EA Sports MMA Cage & Arena

Aside from an awful career mode, my biggest complaint about UFC 2009 Undisputed was the absence of each fighter’s unique fighting style. Each character was designated as a boxer, kickboxer or Muay Thai specialist and as a wrestler, judoka or jiu-jitsu practitioner. Many fighters fit fairly well into one combination or another, but not all. For instance, Lyoto Machida was nothing like the real Lyoto Machida. Anderson Silva didn’t really fight like Anderson Silva. Sure, Georges St. Pierre could throw his trademark superman punch, but so could Chuck Liddell, who to my knowledge has never thrown one in his entire career. Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ and Anderson Silva weren’t southpaws…well, you get the idea.

For all I know the team at THQ may be correcting this for their 2010 iteration, but it sounds like their competitor, EA Sports, is working hard on getting it right the first time.

[EA Sports executive producer Dale] Jackson says the individuality of the fighters, authenticity and depth of control of fighter movements will differentiate the game. In that respect, game play will be similar to what the company has produced in its boxing title.

“In ‘Fight Night Round 4,’ each fighter in there fights like themselves,” Jackson told MMAjunkie.com. “It’s different than you’ve seen in fighting products before. When you play with Ali, he fights like (Muhammad) Ali. When you fight with (Mike) Tyson or (Manny) Pacquiao, they all fight like themselves, and it’s a different experience every time you play that game. That’s what you have to capture. And, picking those match-ups and learning how to adjust for people’s styles and try to either take them to their weaknesses or take advantage of your strengths are some of the strategies that are important. Those are some strengths that I don’t think you’ve seen in gaming before.”

With everything we’ve seen and heard about EA Sports MMA, which admittedly to this point hasn’t been much, and the effort EA turned in with Fight Night Round 4, it seems like EA Sports MMA is on the right path to eclipsing Undisputed 2009, but by the time the game actually comes out, it won’t be compared to that game, it will be compared to THQ’s sophomore effort, UFC 2010 Undisputed. We’ve yet to see or hear any details about the improvements THQ is working on, but it will be definitely be interesting to see if EA Sports can produce a better game in round one than THQ can in round two.

Eight new EA Sports MMA images posted at Gamespot

Update: IGN.com has posted their first look impressions of EA Sports MMA which has revealed a few more details about the game. It’s running of a heavily modified version of Fight Night Round 4’s engine. Their still working on the control scheme but intend to make it simple as possible. In addition to the Strikeforce cage we’ve already seen, there will be a ring which supports my own speculation that DREAM could be a part of the game, though nothing else was revealed on that front. As for roster depth concerns, EA says they’re taking a quality over quantity approach. You’ll also be able to train in several locations around the world specific to the martial art you’re working on (ie. Brazil for BJJ).

As for the actual combat in the ring — and there will be different rings aside from the standard cage setup — EA Sports was being a bit cagey when asked to dive into the specifics of controlling both the ground game and stand-up game. Standard striking will be handled by the analog stick by default, though all of the controls can be customized if you prefer something different. The developers want kicking and punching to be the same movement on the analog stick regardless of whether you’re on the ground or upright. How you’ll handle moving from mount to half-guard (as well as other transitions on the mat) is still a bit of a mystery.

Dale Jackson, Executive Producer on the game, said that, much like the striking, advancing position will be the same movement or button press regardless of where you are in the ring. If you’re in the clinch, it’s going to be the same motion to advance your position as if you’re on the ground. The same goes for defense. We know that face buttons will make an appearance and that the complexities of the ground game will be handled with a combination of analog stick movements and face button presses, but beyond that little was revealed. Jackson went on to say that they want to keep the control scheme as simple as possible so gamers can learn the moves and instinctually react in the ring.

The animation work is also very impressive. We were shown a leg kick at the beginning of a fight and a leg kick several minutes in after plenty of damage had been inflicted and the reaction was totally different. At first Fedor was able to take the kick without budging, but once he took a few more, one leg kick was able to send him reeling, thus opening the door for a takedown. Now all EA Sports has to do is add in the muscle flexes and ancillary body movements that will help bring the action even closer to the genuine article. It also won’t hurt that EA claims everything will be running at 60 frames per second by the time the game ships.