EA Sports MMA Online Impressions

Posted October 22nd, 2010 at 6:00 pm

EA Sports MMA has some of the best online features of any sports game to date and has excellent online performance to go along with that. However the initial online base of players is notably lacking so the outlook going forward, as to whether there will be enough players to support the various experiences fully, becomes a bit of a concern.

There has been absolutely no lag in any of the fights I’ve taken part in online and others I’ve checked in with are reporting the same positive experiences. The fights practically feel like they are being played offline due to how smooth and responsive they are.

One big issue coming up with ranked fights is that everyone just takes the top rated guys. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big issue as it is pretty typical for the top guys/teams to be chosen in any sports game.

However the decision was made to prevent you from seeing who your opponent is using until the game has connected in and can’t be backed out of. You choose your fighter before seeing who you’ll be going up against. That means you’re basically stuck taking a top guy too out of the expectation that they will. In some cases it even means both sides end up with the same guy.

While I’ve seen, and taken part in, some excellent fights online the majority seem to end really early. Most end in the first round. It is difficult not really knowing how an opponent fights and walking into that situation because one wrong move early and it can pretty much be over just like that. And again with just the top guys being used it’s not surprising.

The ranked system uses “Belts” and leveling up to promote activity. I don’t totally understand the system and how it gives out a “Bonus” that is different + sayings. No idea what those mean.

The Fight Cards feature is easily my favorite. There are 10 slots on the card that can be filled with one fight for each weight class. They are easy to set up and provide lots of different options. The card then goes one fight to the next with those people who are not in on the current fight spectating.

It makes for a really cool social experience. The only disappointment is that it is not ranked or even tracked. Fight replays are also not saved from the Fight Cards. It would have been nice to at least have records kept (even if not ranked) for Fight Card bouts and a full replay of the card or individual fights stored.

The Live Broadcasts could end up being great to spectate and intense for those participating. The actual live commentary aspect of it makes it like an event and fun to watch. So far they seem to just be viewable in-game but they are supposed to be streamed to the web as well which could expose the game to new fans.

I’m not enthralled by the “hype video” side of things though, but that is probably just my personality as there are people out there who like doing that kind of stuff. Obviously there had to be some way to determine who gets into the Live Broadcasts beyond just rank so we’ll have to see how this method works out.

As briefly mentioned earlier ranked fights have full fight replays stored for anyone to watch. Going to any of the leaderboards and selecting a name will then bring up that person’s last four ranked results. They can then be watched from start to finish. This is not only fun to just check in on and even scout friends and watch some of the top guys but it could be useful for leagues and monitoring styles/investigating complaints. It is just unfortunate that unranked and Fight Cards have no replays saved.

Just like the load times in every facet of the game they are frustrating in the online areas as well. With how quick some of the fights end the entire loading process in many cases ends up taking more time than the fight does but at least the action makes up for it. This is the major deterrent to watching fight replays though. From the point of selecting the fight to replay it takes a full minute until it actually starts playing. Once in the replay though you can skip ahead. Still it makes it a tedious process that has kept me from watching as much as I would otherwise.

Created fighters can be used even in ranked fights. They can come from career mode or the Fighter Share feature. The hope would be that EA has instituted the proper limits to prevent overpowered created fighters given the opportunity to use them. So far I’ve faced one that was absolutely huge but his ratings looked fair. Those available to download from the Fighter Share appear properly balanced in ratings as well.

I was really surprised that the matchmaking has been unable to find ranked opponents on several occasions, especially when considering it happened on release day and throughout a week that online activity should be heaviest. It also means getting matched up with guys who may be out of your league.

Difficulty finding online fights even at peak times is an indication that early sales have not been strong. This is probably a game that will have a long burn at retailers, picking up based on positive impressions and word of mouth. However if ranked opponents can’t be found on a regular basis and if Fight Cards can’t be filled at any given time then people may just move on to another game no matter how good this one is.

EA Sports MMA presents some innovative and intriguing online features that are perfect fits for this type of game. The Fight Cards, potentially Live Broadcast, and the ability to watch ranked fight replays in their entirety are fantastic additions. Whether there will be a large enough base of gamers playing to allow for these features to reach their full potential is the big question though.