I know, both games have BEEN out for quite a while, at least in gamer years. However, there are those folks that have either recently become gamers or could have Santa Claus dropping a brand new gaming system under their Christmas tree later this month, so if you are a recent gamer or just haven't had the time or money, I'm going to lay it out for you as far as the biggest two MMA game titles that are out now. Since I finally got a few extra dollars I was able to pick up EA Sports MMA about a week ago and have been giving it a go ever since, so now I can finally score that and THQ's UFC Undisputed 2010 effectively! Hopefully my judging is a little better than those in Nevada Saturday night. I will attempt to score the games on a 10-point must system under the categories of Graphics, Controls, Presentation, Career, and Overall Fun. Let's get it on!
Graphics - For some this is a big hook for them when it comes to gaming. Especially with the many advances made with the new technologies put out by Sony and Microsoft. I must admit, if a game doesn't have a smooth, near-realistic look to it (especially a sports game) it can be a BIG turnoff for me. In Undisputed 2010, the models have become a bit sleeker and streamlined than the more bulky character models in its predecessor, making fighters like Mauricio ‘Shogun' Rua and Georges St. Pierre look a little more anorexic than I'd prefer but the face models, fight shorts, stances, and movement intricacies are captured almost flawlessly by THQ. There have been many times that I have had relatives walk in while I was playing the game (or allowing the AI to sim a fight) and thought they were watching a UFC Unleashed episode on Spike TV. Most look that real! Even the create-a-fighter models can be morphed in such a way that you'd think Zuffa had picked up a new fighter. Meanwhile, EA struggles a bit in the graphics department. The models of some of the fighters seem very disproportionate, for example, Bobby Lashley's entire character model looks extremely cartoonish and while he is a behemoth of a man muscle wise, there's no reason his upper body should look so much bigger than the rest of his body. However, they did well with many of the other character models such as Fedor Emelianenko, Randy Couture, and Jason ‘Mayhem' Miller. Now I have to nitpick a little. I understand this isn't a big concern to most but it is to me, but a lot of the fighters in EA MMA wear plain fight shorts, which just makes them look somewhat generic. I understand that EA could not use many of the Sponsors of the fighters, so they did the best they could with what they had available but they could have given user's the chance to edit fighter's shorts just to give some variety. Also the movement of the fighters is way off. I like how in Undisputed 2010, you can have your fighter walk to the middle of the cage or run, it's your choice. With EA, all fighters have an almost gliding effect to their movement, which makes them dart in and out in an unrealistic manner. The arenas in Undisputed are basically interchangeable; you have a venue, an octagon, and a few different logos on the mat. Whereas there are a variety of different venues and rings/cages that can be used in EA MMA, and this is one area where the graphics are very well done as everything from the ropes in a boxing ring to the cage are represented and give a semi-realistic feel while in combat. Taking into consideration all of this as a whole I have to give Undisputed a 10-9 in this area, it just looks better.
More after the Jump
Controls - Being able to pull off the punches, kicks, takedowns, and submissions you want is a MUST in a videogame based on mixed martial arts. This is where THQ and the Undisputed series have struggled the most. While their complex scheme when it comes to grappling has frustrated many, the ease of throwing a leg kick, high kick, power punch, body punch in my view offsets their flawed grappling system. However, many times you feel like you're playing Ultimate Kickboxing rather than Ultimate Fighting and even when your opponents, whether friend or AI, decide to go Jon Fitch grind session on you, the likelihood of them fatiguing you enough to successfully complete a submission is unlikely. The head movement/parry addition to Undisputed is good but if you're like me, timing it and effectively throwing a power strike is a bit of a pain. The big problem however, is submissions. Using the right analog stick (if you're using the default controls), you rotate it clockwise or counter and hope to do it rapidly enough to choke out and break a limb. That usually doesn't happen and you just waste time losing position to your opponent and tiring out your fighter in the process. Big flaw! The controls for EA are a little easier (though I had to switch from classic controls because I found it almost impossible to strike with the right analog stick). If you switch it like me, the punching and kicking is done more like Undisputed, except there are different button combinations to do special moves such as flying knees and spinning kicks. The grappling involves some of the same as Undisputed as you use the right analog stick again to advance position and pass guard. The biggest difference though comes in the submission area. You can initiate a submission from using the right analog but instead of having to spin that and hope for the best, you get to either spin the left analog (usually for chokes) or press one of the buttons. It takes much more consideration on the stats of a fighter than Undisputed does in my opinion, as a Fedor Emelianenko has little trouble tapping out a Bob Sapp. The only flaw I have had with EA's controls is at times they lag. You will not believe how frustrating it is to get out of Shinya Aoki's guard press the back button to move back to no avail and have him scissor sweep you not only back to the mat but gain top position. Also, at times it lags in throwing your strikes as you'll ferociously press the punch button simply to have your fighter do nothing and your opponent snuggly clinch up with you. Even with those few flaws, EA gets a 10-9 win here.
Career - This is another area THQ struggled with when they released their first foray in MMA with Undisputed '09. The system is basic. You create-a-fighter, start in the amateurs and work your way up. Through that process, you can visit camps to learn more moves/abilities and increase your stats. Simple enough, however, as we all know there are tons of tangibles that can be thrown in to make an animated MMA career...exciting. Unfortunately, THQ failed in this area twice. Undisputed 2010 does a better job than the former but still falls short of what many hardcore gamers are wanting. The few additions become more annoying than enjoyable. Being asked to take part in the SAME tiresome events just to add credibility or popularity becomes way too redundant. Not to mention it takes away from your training time. However, that annoyance is nowhere near as ‘joystick tossing in anger' as the stat deterioration system. Say you want to focus on one aspect of your skills between fights, that's all fine and dandy but expect for the rest of your skills to slip to almost irreparable lows in doing so. You get the gist of what they were trying to do here but given the fact that you're given such little in the way of beginner points, you almost have to simulate training ALL the time to have a truly respectable fighter by the numbers. There are some bright points though. When you do reach championship level, you get an option to attend weigh-ins where (you always make weight) but you can choose to respect or disrespect your opponent, adding heat to the upcoming fight. Also, once you've cleaned out a division, you can either drop down to another or move up. The only problem I have with this is you have to start out from the very bottom and work your way up in this division as well, imagine BJ Penn having to start out against Marcus Davis to get his shot at GSP! Moving over to EA, I must admit I haven't gone through the entire career or even through to make it to the big leagues but I will say it has the certain tangibles/intangibles that make it more rewarding than Undisputed. First of all, you get a much broader path to take your fighter in than in Undisputed, but that is understandable as all roads lead to UFC in that. Here, you do much of the same as others but your training with that specific camp lasts until your upcoming fight and the ‘special moves' are actually a little more easily achieved than in Undisputed. You get paid and can pay to travel across the globe and each area has its head trainer whom gives you pep talks and verbal lashings, depending on how well you're doing in training. The simple fact, that you can choose where your fighter goes, whether he battles it out in a Brazilian ring in 20 minute brawls or goes the more traditional route under the Unified rules, this makes things much more exciting as you weave your way through the ranks. One of the only drawbacks I've encountered thus far is that they pick your next fight for you, whereas in Undisputed you're always given an option of fighters to take on. This makes your career a little too linear as you're attempting to gain the belt in your chosen organization, but it's a minor flaw that can be fixed next go round. When all is said and done, it looks like Undisputed is down by two rounds as I give EA the 10-9 nod.
Presentation - This could have possibly been merged with graphics but it takes into consideration not only the look but the total look, feel, and commentary. As stated, the graphics on Undisputed trump those of EA. However, it is the feel of the game that also gives it that added something. From the Gladiator-intro that we see at the beginning of every UFC show being implemented into the always fun Event Mode to the in-show graphics that we see during the Pay-Per-Views and Fight Nights being added in to give you that UFC feel. While simple, these add to the enjoyment of the game. How cool is it to simulate an entire UFC PPV card created by you, even having the pre-fight interviews to open the show and to take us into the main event. Having Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan at the beginning as well also takes you from just a gamer to really feeling like you're Dana White (for better or worse). This is what is really lacking in EA. You can either fight against someone or do career mode. There's really nothing in between. The additional rulesets and arenas add a little but in the end you get the same Strikeforce Tale of the Tape graphic and possibly an introduction. The ring entrance looked good on paper, but the fact it's only about 5 seconds and it's really nothing more than showing your fighter standing there with background music and taking about two steps before it fades out. I understand they probably did not want to go Smackdown vs. Raw and have a full out overblown entrance but at least let them take more than two steps before you cut away. The commentary on EA MMA is slightly better than that of Undisputed. You can tell that they basically just pieced together soundclips of Goldberg and Rogan and added a few extra comments but you find them saying the same exact things in EVERY fight, heck I would've settled for Goldberg plugging some random television show or movie just to keep it from being so redundant. Mauro Ranallo and Frank Shamrock do a little better and give it a somewhat authentic feel when announcing, especially if you rematch your opponent, they'll make remarks about the previous fight among other things. While that adds to the EA experience, I must give Undisputed a 10-9.
Overall Fun - This is the hardest one to judge. I must say I had my doubts about EA, just from the clips I watched online but when you actually try it for yourself, it is a really good attempt at MMA. Meanwhile, Undisputed 2010 did an honorable job in taking its flaws and building upon them while enhancing some of the areas it lacked in the first. The immense number of fighters you can choose from is a very big plus as you have plenty of UFC fighters to pick from and each has a somewhat uniqueness to them unlike in 09. The added modes, such as Championship and Event modes really give you something else to do once you've given up on Career mode. Plus, if you're one of those that like to play online (I'm not one of them) they have worked out some of the bugs but are still getting things together in that area. Plus, where else can you have Kimbo Slice and/or Shaquille Oneal wear UFC gold!? EA offers a much different experience some for better and some for worse. Your choice of fighters is extremely slim, so be forewarned and many of the fighters are spread out through multiple weight classes making creating fighters a MUST. The Career mode however, will keep you plenty busy and just to throw a jab at Dana and Co., EA basically put almost all the name combinations of UFC fighters to your disposal. Yes, you can easily create Quinton ‘Rampage' Jackson and Mirko ‘Cro Cop' Filipovic and the announcers and all will not skip a beat. They even went as far as to put small tidbits about these guys into the commentary, for example, I have a created Rampage fighter and Mauro will talk about his powerful striking and slams...coincidence, I think not. Plus they too have online capabilities and even have their own online events with gamers facing off against each other with real live commentary; so far I've heard there are some lag times, still a very cool concept. The learning curve is a bit easier to pick up with EA than Undisputed as well as most normal gamers will just bypass the grappling and work on their hands and feet to get the job done, which is not necessary with EA. However, in the end, my unbiased assessment would be to give Undisputed the very close 10-9 by hair.
Scorecard - Taking all those into consideration Undisputed 2010 wins a close 48-47 decision. While you won't be mad purchasing either one, if you just can't spare the extra scratch to get both, and you're buying for either a casual or hardcore fan of MMA, they'll probably appreciate THQ's effort a wee-bit more than EA's.
I'm sure some of you will yell the judging criteria needs an overhaul so voice your opinions here, was this insightful, am I out my mind, or a combination of both? Please let me know or throw in your two cents if you've played either.