A great first attempt from EA. You won't find a more solid MMA simulation anywhere. Until you download the patch.
While EA's roster may not include the most familiar faces to casual MMA fans, the innovative Fighter Share feature, combined with an option to map real photos on to created fighters faces allows the player to easily download and/or create accurate renditions all their favorite fighters, including those from the UFC. Very accurate recreations of fighters like Brock Lesnar, Anderson Silva, Chuck Liddell, and many others are already available for download.
Gameplay in EA MMA is as real as any MMA simulation has been able to deliver so far. Fighters move realistically, even if slightly "skatey", around the ring/cage. Strikes on the feet are typically fluid and feel like they land with quite a bit of force. The ability to throw flurries of strikes in quick succession leads to very exciting moments within the game, especially once you have your opponent hurt and reeling. Mounting a vicious comeback after being hurt, chasing your opponent down, and finishing him in spectacular fashion is a very satisfying way to win a fight.
The best part about the striking in EA MMA is the fact that strikes can land with an extremely wide range of power. A simple jab which does minimal damage is great for setting up combinations. While a counter right hook catching you opponent coming in has the ability to finish the fight instantly with a clean KO, no matter what point it may be during the fight.
The sway and parrying systems are also very easy to use. Parry's are almost a little too effective, especially when fighting against the Legend difficulty CPU, who will easily parry 75% of your strikes no problem (while they are not rocked, once rocked you lose the ability to sway and parry, and only blocking, clinching, and attempting a take down are available options). While swaying does not disrupt your opponents striking, and simply keeps you from being hit, a successful parry can be the key to turning the tide is a striking battle. Parrying kicks is especially effective, forcing your opponent off balance and allowing you to counter with strikes of your own.
If you choose to play with the default controls, strikes are all executed by moving the right analog stick in different ways, very similar to the controls for Fight Night. All fighters have an attribute for kick and punch range, and depending on this attribute, your fighter may leap in from distance with strikes, or you may have to wade in closer before you are able to land any shots. Your fighters range, hand/foot speed, strike combo speed, and obviously power are a huge determining factor in who will come out on top in a striking battle. Even a novice player can dismantle an experienced player with a far superior striker. The diversity between fighters shines through in these types of battles.
The gameplay is not without it's downfalls. If you do not KO your opponent cleanly, which does not happen very often (which is actually great, because a clean KO in EA MMA is therefore VERY satisfying and will probably have you jumping out of your seat), you will end up trying to pound out your opponent on the mat while they button mash B trying to recover. The transition from striking to this ground and pound system can be clunky and sometimes frustrating as your fighter seems to hop around aimlessly trying to find the right position, all the while, your opponent recovers his stamina. You can choose to not engage your opponent in this position and wait for them to stand back up, however it looks a little strange for one fighter to lay turtled in the corner while the other fighter stands idly five feet away for 5-6 seconds. These G&P finishes also do not allow you to attack with submissions or stand up at any point, and once your opponent comes to, they will recover to a much better ground position and lock it in. This will highly discourage you from trying to finish your opponent if they are a master of the ground game and submissions, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you realize you're not going to be able to quickly finish your opponent, you should be allowed to stand up from the position.
Also, the ability to switch to a "classic" control scheme, in which punches are controlled with the buttons means that players who use it online have the ability to spam strikes at a seemingly random and frantic pace, making them very hard to parry and counter. This control scheme however offers FAR less control on the ground, and therefore you will typically be able to dominate these players if you can get the fight to the mat. EA obviously included this control scheme to appeal to people coming from playing Undisputed, however since EA's control scheme feels far superior, it would have been advisable to simply force people to learn it. Fight Night Round 4 removed the button mashing control scheme and it was a huge improvement to online play over Round 3.
Online matches are also sometimes plagued by the fact that some divisions have a fighter like "Classic Bas Rutten" who has ridiculously high stats in every department. Since fighter attributes have such a large impact on the fight, you will typically end up with Classic Bas Rutten vs. Classic Bas Rutten in online matches, because fighting with anyone else will quickly lead to your demise.
Clinching and grappling feel highly simplified compared to EA MMA's counterpart and sole competitor, UFC Undisputed. With the default controls, takedowns are initiated by pressing the A button, clinch with Y, and sprawl with X or B (if pressed early enough, B will react with a counter strike and X will react by locking up a guillotine choke on your opponent upon being taken down). Once on the mat, controls are just as simple. Pressing A advances position, Y stands up from any position, B blocks/counters transitions, and X attempts a submission. Every time your opponent attempts a submission or a transition, your controller will vibrate, prompting you to press B in order to block the transition/submission. Parrying strikes while on the ground will create a shorter and less intense vibration on your opponents controller if you attempt a transition or submission immediately after the successful parry.
The part where EA MMA's gameplay truly puts Undisputed to shame is in it's submission system. While Undisputed has the overly simplistic and rather boring control scheme of simply spinning the right analog stick as fast as possible, the submission system in EA MMA is creative and most importantly, fun. Limb submissions like arm and leg locks are initiated the same way as chokes are, by pressing X. They are different however in the way that you attack and defend the submission. When a limb submission is initiated, an x-ray of the limb is revealed. While attacking, you simply press X to attempt to finish the submission, every press of X drains your stamina slightly, and button mashing will leave you without any stamina and without a doubt also losing the submission hold. Calculated presses are necessary in order to finish the submission and the higher your arm/leg submission attribute is, the more value you will get out of each button press. Submissions are defended in very similar fashion by pressing B in the same way. The closer the submission is to being finished, the more red the bone will get on the x-ray. Once the limb is fully red, the submission is fully locked in and your opponent will tap out.
The choke submission system is simple yet ingenious. When a choke submission is initiated, a circle appears on the screen. A "hot spot" is located somewhere on the circle at any point, however it is up to the player to find it. The player rotates the left stick until they find the hot spot, at which point the controller will vibrate. Staying on this hot spot while you're attacking will shrink the circle and create a "black out" effect on the screen, meaning the choke is closer to being finished. Likewise, while defending successfully the circle will get bigger and the screen will become clearer. If fighters are evenly matched, these can last quite a long time and can be epic back and forth battles. There is nothing more satisfying than sinking in a choke on your opponent, especially if you are coming from behind to win the fight, which I have done online several times, I'm very good at finding that hot spot :). The higher your fighters choke submission attribute is, the easier it will be to find the hot spot during the submission.
Last, but DEFINITELY not least. Career mode is packed full of great training exercises and exciting fights. You will start your career in a minor league, and upon winning the title after a few wins, you will move on to a middle tier league. The middle tier league includes the Brazilian Vale Tudo league, in which face stomps, soccer kicks, and elbows are all allowed. After winning a title in your middle teir league, you will move on to a major promotion, either Strikeforce or Mystic (which is basically the Japanese real life promotion, Dream).
When creating your fighter in career mode, customization may not be as extensive as some players would like it to be, however if you use the Game Face feature to map a real photo onto your fighter, it is not necessarily needed. The more interesting and important parts of customization, fighter attitude and style are present and very satisfying. You choose from nine different styles: Wrestling; Jiu-Jitsu; Boxing; Brawling; Sambo; Judo; Generalist; Muay Thai; and Kickboxing. Each style has perks and downfalls. Boxers have quick hands but weak kicks, while jiu jitsu fighters have great submissions but weak chins. You will start out your career fairly skilled in whatever discipline you chose, and throughout your career you will have plenty of opportunities to master those skills and build up your weaknesses. If you choose a boxing style, you may be able to submit fighters later in your career, however if you don't play to your strengths early, you are likely to lose. Even if you play to your strengths every fight, it's difficult to not eventually run into a fighter who will expose your weaknesses, especially if you are playing on the highest difficulty. If you have not worked on your submission skills at all and are caught in a submission by a jiu jitsu expert, you will have very little chance of escaping the hold. Likewise, if you are a submission expert it can be very dangerous to engage a striker in a stand up battle.
Every fight will earn you cash, which will allow you to travel away from your home town camp to famous gyms like Xtreme Couture and Militech Fighting Systems. Each camp has a set of four special moves you can learn. You can outfit your fighter with 16 of these moves total, which is typically more than enough to satisfy your fighters needs. Strikers will have the ability to learn all the special strikes and a few submissions. While submission specialists will be able to learn all the submissions and just a few special strikes.
Once your career is complete, your fighter will be saved into the games memory and you will have the option to upload the fighter to the online database for your friends and other players to download. The amount of fighters you can create appears to be unlimited, as long as your Xbox hard drive has the room to store them.
Finally, online play is usually lag free and satisfying. You will be matched up with a player of your caliber, and if you are able to string together a series of wins, you can get the chance to fight for an online belt, which if you win, you will have to defend from time to time, or be forced to forfeit it. There is also the option to create your own highlight reels using the custom replay system that comes up after fights. Submitting these "Hype Videos" can get you a chance to fight on the EA Live Broadcast, which will be streamed online for anyone to watch.
Overall, this is a great MMA simulation for EA's first attempt. It encompasses the excitement of MMA very well, and in my opinion, blows it's counter part UFC Undisputed out of the water. If you're a fan of MMA, or even fighting in general, I would definitely recommend picking this one up.
I have played this game a total of maybe an hour and a half since the new patch came out (few months ago). It has completely ruined the game experience.
The biggest change is EA basically made the parrying system useless, making it impossible to defend yourself while you are on the ground. I played 9-10 online matches and my opponents picked wrestlers 100% of the time. Once they got to an advantageous position, they would simply never block, strike constantly (parrying used to drain your opponents stamina, now it does basically nothing, this allows your opponent spam strikes without consequence), slowly advance position as you run out of energy trying to escape. And once you're stuck in back control, forget about it. It's over. Just disconnect like I do. **** A.
Rating used to a 9.0. reduced to 2.0.
###END EDIT 5/18/11###