(Screenshots courtesy of EA Sports.)
By FIGHT! contributor Michael Huang
Fedor Emelianenko might be “The Last Emperor,” but EA Sports made sure he was the first face of their new title, EA Sports MMA.
The makers of popular titles such as Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Madden NFL offered MMA fans a first look at the game last weekend at the Strikeforce/M-1 Global promotion of Fedor vs. Rogers.
Gamers seeking an authentic game-play experience will not be disappointed with EA Sports MMA, which will feature an international roster of fighters including Fedor, Brett Rogers, Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal, Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields and “Bully Beatdown” host Jason “Mayhem” Miller.
In the game’s demo, the digital versions of Fedor and Rogers resemble the live versions with uncanny accuracy. The game designers included every detail, from the stubble on Rogers’ chin to the scar on Fedor’s forehead, which he received from his fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
“Fedor’s pretty intimidating in real life,” said EA Sports MMA Executive Producer Dale Jackson. “And Brett said he liked his picture and that he was a little scared by it, too.”
The graphic fidelity is extremely high. The fighters’ movements are fluid and realistic, from the way a competitor delivers a strike to the way he receives one, and there is little control loss—no waiting for the animation of one player’s fighter to finish before the other can strike.
More importantly, Jackson said the game will replicate each individual player’s real-life skill set. Meaning, if a fighter doesn’t normally boast a kimura in his repertoire, he won’t be able to perform that move, something that differentiates this game from the THQ UFC 2009 Undisputed title.
“All the fighters have individual styles, and that will help deliver the authenticity I think MMA fans are looking for,” Jackson said. “All the fighters will have a base skill set but still will only be able to do the moves they normally do in real life.”
King Mo agreed.
“I’ve played the other game and it’s not as real as this game,” he said. “The other game you can use [Quinton] ‘Rampage’ [Jackson] and he can do arm bar. When was the last time you saw Rampage do an arm bar? C’mon. In this game all the moves a guy has in real life is what he will have in the game.”
Of course, over time, fighters’ skills evolve. Dale Jackson said that the company will eventually offer updated versions of the game, similar to Madden NFL, FIFA Soccer and NBA Live basketball.
Also remarkable is the depth of control by the game players. Not only will player be able to control the fighters smoothly, but they will also be able to better utilize strategy, according to individual fighters’ abilities.
“Players will be able to take advantage of the strategy of fighting seamlessly while they take advantage of the mechanics of fighting,” Jackson said. “So just knowing how to throw punches and kicks or to take someone down and submit them is not enough. You need to know what you’d do in any given situation and whether that individual fighter can do that.”
For example, in the game demo, Fedor comes with more side punches and big overhands–something that is characteristic of Fedor’s style. Rogers, on the other hand, throws mainly jabs straight down the middle to better utilize his power, with some overhands thrown in there, too.
As the bout progresses and the fighters suffer damage, their hit reactions change. As the hit reactions change, they offer strategic openings for opponents. So, for example, Rogers might take a hard uppercut in the first round that might just make his head jerk back. By the third round, however, that head jerk might have escalated to a full-blow stagger, and thus Fedor can close in for the kill.
Likewise, if Rogers is taking damage from repeated leg strikes, his legs will eventually recoil differently than they would have earlier in the fight, perhaps necessitating a switch in stances.
“You’ll seldom win a fight strictly from leg strikes, but if they can set up an opening to get to victory through another means,” Jackson said.
Perhaps unique to EA Sports MMA is the advanced parrying and countering abilities of the fighters. Once again, the techniques are all attuned to the individual styles of the fighters. While catching kicks is nothing new, the fighters do not generically take their opponents down.
For example, if Rogers catches a Fedor kick, it is highly unlikely that Rogers would go to the ground with Fedor. The game allows the player to continue to stay within the fighter’s comfort zone. For Rogers, that means throwing strikes while holding on to Fedor’s leg.
“The ability to catch kicks is not new to any game,” Jackson said. “But being able to keep the fight your fight is the important part. To be able to fight within your strategy and the fighters’ respective styles is very important, and I don’t think you’ve seen that in any other game.
“If we had this where if I’m a striker and I caught a kick and the only thing that I could do was take a guy down to the ground, and I want to stay standing up, I’ve only created a game that you’ve already played,” Jackson added.
While the main venue shown during the game demo was the Strikeforce fight cage, also in the works were additional venues such as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu camp.
The cast not only will include a large international fighter roster, but also the voices of Strikeforce ringside commentary team of Mauro Ranallo and Frank Shamrock as well as ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. Keeping order in the fight ring will be legendary MMA referee “Big John” McCarthy.
EA Sports MMA will be available on the Xbox 360 and the Sony PlayStation entertainment systems in 2010. Watch the trailer here. Additional screenshots are below.