MMA (Mixed Martial Arts for anyone who doesn’t like acronyms) is often referred to as the fastest growing sport in the world. In the current generation of consoles we’ve already seen two UFC titles from THQ, with a third on the way. We’ve also had EA’s own MMA game with a sequel planned. So with two series already established, is there room for a third MMA title?
Supremacy MMA tries to carve out a space for itself by aiming to do things a bit differently. Shying away from the prime time TV offerings imitated by THQ and EA’s games, Supremacy MMA is all about the glamour-free dark and dingy underground fighting that the likes of the UFC grew out of. Unfortunately the first impression you get is that this feel has been taken a little too far in the game’s presentation. The main menu is perfunctory at best with a short music loop that soon begins to grate and it won’t be long before you’re searching for the option to turn off the background music.
From the main menu you have several options; Fight Now, Xbox Live Match, Tournaments, Supremacy Stories, Femmes Fatales, Training Gym, Fighter Progression and Options/Tutorials.
As you might expect “Fight Now” is the fastest route into the ring. Select a fighter, an opponent and arena and you’re into a fight. Again the presentation lets itself down here, with none of the TV-broadcast style touches that help immerse you in rival titles. What it does do is flash up a bar with the name and artist of the background music playing during the fight. With a huge number of music tracks in the game, this is obviously something that the developers were proud of and wanted to show off. Unfortunately if you’ve already muted the irritating menu music you won’t hear any in-fight music, so it seems strange that the game still wants you to know the name of the track you can’t hear...
With the background music off you would be forgiven for expecting to hear the crowd in good voice. Given the down and dirty vibe of the game and the 18 rating on the box I was expecting them to be screaming for blood and questioning my parentage or generally casting aspersions on my character, but they all seemed thoroughly bored. Unfortunately the crowd’s apparent boredom can quickly become infectious and considering how few people are generally watching you fight, it’s a pity that the same models are repeated so frequently. At times it almost seems like you are fighting as part of the entertainment at a sextuplet convention!
The character models are passable, although they do seem to lack variety. Animation can feel stiff and stilted with moves used in combination not really feeling like they flow together. There is plenty of bright red blood flying around, but it feels like the makers were trying to put too much emphasis on it. Almost like they were thinking “Oooh, look at this! Blood everywhere! Cool and edgy, huh?!” Obviously blood is going to be part and parcel of the sort of fighting showcased in an MMA title, but in other games it is done in a subtle way and is all the better for it. Here it feels overdone and excessive and I can’t help but be reminded of the great red globs that flew about the screen in the original Mortal Kombat.
Controls will seem a little odd to anyone used to other MMA games. In fact I would go so far as to say that the controls in Supremacy MMA have more in common with arcade beat em ups like Street Fighter than other MMA games. For example, the left stick is used to advance/retreat from your opponent and for blocking. If you want to step to your left/right, you need to combine the left stick with LB/L1.
Likewise you only have one kick and one punch button, whereas other MMA games map each of the face buttons to a left/right punch/kick. There’s a fair bit to the controls, especially those that relate to grappling and the ground game. Unfortunately the tutorial is of very little help here. It places you in a ring against an opponent, where you would expect to be able to practice a series of moves. Sadly it seems like someone forgot to tell your opponent what is happening and so he attacks you constantly. So while the on screen instructions are telling you which buttons to press to perform a punch and kick, you are hammering buttons in frustration because your opponent is performing a hip toss or has you in a collar elbow clinch.
The Tournaments option gives you a choice of Battle Royale or Survival Ladder. Battle Royale starts with eight fighters matched up, with the winner of each bout moving on to the next round and so on until a winner emerges. Survival Ladder sees you moving through a series of eleven opponents one at a time, improving your rank as you go. Both these modes are single player only, which is unfortunate as a multiplayer tournament could have had potential as post-pub entertainment.
Supremacy Stories sees you selecting a fighter and progressing through a series of fights whilst cut scenes tell their story. The cut scenes are partially animated cartoon affairs. If you’ve ever seen a motion comic then these are very similar. Unfortunately the makers have decided to add “Grindhouse-style” filters and effects over these cut-scenes, meaning film scratches, film grain, loss of focus, hairs in the lens, etc. Whilst it’s a nice idea it’s unnecessary, the cut scenes would have probably worked better without them. Worse, they are overdone, with excessive amounts of the effects applied.
Femmes Fatales is probably Supremacy MMA’s biggest USP (Unique Selling Point) as it features female MMA fighters. That’s fighters, plural, but barely as you only get the choice of two fighters. You also can’t mix the ladies up with the men, which is probably for the best as nobody wants to see a woman getting punched in the face repeatedly by a man in the name of entertainment. Selecting the Femmes Fatales option then gives you the option of a versus mode between the two fighters or their own Supremacy Stories type mode. The same criticisms of Supremacy Stories apply here, along with the same criticisms of the fight engine, regardless of the competitor’s gender. It’s worth noting that the female fighters only appear under Femmes Fatales, not in the tutorial or any other modes. As a result it feels very tacked on and you have to wonder if the lack of integration was a result of it being a late addition purely so the makers could claim that aforementioned USP.
Training Gym allows you to set up a bout between two fighters, but in a training gym rather than an arena. Both competitors have infinite health, so this is an opportunity to try to get to grips with some moves. But like the tutorial, this again lacks the option to stop the opponent attacking you, meaning you really don’t get the opportunity to practice exactly what you want, being rather too busy fending off his repeated attacks.
Fighter progression lets you see how far you’ve progressed with each fighter; their XP, fight records, fight stats and any challenges you’ve completed. Interesting if you are the sort that wants to wring every last bit out of a game and are likely to want to max out each and every fighter, rather than picking a favourite and sticking with him.
The most glaring omission from the game is clearly any sort of create-a-fighter mode. With just 12 fighters (plus the 2 female fighters, although their tacked-on nature makes me reluctant to include them) available from the start and only a handful more that can be unlocked or made available through DLC, it won’t take you long to tire of the roster. Worse, the majority are fictional meaning you won’t have heard of them before, no matter how much of an MMA fan you are. This situation could have easily been negated by a decent create-a-fighter mode, in much the same way that EA’s MMA title can now be graced by many of the big name UFC combatants.
I really didn’t want to keep name-checking the UFC and EA titles throughout this review, preferring instead to see if Supremacy MMA could stand or fall on its own merits. But it quickly became obvious that that was an impossible task. In a world where the UFC and EA titles already exist (and can be found pretty cheaply) there is really no reason to pick up Supremacy MMA.