Demo shows EA Sports MMA still has challenges to overcome ahead of release

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      Jack-of-all-trades video-game developer Electronic Arts recently released a demo for the upcoming mixed-martial-arts title EA Sports MMA.

      Checking out the demo, the first thing you’ll notice, as in any game, are the graphics, which are excellent. In-game models look exactly like who they’re meant to represent, lighting falls on character models all natural-like, and textures communicate the look and feel of objects and environments perfectly (you can almost feel sweat sliding off your fighter’s back, gross).

      For the most part, character movement is good in terms of character animations in taking down an opponent, getting up off the mat, and how they navigate in a grapple. Kicks and takedowns are solid, and look realistic. However, moving about the ring or cage looks and feels as if your character is almost gliding rather than stepping, and the various punches don’t feel as heavy as they should. Punches appear slow and soft, yet have hugely damaging effects on their targets. It’s largely unsatisfying and just doesn’t feel very lifelike.

      As for the control scheme, EA has stated that they hoped to make their gameplay accessible for everyone to just pick up and play, but it seems as if they missed the mark on that one.

      The much-hyped Total Strike Control has a seriously steep learning curve, even for those familiar with the Fight Night iteration of the control scheme. While the joystick may work great for precision controls and strikes in the boxing series, that same intuitiveness doesn’t seem to carry over to EA Sports MMA. When you have an aggressive AI opponent coming at you from every which way, it can be difficult to remember which way to flick the stick in order to get the right kind of punch or kick, and which modifying button to press before doing even that. There just seems to be too many variations attached to such a simple input method, which ends up with the player doing things they may not have intended.

      For those who prefer a simpler, albeit less precise, control scheme, EA has seen fit to include something called “Classic Controls,” which assigns strikes to the controller’s face buttons. This control scheme is similar to the one used by the UFC Undisputed series, so for those eager to jump right into the game without testing their patience with Total Strike Control, “Classic” is probably the scheme for you.

      There’s a tutorial that’s meant to teach players the basics on how to play the game as well, but there seems to be a lot lacking. I still don’t quite grasp the “sweet spot” mini-game while trying to get out of a choke, and I had to figure out how to stand up and break out of clinches simply through trial and error.

      In terms of the game’s enemy AI, well, let’s just say it doesn’t seem to live up to the “intelligent” aspect of “AI”. Wrestlers, while obviously more focused on ground game and takedowns, will consistently spam you with takedown attempts, despite being stuffed every single time. It’s something that gets old fast.

      Whether or not EA will remedy some of these issues for the final product remains to be seen, and while it may be too late to make any changes to the game before it’s release in just less than two weeks, EA has been known to release patches to fix certain gameplay issues.