Review: Supremacy MMA

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THQ owns the video game mixed martial arts title right now with its UFC Undisputed franchise, but like with any sports game there are always talented up-and-comers looking to dethrone the champ. EA Sports put up a tough fight with its MMA game, but ultimately went down for the count. Now 505 Games gets a chance at a title fight with Supremacy MMA. Unsurprisingly, it goes down like a sack of potatoes, without even making it out of the first round.

Opposed to other more simulation style titles in the genre, Supremacy MMA presents the sport as more of an illegal underground fight club experience with an arcade slant. The problem is, it doesn’t quite land the delivery, leaving the gameplay stuck somewhere in the middle of arcade accessibility and sim realism, without establishing a true sense of identity one way or the other.

Supremacy MMA’s downfall is easy to spot from the outset: the fighting engine just isn’t very intuitive or well-balanced. There is neither incredible depth to the fighting mechanics nor are the controls responsive enough to accommodate the faster, more streamlined pacing the game seems intent on achieving.

You are given a small selection of fighters to choose from (12 male and 2 femme fatales), and each specializes in a different style, from Muay Thai and judo to kickboxing and submission wrestling. (Traditional boxing and full-on mixed martial arts are choices too of course, among others.) You can punch, you can kick, you can block, you can counter, you can grab, you can take the fight to different positions on the ground, and you can use submissions, all with button commands that are easy to grasp regardless of your experience with a video game controller. The MMA basics are covered.

The plethora of moves and styles sounds great in theory, but in practice very little distinguishes one style from another, and overall the gameplay couldn’t be any shallower. Whichever fighter you choose, the best way to win is to get into holds and use submission moves and/or ground-and-pound attacks. Submission holds are nothing more than mini-game QTEs to see who can waggle their analog stick more vigorously than the other, and while there is a body damage indicator for each fighter, I couldn’t detect a noticeable payoff for targeting and injuring specific body parts. Fighters don’t limp on legs that show as blinking red from repeated blows, nor is it possible to land one-shot instant KOs or submissions. Like any traditional arcade fighting game, the only way to win is to deplete the opponent’s health bar.

Upright fighting styles like boxing and kickboxing also seem completely disadvantaged, as even on normal difficulty AI combatants are uncanny in their ability to block or counter damn near every single combo you throw at them. Worse still, the fighters move around about as stiff as an embalmed corpse, so simply walking a straight line in the caged ring is clunky enough before you even attempt to grasp the simplistic yet sluggish controls. Then, when you actually do land a good combo string, one throw or submission from the opponent often does more damage in a single maneuver. In one match, I somehow put together a chain of 20 consecutive landed blows – then the other fighter countered my next strike, slammed me to the ground, and suddenly our health bars were dead even. From then on, I went for throws and submissions, and the matches flew by with relative ease.

Supremacy’s puddle-deep combat doesn’t have a whole lot to fall back on either. As mentioned earlier, there are only 14 fighters to pick from, a slight number compared to modern fighting games of any style (the next UFC is supposedly going to have something like 150!). These fighters have personal story modes to complete and individual level progressions leading to unlockable outfits, but you can blow through the set in a handful of hours (less if you skip the dull cutscenes, which I began to do after I had three or four stories under my belt). Once you’ve cleared the story mode, you can enter quick bouts or challenge yourself to battle royale tournaments and survival ladders, and that’s it. For multiplayer, the game offers basic ranked and player matches online, but for the life of me I can’t find anyone to spar with. I’ve been trying to find matches and test online performance off and on since the game shipped last month, but even though I can see hundreds of players registered on the leaderboards I have yet to find a single competitor to go up against. I guess players learned the hard way how much of a stinker this game is and stopped playing.

The one thing Supremacy does get right, however, is its no-holds-barred presentation. Fighters bloody and bruise in real time, with every punch and kick delivered leaving a resounding thud, crunch, or thwack. Upon activating a short-lived, super-powered Adrenaline Boost, you can also end fights with vicious knockouts that leave your target of rage reeling in a slow-motion cloud of sweat and blood, hitting the ground with broken limbs, shattered vertebrae, or mutilated faces.

Supremacy MMA does effectively capture the skull-thudding, body-bruising brutality of the sport, there is no doubt about that. But as a game it neither satisfies as a pure simulation nor entertains as an arcade brawler. If you’re a hardcore MMA fan, you’ll hate its simplified approach, and if you’re merely looking for a quick-and-brutal fighting game, you’ll find plenty of violence but little actual enjoyment. That coupled with a dearth of content and shallow, unbalanced play mechanics sends this game to the mat a bloodied, battered mess.

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Pros:
+ Detailed graphics, impactful sound effects, and realistic body damage capture MMA brutality

Cons:
– Shallow, unbalanced fighting system
– Sluggish controls and stiff animations
– Serious lack of content

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3; also available for Xbox 360
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Kung Fu Factory
Release Date: 9/20/2011
Genre: Fighting
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1-2
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!