Sunday, 12 February 2012

Supremacy MMA Review

'Protect yourself at all times'

Fans of mixed martial arts have had it pretty good in the last few years. The days of harking back into console gaming lore for their MMA fix became a distant memory upon the release of THQ's UFC:Undisputed 2009. Hot on it's heels, EA sports MMA fattened up the buffet by providing an intuitive and alternative control system while drawing on a wider, while possibly less well known, roster of fighters. UFC:Undisputed 2010 proved to be the most complete MMA release to date and the chaps in suits at THQ will surely be salivating at the prospect of big numbers for their third instalment, due in early 2012.

Worming it's way into the, newly pulsating, mixed martial arts video game arena is 505 games 'Supremacy MMA'. Make no mistake, not only is this the worst MMA product available on current gen consoles, it is also among the most dire and uninspired in the beat 'em up genre as well.

Supremacy MMA presents itself as a no holds barred, bone breaking, skull cracking, underground slugfest, where only the loss of blood and consciousness will determine a winner. Mind you, it also boasts that it is the first MMA game to have female fighters. It does, two of them, and they make up two of just twelve playable fighters overall.

If popular outdoor varnish 'Ronseal' was a superhero, it's arch nemesis would be Supremacy MMA. The most grating element of the game should be that it drags MMA back into the dark ages by embracing a decidedly misguided standpoint of 'fighting to the death' or some other similar twaddle. It's most repugnant stench however is emitted from the fact that this is merely what it claims to be, when in fact, it is a wet, bare bones beat 'em up on the very bottom rung of the championship ladder.

Initially, Supremacy MMA presents itself quite well. Opening cinematics, cheap and cheerful though they are, look quite edgy and cool. Sketchy and cell shaded, supported with unrelenting metal audio, the opening does it's best to get your blood boiling, ready for war. The quality of visuals deteriorates as soon as you step in to the cage, however. You can choose from several different kinds of venue, from cage to ring to dojo canvas but each environment is as bland as the last. Surrounded by a generic and largely motionless crowd, you and your opponent, exchanging rigid blows, resemble rock em sock em robots rather than ripped, rugged cage warriors.
'Supremacy' furnishes itself with a small variety of modes, each one as brief and bland as the next. Story, tournament, training and femmes fatales – unfortunately the mode most bare of all of Supremacy MMA's anaemic bones.

You can play as one of two female fighters, each story mode lasts two fights. Actually, less than that if you play as the champ, defend your title once and, well that's it, job done.

It's disappointing and deflating and the theme reoccurs throughout. Your success in the cage is dictated by filling a power meter, allowing you to unleash your most devastating attacks when full. Every time you counter a move, it fills up a little more and tapping the shoulder button will utilise a special move specific to your characters fighting style, the fuller the bar, the more effective it will be. This is rarely needed as fights are often over far too quickly, it is very rare to find a fight that makes it out of round one. This is largely because of the indiscriminate nature of the way damage is absorbed. Essentially, your body becomes one large punching bag, where a kick to the leg will contribute to your overall damage taken just as much as say, a kick to the face.

There's a good nod to some of martial arts most decorated and it is a surprise to see playable pugilists such as Jerome LeBanner and Jens Pulver, a fighter under the UFC banner not too long ago. Sadly the story modes available, which should embellish your favourite fighter's back story, are just five fights long and are broken up with some truly bizarre interludes.
Such as, for example, where former UFC champion, Jens Pulver talks about how his father held a gun in his mouth as a child. This kind of story is absolutely unsuited to an international sport. Imagine such a story mode in a popular football game, perhaps Thierry Henry could give a candid interview about being flogged as a child or David Beckham could tearfully lament his experience of being made to force read prose. It's entirely unnecessary and quite fictional.

So Supremacy MMA lacks substance and story, no surprise, to be fair no current gen (or old gen) mixed martial arts game has quite given us an 'Uncharted' narrative quite yet and nor should we expect it.

However, Supremacy MMA should absolutely be expected to deliver rewarding combat. After all, there is serious quality to be enjoyed in modern MMA games, every other recent MMA release has had great combat and an extensive roster of licensed pros.

'Supremacy' fails to deliver anything even close. Aside from the mis-marketing, the lack of good game modes available and the bizarre stories, the combat is awful.

Each fighter carries his or her own fight style from boxer or kick boxer to jiu jitsu, judo and others and with it their own individual move set. While stood up, you can throw punches and kicks as you might expect but beyond that, the combat is built around tedious counter mashing in what ultimately feels like a far too drawn out quick time event.

In an attempt to avoid a given attack, you will need to counter with a timed button press. Sometimes this might be a take down, whereas with other fighters it may be a right hook. Each press will determine the next stage the combat reverts to. The problem with this is that any element of strategy is completely removed, instead of adopting a winning game plan, you rely almost entirely on luck and circumstance, not to mention the hilariously inconsistent in game AI. The system is designed to make the experience of playing as a wrestler different from that of a boxer, for example, instead it creates a series of imbalanced and irritating contests. The button press required varies too. It may be one to defend that pesky takedown, then another to defend the same move, pressing the appropriate button as it pops up on screen determines your success or failure.

It can be quite satisfying to drop increasingly emphatic hammer fists on a freshly mounted opponent but getting there is as soft as that fighters' freshly mashed cranium. It pays to be reckless, throw with abandon and you will find yourself countered and escorted to the canvas. No matter, as the over simplified ground game mechanic will restore you to an advantageous position within micro seconds. Simply flick your analogue up or down (whichever you prefer) and you'll advance your position. From stand up to ground to full mount and knock out in fifteen seconds. The teeth grinding pleasure that you should feel, instead comes over more like a lazy, quick win.
The fact that Supremacy MMA has included online as a game mode is like a cruel joke. Attempting to connect at all is essentially futile. If you do get on, you are in for more of the same as the stifled single player experience. Online should be avoided like an Anderson Silva front kick.

Supremacy MMA represents everything that a Mixed Martial Arts game should not be. Selling itself on a worn out stereotype, promoting the myth of cage fighters being from violent backgrounds, participating only because they had no other choice. The derived narrative is fitting as 'Supremacy MMA' does it's best to drag the beat 'em up genre back to the bad old days, relying on limp and imbalanced combat coated with a wafer thin layer of content to endure rather than enjoy. 'Supremacy' brings with it neither an MMA experience nor does it deliver even remotely enjoyable play.

If it had launched four years ago, with no other MMA releases out there, it would have been wise to avoid Supremacy MMA completely. Launching with three quality offerings already available and a fourth on the way, 'Supremacy MMA' should be ducked, by everyone, like a spinning back fist.

Mecha Score 4.8

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