In 2011 Mixed Martial Arts has continued to rise to prominence as can be seen by the record breaking 55,000 fans who crammed into the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada to watch UFC 129 in April and the recent seven year, $700 million television deal the UFC signed with FOX.
However, despite how far the sport has come, it still struggles to shake off the out-dated perception that it is in fact just a lawless, “no holds barred” brawl. In the past week alone a story about children fighting in a cage at an organized event made front page news in the UK and sparked outrage.
The story was of course overblown. The kids weren’t even competing in an MMA fight, but rather a grappling match with no strikes allowed, yet the media dubbed it “cage fighting” and threw around words like “barbaric,” “disturbing,” and “scandalous”, indicating that the sport still has a long way to go before it’s fully accepted and understood.
It’s against this backdrop that the latest video game in the burgeoning Mixed Martial Arts market, ‘Supremacy MMA’ arrives, looking to capitalize on it’s growing popularity while dispensing with the ‘sports simulation’ angle of previous titles like the UFC Undisputed series and EA Sports MMA, and instead playing up to the seedier stereotypes of illegal ‘underground’ fighting that still remain.
Fightofthenight.com was sent a copy of the game to review and after having recently had stints playing both Street Fighter IV and UFC Undisputed 2010 I was interested to see how this one compared.
Upon first loading up Supremacy MMA you reach a menu which gives you access to the various ways you can play the game.
There’s no ‘career mode’ as such, instead you can play through the ‘Supremacy Stories’ for each fighter, or alternatively you can play a quick game, fight online or go into tournament mode which allows you to compete in either a traditional grand-prix format or ‘survival ladder’ mode.
In addition there’s also both a training mode and a tutorial to help you brush up on your skills with any of the characters.
‘Supremacy Stories’ is where you’re probably going to invest the most time given that there’s 10 fighters individual tales to work through (plus a further two in the ‘Femme Fetales’ section which I’ll get to a little later). Amongst the fighters are a few familiar names most notably former UFC and WEC star Jens Pulver who is cast as a boxer and K-1 superstar Jerome Le Banner as a kickboxer, alongside some fictional characters filling in other fighting styles such as Karate, Muay Thai, Judo, BJJ and Wrestling.
The stories play out through a number of fights accompanied by cut-scenes featuring voiceovers and some comic-book style artwork. Don’t be expecting much, the dialogue is pretty weak, and though I didn’t stop to count you can probably get through each in under a dozen fights.
Both Pulver and Le Banner’s stories do include a little bit of reality to them though, with Pulver referencing his rough upbringing and fall from the top of the sport, while Le Banner speaks of his relationship with his father who was a boxer nicknamed ‘The Normandy Bull’. Unfortunately that’s about as deep as it gets as the plots quickly descend into meaningless small talk to fill in space between bouts.
A special note must be made for the ‘Femmes Fetale’ section which includes real-life female fighters Felice Herrig and Michele Gutierrez. Much was made of the fact that the game had female fighters on-board, but in reality you’re getting sorely short-changed here. For one thing you can’t pit the woman against the men, and in fact you can only pit the two girls against each other.
That leads to an embarassingly thin story section for both ladies that lasts all of two fights. In Herrig’s storyline it’s really only one fight as it seems that the computer forces you to lose the first bout in order to fit the narrative (this also happens at certain times in other characters stories).
I should also finally note that I encountered a bug more than once in this mode where I’d start a fighter’s story and be met with a black screen that would force me to exit and reload the game.
Grappling With The Controls (PS3 Edition)
Upon first loading I headed straight into a quick game and quickly realized that the controls weren’t going to be as easy to pick up as I’d expected. Perhaps it was just a hangover from having UFC Undisputed’s complex yet clever control system ingrained in my brain but I didn’t find them intuitive to use.
For instance, you can move left and right using the left stick, but if you want to move freely around the cage you have to hold down L1 and then use the stick. In general the controls also felt a little sluggish to me which is surprising for a game that models itself on fast, arcade style fighting games.
After a first play through I realized I needed some help so moved quickly onto the tutorial which didn’t do the best job of explaining the basics as it wasn’t well structured. In the end I headed to the ‘training gym’ option on the main menu, enabled the option to make the opponent passive and then just learned the controls myself through a mixture of trial and error and using the ‘command list’ option which is always available when you click the start button.
In general, when standing the square and triangle buttons produce offensive strikes, and can be modified with the left stick, while circle allows you to parry incoming strikes and X initiates the clinch. Holding L1 up or down blocks strikes, while R1 allows you to feint strikes.
Special modes can also be triggered, with L2 producing a charge attack, while holding L2 + R2 puts you in ‘Rush Mode’ which gives you an adrenaline boost which enhances damages.
In clinch mode flicking the left stick in different directions allows you to transition (a simpler version of minor transitions in the Undisputed series allowing you to go from say muay thai clinch to double underhooks) while the main buttons allow you to strike, throw or break free.
On the ground the same basic controls as the clinch apply with the left stick again being flicked for transitions, etc. The main difference is if you want to initiate a submission you hold X and press in the L1 button and then waggle the right stack left and right as fast as you can to lock it in.
The game plays like a classic arcade beat-em-up with the bouts ending when either fighters health bar drops to zero, while you have a ‘special’ bar that powes up to fuel your ‘Rush Mode’.
While this will be familiar to most people it’s not the ideal fit for an MMA based game as it means that when you lock in a submission, whether it’s a leg lock or a rear-naked choke, it doesn’t end the fight but rather just reduces your health. The only way to finish a fight with a submission is to wait until your opponents health bar is low which makes it feel kind of pointless when you could just fire of a few punches instead.
Meanwhile, after having played UFC Undisputed 2010 recently, having just two buttons controlling strikes feels very restrictive. To be fair though, a look at the command option does produce a fair list of different combos based upon variations of the square and triangle buttons in conjunction with the L1 stick.
Being able to parry strikes is a nice addition to the fighting system, meaning that if you time it successfully (easier said than done) you then have a small window of opportunity to counter with your own attack.
I also liked the fact that the more damage you take to a body part the less effective it is, and a representation of each fighter at the top of the screen shows which parts are most badly damaged.
It’s a nice idea, but I must confess that during my time playing with the game I didn’t notice it having any significant effect on what was happening.
The ground game plays like a dumbed down version of UFC Undisputed 2010 and feels very unsatisfying as there’s not much in the way of strategy or a sense of achievement here. A lot of times I found that it appeared to be too easy for either you or your opponent to get back standing again.
The main problem I encountered during my time with the game was the overall balancing of the fighting styles. At first I began to play using primarily strikers like Jens Pulver and Jerome Le Banner who have limited takedown options (Pulver also has no kicks, both striking buttons produce punches), and I’ll confess I was having a lot of difficult making any headway with them.
Eventually I decided to switch things up and chose ‘Jack Saxon’ who’s listed as an MMA fighter and has good takedowns and submissions. Suddenly I was ripping through opponents easily as I discovered that it was far easier to beat people on the ground compared to on the feet.
Iwasn’t too impressed with the graphics, though having said that I found the character models to be reasonably decent. I was however surprised that they looked fairly small on the screen which leaves an unneccesary amount of screen real estate for the various locations which include everything from a prison, a warehouse and a dojo to cages and rings in the likes of Japan and Thailand, some of which are more visually appealing than others.
To my eyes the lighting really seems to let the game down, producing an unsightly glare at times that detracted more than it enhanced. It also produces an unpleasant sheen on the characters that doesn’t seem natural at all. I also have to give a big thumbs down to the sweat FX when you hit someone as this just simply looked cheap and ugly.
Animation wise some of the moves look slick – for instance the kicking experts like Le Banner and Herrig have some unique, fast spinning kicks that definitely catch the eye, but others such as the basic movement of the fighters (particularly when holding down L1) look unconvincing.
As you’d expect the game is violent and so a fair amount of blood is spilled which becomes visible on both the fighters and on the mat as the fights progress. The fact that the characters are small on screen means you don’t ever get a full appreciation for the damage your giving and receiving though.
Meanwhile there’s graphic displays of damage at times when a fighter is defeated including things like broken legs. Surprisingly there’s no replays available so you don’t get to relive your handiwork in all it’s gory detail.
The voice work for the fighter stories isn’t great and the clunky dialogue doesn’t help. The foreign languages used for some fighters add a little color to the proceedings though (subtitles are included).
Credit has to be given to the fact that there’s dozens of music tracks included with the game. Unfortunately they all seem to be generic, uninspired metal instrumentals and as such are instantly forgettable and truth be told, hard to tell apart. In general the sound FX in the game do their job ok.
I didn’t have much of a chance to experience the online mode as I found it difficult to find other players on at the same time as me. Of the four games I did play I experienced lag and very bad stuttering effects in two of them, while the other two played perfectly.
As you’ll have guessed by now I wasn’t impressed with Supremacy MMA. It tries to be a jack of all trades, appealing to both the Street Fighter IV style beat-em-up crowd and the UFC Undisputed style MMA enthusiasts, but while the idea had some merit the end result is unlikely to satisfy either.
It’s not particularly fun to play and I don’t think it has the depth, longevity or the overall polish to justify the price tag. I struggle to see a reason to buy this when you can pick up better titles in the genre from the last year or two at budget prices.
If you still have an itch that needs scratching then I’d recommend tracking down the demo first before dipping into your wallet.
Supremacy MMA is available to buy from all good stores now for PS3 and Xbox360.