"We're all about the sport, it's not just one organisation you know." he said as I pointed out the logo on my short with a knowing smirk on my face.
I fully get why he got a little tense, and why he said what he said. To most casual fans MMA equals UFC, but obviously that's not the whole truth. In fact, it's completely false, and as a game EA Sports MMA benefits from the fact that it's not exclusively covering one fight organisation.
While the official UFC product from Yuke's is tied down by the "official rules of the Octagon", EA Sports MMA will feature fighting in both a hexagon cage (Strikeforce), a circle cage and a traditional boxing ring. You will also be able to adjust the rules settings to include things like soccer kicks and knees to a grounded opponent. If you want to you can recreate the rules of the now defunct Pride organisation for instance. What the game gains in flexibility with rules it loses with the number of recognisable fighters in the roster.
Sure, there are some of the best fighters in the world on offer, The Last Emperor - Fedor Emelianenko, Dan Henderson, and UFC hall of famer Randy Couture (who signed with EA Sports MMA when he was on a hiatus from the UFC). If you for instance have a look at the pound-for-pound rankings of fighters by Sherdog (widely recognised authority on the matter) only two fighters on the EA Sports MMA roster, Emelinanenko (third) and Japanese submission ace Shinya Aoki (tenth) make the list. Surely an usual situation for a sports title from license behemoths Electronic Arts.
That is not to say there won't be enough great fighters in EA Sports MMA, with names like the above mentioned as well as Gegard Mousasi, Jake Shields, Gilbert Melendez, Jason "Mayhem" Miller, Nick Diaz and Eddie Alvarez as well as legends like Bas Rutten, Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Kevin Randleman there is plenty to be excited about. Future potential superstars like former WWE star Bobby Lashley, Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal, and Tyron Woodley are also in the line up.
If you follow the sport, you will notice that most of these fighters are associated with Strikeforce, and UFC's new rival, is going to be the top league/organisation featured in the game. It's a choice that pits EA Sports MMA firmly against the likes of THQ's UFC 2010 Undisputed, that is set for release this May.
EA Sports MMA, has been in development for more than two years at EA Tiburon, best known for the Madden NFL series, and it is going to build on the foundation of the Fight Night series. One area where EA have spent a lot of effort is to recreate the fighting styles of the specific fighters, from what we have seen they have done a tremendous job on this, and it won't be a case of trying to fit the different fighters into generalised categories such as wrestlers, muay thai, or brazilian juijutsu practitioners.
I witnessed some of Nick Diaz' effective and unorthodox boxing and Cung Le's kung fu kicks in the demo version. It's going to be interesting to see how well all the styles are recreated and how much of a difference fighting in a cage compared to a ring is going to make with certain fighters. Wrestlers in particular can have an advantage pinning the opponent to the cage and taking them down. For a striker it can be beneficial to put your opponent in the corner of the ring, while it's more difficult to cut off the escape route in a cage.
Mixed martial arts is a very difficult sport to portray in video games. Yuke's made a valiant effort with UFC 2009 Undisputed, and will no doubt refine the game with UFC 2010 Undisputed. EA Sports MMA is using something they call "total strike control" where you use the analogue sticks to deliver strikes. But mixed martial arts is not just about striking. Portraying the clinch, and ground aspects of a fight is equally important. Ground movement will be simulated using rumble, which in turn will prompt your reaction and counter moves. Blood will transfer from a fighter onto the other fighter and the floor. EA Tiburon have also developed a stamina system that takes body shots, leg kicks, punches to the head as well as missed strikes into account.
It is obvious that EA are taking the sport seriously as they attempt to compete with the powerful UFC brand. They may lack some of the name recognition one expects from an EA Sports title, but the flexibility when it comes to the rules set is bound to appeal to hardcore fans of the sport. This winter there is a new challenger in the cage, and we are very excited to see what it brings to the fight game...