It’s not often we get asked if we’d like to come and punch people in the face. Generally that sort of practice is frowned upon, so we were reluctant until we realised that this was actually an invite to come and play Supremacy MMA, the brutal looking mixed martial arts game. How could we refuse?
I think the first thing to make clear is that Supremacy MMA is not going down the path of UFC. Of course the focus of UFC is still the fighting, but there’s also that element of putting on a show with the music, ring entrances and the like.
Supremacy is almost like the dark side of the fighting world; the unsanctioned, amateur and unlicensed part, albeit with real life fighters rather than fictional ones. The overall presentation matches this new attitude perfectly, and you are greeted by loud, angry music at the menu screen. The visuals are also minimalistic, ditching all glitz and glamour for underground clubs and dark arenas. That’s not to say it’s bad, far from it in fact. The character models look fantastic and the animations are superb.
We're fairly sure legs aren't meant to bend that way.
In terms of gameplay, Supremacy MMA will take some getting used to. At first it’s almost overwhelming as you have to contend with various strikes, grapples, blocks, counters, submissions and transitions. Luckily the game has a decent tutorial mode that will guide you through the basics whilst letting you practice on a moving target. I would say that within half an hour you’ll have a decent grasp of what’s going on, but to master it will take a lot of time.
This is mainly down to the various styles on offer. As you would expect, they all play incredibly differently and it’ll take a while to find your favourite. I just couldn’t get to grips with the Boxer’s move-set, yet I immediately felt at home using an MMA style character. There’s also Muay Thai, Karate, Judo, Kickboxing and Wrestling styles to try.
Playing a match feels totally different to your bog-standard fighting game. Tactics are key here, and whilst you might score a lucky victory by hammering the attack button, you’re more than likely going to be countered and knocked the hell out. It’s very intense, and at one point during a particularly gruelling battle I realised I had actually stopped breathing because I was so focused on my blocks and counters. I think the dev team might want to put that up as an on-screen warning!
When you end up on the ground (and you will) a whole new tactical game opens up as you try and defend from vicious head/body shots. If your opponent gets in the right position they will also slap on a submission, causing significant damage to whatever limb of yours they happen to be holding. You are given the chance to escape this by wiggling the right stick as fast as you can. You can also force your way out and in some instances turn the tables and end up on top of your opponent.
Speaking of limb damage, both your body and your opponent’s are displayed at the top of the screen, with various parts turning red as they are damaged. This allows you to spot a weakness and focus on that area, making them much weaker.
Despite the initial temptation to just ‘punch, punch, kick, punch’, the move list for each character is surprisingly comprehensive; they just take some studying to be able to pull off correctly. Connecting with a knee or elbow feels so satisfying, and one move even had my character do a two-footed jump onto my opponents head as he was grounded. It looked so bad everyone watching just went “OOOOOOH!!!!”
That's just unhygienic.
Another interesting feature the game has is the Story Mode. This goes into detail about why the fighters do what they do, and actually shows a more human side to it all. The story I was shown was of Malaipet. Narrated by the man himself, in his native tongue, it tells his tale of growing up in Thailand. His mother didn’t want him to fight but she died when he was very young. Aged just 8 he started to practise Muay Thai and was told he had cement in his shins. When he brought home his first pay from fighting (equivalent to $1) and saw his dad’s smile, he knew he would continue fighting.
In terms of progression, you’ll be awarded points every time you fight, although the amount will vary depending on whether you were victorious. These points will allow you to level up and unlock additional moves for your fighter. The levels went right up to 15, so it’ll take a fair amount of winning to max out each one.
I’m really impressed with MMA Supremacy. What I played flowed really well, and every fight turns into a back-and-forth battle as you try and outsmart your opponent. If you’re after something different, this might just be it. We’ll have a review closer to the September 23 release date when the game hits the PS3 and Xbox 360.