Monday, 25 June 2012

E3 2012: Bellator MMA Onslaught - Preview

For the last few years, the eight hundred pound gorilla for MMA fighting games has been THQ's UFC Undisputed series.  With an almost obsessive amount of detail and a lot of sweat poured into making every fighter currently or formerly in the UFC look as life-like as possible, the Undisputed series has earned a reputation for being a hardcore fighting simulation. But with THQ's financial situation, and the future of the Undisputed series in doubt for many, it's to be expected that there will be some contenders for the top spot.  One of those early contenders appears to be Bellator MMA Onslaught.

I will confess to having a certain ignorance of the Bellator organization.  It's a recent creation, but one that has been designed around a more performance-based approach to rankings rather than the matchmaking systems used by the UFC.  For Onslaught, rather than taking the hard sim approach, the focus is more on the fun part of an MMA fight: the actual fight.  There are no tedious training minigames.  No having to work your way up through "qualifying" minor league fights.  It owes more to Soulcalibur than Undisputed.

At their booth at E3, I had the chance to sit down and get some hands-on time with Onslaught, taking on a couple writers from Destructoid.  As I learned quickly, one has to balance aggression and patience.  One of the complaints leveled in UFC Undisputed 2010 was that it was too easy to get flash knockouts.  I suppose a similar charge could be laid against Onslaught, if not for the fact that if somebody scores a flash KO on you, it's probably your own fault.  Unlike the stamina bars that were by default hidden in Undisputed, they are plainly visible in Onslaught.  Stamina renews as you move to avoid strikes and is spent as you strike.  Deplete that stamina bar and it's lights out with one good shot.  If there's one aspect of MMA fighting games that I really don't like, it's the ground game.  It was absolutely ridiculous in other games, but here it's perfectly fluid.  No mad swirling of control sticks.  No weird minigames.  Just get down and bloody.  The great irony is that the match I won against Destructoid came when it got into the ground game.

I'm thinking that this title is going to have some legs if the developers keep to that formula of fast, fun, and furious fighting.  Bellator MMA Onslaught is slated to be released sometime this summer.

- Axel Cushing