EA announced it would be entering into the world of mixed martial arts at E3 this year by showing off an MMA logo and little else. It was enough, however, to have fans wondering how the hell EA could pull off a MMA game in the face of UFC, which has a stranglehold on the world's most recognisable fighters and a sucessful game license already being looked after by THQ.
Earlier this month we went to EA to see what it's been working on and how the game is shaping up against its formidable opposition. Here's what you need to know.
1. It's got the most generic name, ever
Not MMA. Not EA MMA. Not Randy Couture Gets Cagey. Nope, EA Sports MMA. It might not roll off the tongue, but every single employee of the publishing giant calls it that each time they mention it, as though they’ve spent the past six months being pushed through strict twice-a-day drills in not calling it anything else. So better get used to it, eh?
Above: Generic name, generic screenshot. It gets better from here...
2. It laughs at Dana White
After UFC boss Dana White announced that any fighter signing for EA MMA would never fight in UFC again, there was some doubt over the summer as to whether this would really see the light of day. Clearly, that approach failed; first blood to EA Sports boss Peter Moore. And perhaps second blood too, seeing as MMA features not only ‘greatest in the world’ Fedor Emelianenko, but also five time UFC champ Couture - who successfully blocked White’s attempts to force him onto the UFC 2009: Undisputed roster.
3. It’s being made by the fighters. Sort of
Developer EA Tiburon insists that it’s had masses of handy input from the real experts - those dudes who step into rings the world over in order to kick each other in the face. "Oh absolutely, they’re vocal," executive producer Dale Jackson tells us.
Above: EA Sports MMA - being made by people like him
"We spend time talking to them, [getting info on] how they fight, how they match up against different people, and ways that everyone can beat everyone else. We’ve also got fighter suggestions from them so it’s worked out pretty well for us." Strikeforce’s King Mo goes a step further, telling us the UFC game is a "button masher" and insisting the EA one is the real deal. He would say that, but we don’t argue. He’s freaking HUGE.
4. Liked the way Fight Night played? You'll love this...
Details on the control system are sketchy, but EA Tiburon hinted to us that most of the action will be mapped to the analogue sticks. Which is pretty much exactly how Fight Night Round 4 works. It’s hardly surprising, then, that MMA’s being built on top of EA Canada’s heralded boxing engine. "We’re sharing technology back and forth," says Jackson. "We were able to grow that engine even further."
Above: It could well be Fight Night. Until they start the kneeing in the head
At this point the on-message PR talk takes over - "The quality of Fight Night speaks for itself. We’re going to deliver that same level of polish and authenticity that’s expected from EA Sports," - but the point has been made; if you loved Fight Night, you’ll probably go gaga for this. If you didn’t, well... hope for a UFC follow-up. Or, if you’re super desperate, play SmackDown.
5. It’s 'truly international'
So says EA Tiburon. But what does that mean? Well, we’ve seen glimpses of gyms adorned with British and Brazilian flags (places to build up your fighter’s attributes in career mode, perhaps?) as well as numerous rings and cages from the world over. We’re taking this as a sign that as well as US-based Strikeforce (the second-biggest fight league in the States after UFC), the game will also feature Japanese promotions Dream and K-1, and the Dutch-based M1-Global. "We have guys signed from all leagues, all over the world," confirms Jackson.
6. It’s doing stuff Undisputed doesn’t
Which is pretty key, if it’s going to contend with - and, as EA hopes, ultimately surpass - Yuke’s’ brilliant fighter. We’re talking basic stuff such as superior fighter intelligence, with combatants relaxing their stances when they’re on opposite sides of the ring, to very specific and crucial nuances: being able to throw a punch at your opponent at the same time as he hits you (not possible in UFC as only one animation could play at any given time), and fighters reacting differently to a move if they’ve already suffered damage.
Above: Fedor vs Brett Rogers - the only two fighters formally annouced so far
Early in a Fedor vs Brett Rogers match (they’re the dudes from the trailer, by the way), we see Rogers barely flinch when caught on the calf by a hard Fedor kick. Later in the fight, with his legs tired, the Russian nails the same move and Rogers recoils with a grimace, shaking his busted wheel in agony. It’s a great touch.
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