I played a dozen or so matches of EA Sports MMA at the company's E3 2010 booth. As huge fan of the Fight Night games, I immediately picked up the ring movement and striking. It's pretty much the "total control punching" system with a kick modifier. The left analog stick moves the fighter around the ring. The right analog stick is used for strikes. The default strike is a head punch. Buttons can be used for kicks and body blows. The striking felt fantastic -- very crisp and precise.
Grappling is initiated and controlled using the face buttons. Take downs, position changes, reversals, counters, and submissions are controlled with the face buttons. The grappling action wasn't nearly as tight as the striking, but part of it was because I was learning a new system and wasn't used to it.
It was especially tricky mixing up the two forms of combat. On several occasions, I was in the top mount, trapped in my opponent's guard. I mixed in strikes while trying to advance to a side mount. Constantly switching from the analog stick to the face buttons pulled me out of the game. There were times when the switching made me feel like I was competing with the controller rather than my opponent. Perhaps it's something that I'd get used to over time, but it felt disjointed for the 20 minutes I spent with the game.
EA Sports MMA is similar to a fighter that has mastered one aspect of combat sports and is quickly trying to master another. The striking is great, but the ground game isn't quite there yet. The good news is that there's plenty of time for the developers to tighten things up. The game is already fun in its unfinished form, but with further grappling tweaks EA Sports MMA could end up being the ultimate fighter (*snicker*).
In development for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, iPhone and iPod Touch, EA Sports MMA is due out in "late 2010."
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