EA Sports MMA gears up to do battle with UFC Undisputed games
Recognizing this burgeoning fan base, video-game company THQ teamed up with the sport’s largest promoter, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, to develop last year’s UFC 2009 Undisputed—the first major MMA game to capitalize on the combat sport’s success. That title debuted to much fanfare and praise, and its follow-up, UFC Undisputed 2010, received a similar reception when it was released this past May.
Not content to sit on the sidelines, Electronic Arts—one of the top sport-game developers in the world—decided to try its hand at an MMA game as well. EA Sports MMA is set for release on October 19 for the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360.
“We’ve been working on the title for over two years,” Randy Chase, product marketing manager for EA Sports MMA, told the Georgia Straight by phone from Maitland, Florida, where the game is under development at the EA Tiburon studio. “Coming into a new title like this, the first thing we want to make sure to do is to bring the authenticity and the realism of the sport to life in a way that no one’s ever done before.”
While EA is seen as the leader in a number of sports, such as hockey, football, and soccer, this time around it's coming in as the underdog against the UFC Undisputed games. But Chase says he isn’t worried about comparisons.
“We’re taking a different approach to gameplay than they [THQ] did,” Chase said. “The feedback we’ve been getting is that our gameplay is very accessible, as far as getting people into the game quickly and having a good time. We’re making the game uniquely ours.”
One of the key features that will set EA Sports MMA apart is Total Strike Control, a system that uses the right joystick on a controller to handle strikes, much like Total Punch Control in EA’s popular boxing series Fight Night.
Chase conceded that the complexity of MMA—with all of its different moves and fighting styles—has made it a challenge to translate the experience into something playable while remaining true to the sport.
“It wasn’t just taking the Fight Night engine, putting it in there, and moving on,” he explained. “It was refining it and making sure that it worked for this sport. We made some changes to it so that it felt more intuitive to MMA, and we went back and forth on a lot of different things.”
Submission battles were one of the things that developers tried numerous approaches to, before getting it right, according to Chase.
“With our choke submission, a circle comes up and you have to utilize the stick to find the sweet spot to sink the choke in,” Chase said. “It tries to simulate what happens when somebody puts a rear naked choke on you. You’re trying to find that opening where you can get out of it, whereas the guy that’s putting on the choke is trying to find the space that sinks that choke in and finishes it off.”
Another aspect of EA Sports MMA that distinguishes it from the UFC Undisputed series is the fighters it features. While THQ’s games are limited to the UFC roster, EA was able to individually license all of its fighters, who hail from organizations like Strikeforce and Dream. (Strikeforce will be featured as the “premier league”.) This allows fighters who might not be able to meet in a bout to do so in the game. This is nowhere more apparent than on the game’s cover, which features Fedor Emelianenko, the last Pride heavyweight champion, and Randy Couture, a former UFC heavyweight and light-heavyweight champion.
Emelianenko is one of the highest-ranked heavyweights in MMA, but he has never fought in the UFC. Couture, on the other hand, has competed almost exclusively in the UFC. This fall, MMA fans will finally be able to see the two meet face to face, albeit in a virtual setting.
EA Sports MMA will also feature different sets of rules and locations. Rings and cages will both be available, and depending on which rules are chosen, certain moves will be allowed or banned.
“We have different rule sets, so there will be different strikes that you can do,” Chase said. “For instance, when you’re in Japan we have more traditional Japanese rules, where you can employ soccer kicks as well as head stomps and things like that.”
While EA Sports MMA looks to be a worthy competitor, THQ isn’t too concerned about no longer being the sole purveyor of MMA games.
“I think the real winner here is the MMA fan,” Neven Dravinski, producer of the UFC Undisputed franchise, told the Straight by phone from Agoura Hills, California. “Three years ago, who would have thought that two major publishers would have put all the time and money into making a mixed-martial-arts game? And now you have two of the major publishers in the gaming industry putting out competitive products.
“I’m curious to see what they come up with, but I think it’s good for the sport and gaming in general,” Dravinski added. “There’s just more out there and more for people to play.”