EA Canada has had great commercial success with their last two projects, Fight Night Champion and Fight Night Round 4. Both games not only sold well, but received high marks from critics.
What the Metacritic scores won't tell you, however, is that those titles were geared towards casual fighting fans who didn't care one bit about "the sweet science" and were only concerned about seeing fists fly. Serious boxing fans were left in the cold crying over the countless exploits that defied sound boxing fundamentals.
But Brian Hayes and his team at EA Canada know how to sell games, which is the only thing that matters to EA Sports.
In the months leading up to the release of Fight Night Round 4, Brian Hayes focused on the muscle flexing technology and physics-based sweat trajectory. It's the exact same strategy he's using for EA Sports UFC, scheduled to release this spring.
Hayes has talked a great deal about flexing muscles, grimacing faces and lifelike entrances. If history serves us right, EA Canada's definition of "authenticity" begins and ends with the visuals. Below is a short list of what you can expect in EA Canada's vision of MMA.
ALL OFFENSE, ANTI-DEFENSE. Defense may win championships, but offense sells games. If EA Sports UFC is anything like the last two Fight Night games, hyper offense will always win the day. Expect ridiculously high connect rates. You will be penalized in a variety of ways for fighting defensively and suffer no serious consequences for non-stop offense, particularly during the stand up. Swing away, champ. It's your only hope.
FORMULA FIGHTING. Save for some random flash knockouts, fights will soon become formulaic. It won't take long to discover that an X amount of strikes will result in a stun or a KO and an X amount of submission attempts will soften up your foe. Winning matches will come down to using specific formulas that will consistently yield the same results each time.
SPECIAL ABILITIES. You won't see any sonic booms but you may as well. Expect special abilities that may be fun against the CPU but will force players to pick the same two or three fighters during multiplayer, at least if they want a chance to win. Possible special abilities include: Bulldozer: unstoppable takedowns. The Clamp: inescapable Muay Thai clinch. Cardio Freak: never ending stamina.
ILLEGAL MOVES. Headbutts and low blows were a legitimate way to put the hurt on your foe in past Fight Night titles. EA Sports UFC will take it to the next level with strikes to the groin, thumbs in the eye, a sneaky knee to the head of a grounded opponent and painful nipple-twister at close quarters.
LIMITED CREATE-A-FIGHTER. EA Canada ditched the traditional C.A.F. procedure of molding your fighter from scratch in favor of preset heads and a poorly implemented picture mapping feature. EA Sports UFC will not live up to the standards set by THQ in their wrestling games, which allowed players to tweak just about every part of their fighters' faces and bodies.
PRINCE OF PERSIA. In one of the most spectacular moments in MMA history, Anthony Pettis landed a once-in-a-lifetime headkick off of a wall run against Benson Henderson. That image has been central to EA Canada's marketing campaign. Expect Anthony Pettis (and other fighters equipped with this move) to repeat the same feat enough times in one match to make passersby think you were playing a Prince of Persia title.
A GIANT MIDDLE FINGER TO REALISM. EA Sports UFC will undoubtedly be the most realistic-looking game to date and will be oozing "next gen." Everything else will be arcadey. Whatever you think you know about MMA you can throw out the window if you wish to be good at this game. If you want an early advantage, start practicing with Tekken or Streetfighter to get a good feel of how EA Sports UFC will play. Arcade fans will be happy to see meters galore that will govern health, stamina, special moves, adrenaline, rage and chi.
What do you think?