The best MMA game available and has some great features on Xbox Live with only a few minor drawbacks. long review sorry.
The control scheme is far simpler that in Undisputed but the end product is a more accurate version of MMA. I used Classic controls over total strike control and it worked great. Stringing smooth looking combos together is easy and the blocking and dodging is accurate because you can't just put your hands up and block all of the impact of a punch so it is wiser to use movement and parry shots to avoid taking too much damage.
The ground game is a more fun and simpler system than in Undisputed with the constant twirling of analogs absent and replaced with timing and stamina management. The submission mini-games are massively better than Undisputed's twirling of the analogs. For joint locks you use the button to manage stamina and try to break the hold or lock down the sub. For chokes you (slowly) rotate the analog and find the dynamic "sweet spot" to squeeze a win or to break the hold.
The Clinch game is one of the problems in the basic gameplay. First off, there is an extremely jarring camera in some instances where you are in the clinch and the cam can't seem pick an angle so it moves around constantly and it is extremely annoying. The clinch can also be a little mysterious about how to take advantage or time your moves. That said, it also has some positive notes such as clinch control and fighting for the underhooks or muay thai plum and it isn't a cheap way to score tons of damage.
Visually, EA MMA is spot on. The player models look great and the blood, sweat and arenas are all well done. Blood smears and splatters on the fighters and mat look very realistic. The announcing can get a bit annoying and repetitive but that is nothing new to combat sport games with announcers. The screaming lady from Pride FC is the japanese ring announcer which is a nice touch. All of the featured fighters (about 60) have their own moves and look like the real deal when they are in the ring and fight just like they do in reality.
The Career mode is fun, (it took me about 6 or 7 hours to complete it at WW), but it lacks a deep and detailed Create-A-Fighter which is a bit disappointing considering fighting and wrestling games ten years ago were far deeper in respect to assigning custom moves. Then again, the competition does not offer anything better than EA MMA in respect to the CAF. The ability to download a game face goes a little way to make up for the shallow CAF and it actually works pretty well. There are hundreds of different shorts and shirts and tatoos you can give your character and a lot them are pretty stylish. The career mode is pretty straightforward. You start out training with Bas Rutten and he that manages you throughout your career. You earn money from fights and can use that money to train around the world with guys like the Gracies. In the end there are 7-8 gyms in Brazil, Japan, Thailand, England, and the USA, each with its own specialty and special moves on offer, so if you need to work on subs or learn how to do a flying armbar, go to Brazil or Japan. If you want to work on striking or the thai clinch, go to Thailand or England. The training can actually help you learn the real controls which is helpful. You earn grades on how well you train and that dictates the attribute growth. You can also sim training after you've done it so towards the middle to end of a career you can burn through training pretty quickly and get to your next fight.
The Arenas are all very well done and there are many to choose from (including Cowboys stadium) plus you can fight in a Hexagonal cage, a circular cage, or a ring in any of the offered venues. You also get to choose the rules in which you fight under. Unified, Strikeforce rules (unified minus elbows on the ground), Japanese (knees on ground, soccer kicks and stomps, and pure Vale Tudo where everything is allowed. I got great satisfaction from dropping my opponent and then kicking his head into orbit or stomping on his face until the ref stopped the fight. It is a really cool option to have.
Some of the downsides are the load times. It took me about 6-7 hours to complete a career mode but I would guess that almost a quarter of that was waiting for the game to load.
There are just some things I am amazed they didn't think of. For instance, why can't a fighter change weight classes after dominating a division? I defended the WW belt like 20 times. Another thing that I found annoying was the inability to control your own contracts. Initially you get to choose which org, but once you choose Mystic or Strikeforce as your premier league, you can't go back and forth, you are stuck there for the rest of your career.
Xbox Live has a some really cool features, the best being the share a fighter. You can create a fighter who isn't in the game and post it on board and they are ranked by most downloaded. It is very easy to use too. Right now there is a very good Brock Lesnar if you don't want to make him yourself and many many others that look really good like Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva.
The live fight cards with EA Live broadcast has huge potential to be a ton of fun and they name each card like a real PPV. The first scheduled is Mystic 1 for Oct 26 and they pick the top ranked fighters to go at it. You can also make your own online fight cards with up to 10 other players, but I wish there was the opportunity to do that in single player. There is also no tournament modes to speak of in either xbox live or single player. Kind of a bummer.
One thing I haven't noticed yet after 200 plus online fights, nobody has quit, and nobody has done something that "breaks" the game with cheap ploys. It seems, so far anyway, that EA has done a good job of keeping that out of the mix, unlike the cheap exploits many experience online with UFC undisputed.
Despite the spamming of "abysmal" reviews, which is absurd, this game should not be ignored by people who like fighting games, especially MMA fans. It offers a richer and more fun experience than its direct competitor on the market and those who didn't love Undisputed might have more joy with this game. If it had a deeper Create of fighter, more single player modes like creating a custom fight card or tournaments this game would be up there with the top sports games of the year. Unfortunately, the game offers little to single players and needs to be improved in this area. 8/10.