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Posts Tagged ‘demo’

EA MMA: In the blue corner, the challenger.

October 4, 2010 1 comment

Over the last ten or so years, there have actually been several Mixed Martial Arts video games, mostly focused on the lucrative UFC promotion. In 2009, this sub-genre was revolutionized and truly brought to the mainstream in a way that parallels the sports recent rise in popularity with UFC 2009: Undisputed. Undisputed presented the sport with a brutal realism that was far removed from button combos and special moves that developers tried to shoehorn into its predecessors. It was impressive, but it lacked some key elements in the cage. UFC Undisputed 2010 fixed many of these issues, and it was hard to imagine how it could be vastly improved upon at that point.

A little known fact is that Dana White and the UFC went to EA long before THQ and Yukes to make a UFC game. EA dismissed MMA as ‘not a real sport’ and continued to make another Madden. However, the success of Undisputed caught EA’s eye, and deals with the lesser promotion Strikeforce were made immediately, to the complete spite of Dana White, who went so far as to declare any UFC fighters that appear in EA’s MMA game to be fired from the UFC (Of course, this seems to not count for Randy Couture, though this seems to have been allowed because Randy had not signed his likeness over to THQ for undisputed).

And so comes EA MMA, a competitor that I think is needed if MMA video games are going to continue to improve, as I believe competition is the key to improvement. I’ll be transparent here; I’m a UFC fan. I see Strikeforce as a generally lesser promotion with lesser talent and more WWE-style production values. I expected very little out of EA MMA, and that was foolish of me. UFC Needs to step its game up for 2011, because EA is bringing its usual dominance to the proverbial cage.

The Demo for EA MMA just recently came out on XBLA (Yes, you can go play it. Right now!), and I of course had to give it a spin. I want to first note that I like UFC’s soundtrack better. The opening movie for EA being set to Linkin Park’s new song ‘Wretches and Kings’ was a little eye roll worthy, but that’s a very petty complaint. Let’s move, instead, into the important factors: The game’s performance.

EA MMA takes a lot of cues from undisputed, presentation-wise, but veers off in some very significant ways on its own. The biggest difference is of course EA’s ‘Total Striking Control’, which takes more than a small bit of influence from EA’s other hit fighting franchise, Fight Night. It’s the same sort of set up, with the right analog stick controlling your furious fists. However, since this is in fact not boxing, the left trigger serves as a modifier to turn those punches in to kicks controlled via the same fashion. The face buttons serve as one press short cuts to clinch, sprawl, and go for the takedown, while pressing A works to advance your position on the ground, X goes for a submission (Which we’ll get to), and B counters a move or stands you up if you’re in the dominant position. This greatly decreases the complicated nature of the ground game, which is a frustration for many in Undisputed.

However, there is also a control scheme called ‘Classic’ that mirrors Undisputed in an obvious way, with the same sort of striking face buttons and stick-based clinch and grapple. There are a few button variations (A fake-modifier button, which is much more useful against a human opponent who can actually get psyched out), but overall it might be the best choice if you plan to play both EA and UFC.

Submissions are the only thing that, no matter what, are a whole different beast. Instead of the irritating Mario Party submissions like in Undisputed, EA separates its submissions and their mechanics into joint and choke submissions. Joint submissions (Armbar, Kimura, Americana, etc) are a button pressing game in which you try to maintain your stamina while slowly pushing your opponent’s joints (represented in a very cool way by an X Ray view of the bones) to their limit. This isn’t button mashing, though, it requires much more careful timing. Choke submissions require you to rotate the left stick until you find the ‘sweet spot’, which will change periodically and requires a sort of constant twiddling to nail. Your vision tunnels in the closer you get to the choke, narrowing the sweet spot down and simulating actually passing out. Defending submissions works in the same manner.

Fighting in EA MMA feels good. I’ve always found Undisputed to feel a bit mechanical, movement wise, with sounds that don’t quite drive home the impact of every good punch. EA feels organic, and gives you a gratifying smack for every well landed hit. Knockouts are a flurry of punches that never cease to satisfy, and when you clinch, it really feels like these guys are throwing eachother around on your TV. When it comes down to it, I would be happy to sit back and watch people duke it out on EA MMA, while I always found spectating Undisputed matches to be a little boring and methodical. Point: EA.

This isn’t to say EA is absolutely the superior game. UFC seems to present more variable options, and the fights are a bit more spontaneous. EA has a visible torso and head health bar when you begin to really wail on a guy that lets you know when the knockout is coming, and while that’s very helpful for knowing when to back off and play defensive, it also takes a bit of the excitement out of the flash knock out. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a flash KO yet, as every KO becomes your opponent falling to the ground and you engaging in a mad button mashing sequence to finish him off as he tried desperately to defend. That said, you can turn the HUD completely off, but it doesn’t make flash KOs exist in the game.

Take all of this with a pillar of salt, seeing as this is only a demo. The full version of EA MMA will include EA Game Face in the create-a-fighter, which may or may not have terrible results, live broadcasts of fights in a real worldwide ranking, and many more features that I couldn’t explore in the demo. It’s shaping up to be a great game, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dana White making some calls if it does well. Look for a full review when the game comes out later this month.

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UTk4 Mod: Ashura – Dark Reign Demo

September 16, 2008 4 comments

Intro: I’ve been following this project for a long time, it’s pretty damn ambitious. A small (and varying over time) team of people are making the amazing effort to bring a blend of old and new school Sonic the Hedgehog gameplay together to do what Sega can’t seem to: Make a Sonic game with fun gameplay, and an engaging story. Eight or nine months ago, they released their first public demo after nearly three years of development. So does the proof of concept deliver a feeling of blissful nostalgia, or make me want to go back to Sonic Heroes for a 3D Sonic fix?

Graphics/Art Direction

I have to be nice here for two reasons:

A) This mod is based on Unreal Engine 2, last gen, and therefore I can’t expect a bunch of fancy pants effects and
B) It’s a tech demo, meant to show the concept off more than the graphics.

Though, I don’t have that many negative things to say about the game’s graphics. The characters are either minimally or completely untextured (hence the washed out colours on Sonic.), but other than that, the environments look and feel like Sonic fare. The demo takes place primarily on a tropical island that looks a lot like Sonic 3’s Angel Island zone meets Far Cry, but it works. Rings, star posts, springs, and speed boosters all work to bring this level from run-of-the-mill to Blue Blur worthy.
The art style itself in some screen shots released of environments not shown in the demo feel extremely at home in the Sonicverse, too, with checkered terrain and exaggerated cartoony structures, whereas other places look like the belong in the 360/PS3 Sonic game. Hopefully these contrasting styles will balance out somehow.
From a technical standpoint, this game is a testament to how much life Unreal Engine 2 still has in it. Even without bump mapping and bloom, the game looks gorgeous. Earlier on in their development, the team showed off a multiplayer map based on Sonic and Knuckles’ Sky Sanctuary zone, and I swear to god it almost looked like it was from a current-gen game. The ADR team is clearly pulling out all the stops to squeeze every last ounce of graphical prowess from the dated engine.

Score: 4/5 (1 point off for untextured characters. You’d hope after three years of development they’d at least have a final texture on their main character.)

Gameplay

This is where the tech demo sadly falls a bit flat. For the most part, everything works, and somethings even succeed in trumping Sonic Team by a longshot (unscripted loops ftw. You actually control where Sonic is going when he starts defying gravity, and if you really wanted to, you could just stop in the middle of a loop), physics aren’t too wonky, the spindash and homing attack work like a charm most of the time, and when you run for long enough you get this really cool motion blur slipstream effect. However, the big crux for the entire thing falls in the camera and controls category, and trust me when I say they go hand-in-hand.

First of all, the controls just feel sloppy and loose, and it’s mostly thanks to the camera. This is a little forgivable, because trying to turn what’s meant to be an FPS into a full blown 3D platformer is hard work, but after three years I expect more. The biggest flaw here is Sonic and the camera move independently. In other words, yes, you can control Sonic entirely with the ASWD keys, the the camera will remain facing the same way, so you’ll have no clue where you’re going. This would be easy to fix, simply by having the camera fixed behind Sonic as all times, otherwise in this demo you’re forced to move the mouse as you move sonic, and that just takes away from it feeling like a Sonic game. Because of this dysfunction, spindashing and homing in on enemies can be particularly annoying, because even if you’re right next to an enemy, if the camera isn’t facing that direction, your homing attack will just send you flying aimlessly forward. The sloppy controls have killed me many a time in the second half of the demo, where I get stuck in places, repeatedly barraged by multiple enemies, and then killed.

The game has potential, but until the controls are tightened up, it will stop just short of bad.

Score: 3/5 For technical proficiency, but poor execution.

Sound Design

You can’t hear anything in that video but a track from Sonic Adventure 2, I assume because the sound didn’t capture properly for the guy who recorded it, but the sound design is mostly a good deal. Proper classic sounds are where they should be, enemies explode instead of simply going pop, which is one thing I can live with changing from the classic formula, and Sonic has a decent voice actor. Not the best i’ve heard, but it could be much worse. the only thing I could possibly complain about is the music, which is a more ambient track that I think takes away significantly from the Sonic feel. Give the level something more… Angel Island-esque, and maybe something a bit darker for the swamp half of the demo, and I’ll be happy. Overall though, the sounds feel right on.

Score: 5/5

Verdict: Potential, and lots of it. If nothing else, these guys have done something revolutionary with Utk4, defying gravity and giving it a platform-y feel I haven’t seen any mod of the game pull off otherwise. Soon as those controls are tightened up, this would be a worthy entry in to the franchise.

Total Score: 4/5