact spend 5 minutes checking the web and you can find exactly what was said as Dana threw a hissy fit then, just as he is doing now, and made several public comments. While EA have pulled some shoddy stunts in the past, the current dispute is fuelled by Dana and no one else, he is throwing a childish tantrum banning UFC contracted fighters from appearing in a game about the sport. That can only ever hurt the sport in general, and if EA's mma is a success will be a kick in the arse for him. As for who's game is better, we won't know until Ea's mma has been released, but competition between developers is always good for the consumer, that would be you fanboys and haters alike.

The_Enfamous_B
The_Enfamous_B

My goodness if its anything like the recent installment of FNR4 I ain't going near it. I felt like that game disrespected the sport of boxing and with most of the opponent online had little to no strategy when fighting (stick mashing body shots all day from most of them). I never liked EA's new move into the "next gen" era, most of their animations look cartoony and jerky from Madden to Fight Night. EA's recent trend of disappointment in sports other then baseball and soccer they might disrespect the sport of MMA in this game also.

jqm1978
jqm1978

Wow, I really enjoyed Ufc, However, I really like the sound of this gameplay. I think the use of the analog stick gives more realism to the fight night games. The was they talk about using it here are even better. Will probably wait for this and get it, even though there's a new fight night coming out in the near future.

justiceforeall
justiceforeall

Some people are just ridiculous, Ufc is a great game, and this MMA game looks promising, the main reason prople are hating on this game is because it's EA, SO WHAT, yeah EA does alot of dirty dealing, but anyone who is a fan of fighting games can appreciate both since GOOD fighting games are so few and far between!! Oh and even though I love UFC, I love the sport of mma even more, so thank you EA for giving us another option!

iBuSHiDo
iBuSHiDo

I dunno. I'm not sure that I'm convinced that this could be a good game. I mean the only reason it exists is because it's a good idea business-wise to compete with the UFC in as many ways as possible to keep their business afloat. Strikeforce, EliteXC, Affliction, Bodog Fights, IFL, etc., were all tiny blips on the radar compared to the giant continent of the UFC. I don't know if a jealously inspired game will pack the quality that the UFC game will, especially considering it will be the second installment for the UFC. I too was a huge PRIDE fan and I still am. I have 30 events on DVD and will still pop one in from time to time, but now most of those fighters are here in the UFC so now I'm a UFC fan all the way. I'm not going to prefer watching Strikeforce just because of Fedor or Nick Diaz and I'm not going to prefer buying EA Sports MMA just because they don't want to get left in the dust.

MaNiKore
MaNiKore

The only way how I can decide this fight, of buying UFC or MMA, is by playing both demo's. So EA gives us one......

Tumult-
Tumult-

No lie some of you are crazy if you think this looks better than UFC gameplay wise. The graphics are nice but the gameplay looks bad when compared to UFC 2010. Honestly it looks 2 years behind in progress by how the strikes and movements look. Not to mention they seem to slide across the ground alot.

assclip
assclip

been a mma fan since 93 notice the mma and not ufc, obviously like the ufc as well hard pressed not to, but refreshing to see this ip come out and be a contender and that it will,love the fact they use ring and cage ect. Options are good and even though i dont care for ea props to them for dipping into the mma market and yes the ring reminds me of the good old days of PRIDE fighting.