Bellator: MMA Onslaught Review
This game was reviewed on PlayStation 3
When most people think of Mixed Martial Arts, they think of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Truth is, UFC is merely a single face of a much larger sporting body. Developer Kung Fu Factory (of UFC Undisputed and Supremacy MMA fame) has decided to focus on the Bellator organisation with their latest release, Bellator: MMA Onslaught. Bellator is the second largest MMA promotion in the USA, and the largest tournament-based MMA organization in the world. MMA Onslaught focuses more on an arcade-style fighting system than THQ’s Undisputed series or EA Sport’s upcoming UFC simulation, but does this greater focus on accessible gameplay make for a better game?
The fighting system certainly makes for some fast-paced matches, which can get quite brutal once the kicks and punches start flying. However, it can be said that the tactical nuances and strategies that MMA fans are familiar with can be pushed to the wayside in favour of button-mashing and a pattern of attack-attack-attack-retreat repeated until your opponent is floored. Whilst there are clearly a great number of fighting moves available to be used, as evidenced by the character customization screen, a lot of these are hidden behind fussy controls. Oftentimes it is much easier to just punch your way out of trouble rather than attempting holds and submission victories. Furthermore, certain defensive moves such as parries and counters require split-second and almost superhuman timing to execute properly, and it seems like a form of indication system, similar to that of Batman’s Arkham series, would not have gone amiss, particularly for beginners.
MMA Onslaught does include a training mode, with the primary objectives being to level-up your created character and to become familiar with the multitude of moves available within the game. Whilst a large part of the training system works well, there are definite sudden jumps in difficulty between certain exercises, and a few of the explanation screens are lacking in outlining just exactly what you’re supposed to do. This problem is amplified by the fact that some training exercises require the player to use moves which they may not yet have unlocked for their fighter. There is no indication offered within the game that this obstacle is present, leaving some players to frustrate themselves over the seemingly impossible nature of their objective.
Outside of the training mode, Bellator offers only two modes of play: Super Fight, a basic one-off match-up, and Championship Road, which echoes the tournament-style structure of the Bellator organisation in that your chosen fighter has to battle his way past seven opponents in an attempt to claim his chosen weight’s belt. As a $15 downloadable game, however, MMA Onslaught doesn’t offer up much depth. ‘Championship Road’ mode in particular, even though it is seemingly the focus of the title, doesn’t present a great deal in the way of reward for completing it; you merely receive a picture of your fighter and the belt that he has just won. It is understandable that the developer doesn’t have access to limitless resources like EA Sports to add bells and whistles to the game, but if there were to be a little more excitement around your ultimate victory, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Unfortunately, low production values seem to be the greatest impediment of MMA Onslaught. From a full Bellator roster of over 130 fighters, Kung Fu Factory has deemed players worthy of access to only eight, with an additional four slots open for customized characters. Although it was mentioned earlier that the extent of moves available to player-created characters was impressive, unfortunately the same cannot be said for the options to customize your character’s appearance, with a limited selection of hairstyles, outfits, and body types on offer. This may not be an important factor to some players, but if you’re going to offer the option to create and customize your own fighters, it makes sense to actually give players a certain level of choice in doing so.
Aesthetically, MMA Onslaught is a mixed bag, with a certain reverence towards the source material. The licensed fighters’ character models look pleasingly reminiscent of their in-menu body shots, and the action within the octagon is – for the most part – smooth and well-animated, with blood splattering the canvas and bruises and welts gradually appearing on the fighters’ bodies. There are even video clips on some of the menu options which give an air of authenticity. However, outside of the arena, environments are sparsely decorated, the crowd is poorly animated with the audience noises sounding mangled and cycled, and there is only one real venue for players to fight in. There is a training ring available as well, but this is limited to the training mode, and even the option of two arenas is pretty poor for a fighting game.
Bellator: MMA Onslaught is one of those games that is almost painful to play; you can see the developer’s love for the subject matter, but the execution of the product is unfortunately lacking. Kung Fu Factory and publisher 345 Games have been in regular touch with fans of the game through online message boards, and have said that they will work on updating the game through player feedback and user information in the form of both free updates and paid DLC. However, in its current form, Bellator: MMA Onslaught offers a decent fighting experience in terms of its engine but unfortunately the game as a package is severely lacking in features. There is promise for the title depending on how the developers move forward; but, currently, MMA Onslaught has too little meat on its bones to be seen as a great fighting game.
Final score: 3.5 out of 5
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