World of Mixed Martial Arts Review (PC)
For anyone who watched March Madness, you surely saw one of the Mixed Martial Arts/Ultimate Fighting commercials that were touting competitions to be broadcast on CBS. Fans of MMA have long noted how this fist-flying, drop-kicking brawl was replacing boxing as the nation’s preferred form of sporting violence. A prime-time slot on network television is just the latest trend in that direction.
World of Mixed Martial Arts (WMMA), created by Adam Ryland and released by Grey Dog Software, is a spin-off on the spectacular Total Extreme Wrestling games also created by Ryland. The game’s premise is simple: Become a Don King-esque promoter of the fighters by booking matches, inking television deals, and spotting top talent. WMMA does all of this very well and will help further cement the sport in the eyes of many.
With all of that said, WMMA does not have an official license, so if you are a fan of Chuck Liddell or Tito Ortiz you will have to settle for the game’s fictional database of more than 350 fighters. Furthermore, the game is conceptually, a bit of a contradiction in that the popularity of the sport WMMA portrays is best known by its Neanderthal-level of brutality; however, WMMA requires you to be a suit-and-tie corporate flack. I have found WMMA to be a great introduction to the sport as well as an engaging text-simulation overall. The game is rich in character development, has a sleek and simple interface, and it possesses a finely-tuned simulation engine.
Getting your start: The Chick, the Dude, or the Cat
Your character throughout the game is not an actual fighter, but the president of a league. Instead of pulling joints out of their sockets inside the cage, you are pulling the strings on broadcasting deals behind the scenes. Upon starting a new game, you must select among Jennifer Avatar or Scott Avatar (both humans with mediocre reputations) and Mittens Blurcat (fantastic reputation). This role as fighter-promoter has been the tried-and-true method of the Extreme Wrestling games, and I think it works for WMMA as well. If you want the fighting experience, you would certainly be better off just playing any of the console wrestling games.
After choosing your character, you next choose which league you want to oversee: Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (the strongest league), ALPHA-1: Japanese Full Contact Combat, British Cage Fighting, Women’s Extreme Fighting Federation or you can also choose unemployment. Whichever league you choose, you become the president given the responsibility of making your league popular and financially successful. At the same time, you must curry to your fighters’ desires while monitoring television ratings, financial spreadsheets, and fan satisfaction.
WMMA has a breadth of variables, ranging from league rules (are kicks to the head of down opponents legal or illegal?) to the intensity of marketing in specific regions to your own reputation with fans. The expansion of a seemingly simple sport not only is unique but also provides a fresh set of pawns to move around. Most of us are familiar with roster swapping and financial transactions in baseball and football but I had never once considered whether the non-existent name value of Helen Fox, “The Maryland Mauler,” in Canada should be a deciding factor in a prime-time match with “The Queen of Mean,” Oakland, California’s own Simone King, who is renowned for her kick boxing.
3-D Designs of Each Fighter? Included
The most important thing in a text-simulation other than the simulation engine itself is the interface design and components. One cool feature with WMMA is that it has created 3-D character designs of each fighter. Although you are just the promoter, you do gain a strong attachment to your top fighters and having a 3-D picture of them helps create a closer attachment. The quality of each design, while not photo-realistic, is unique enough that you don’t believe that X fighter is just Y fighter with different colored shorts or a buzz cut versus dreadlocks, each character really seems individually modeled.
And the individuality is not limited to the fighter portraits. Each battler has their own distinct fighting style which consist of styles such as submission style, Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, etc. Each fighter also has their own personal back stories. At one point during the gameplay, one fighter refused to fight with another fighter due to their “personal history.” Little touches like this not only make this feel like the drama of reality, but it also adds to the many variables you must consider.
The gameplan for success is simple: Make sure your top fighters are winning, and your other matches should pit lesser-known competitors in technically superb bouts. To accomplish this is a bit like being an online dating matchmaker of sorts, looking at biographical and physical data for each figher, and matching them with a suitable partner. In addition, you must try to break into markets, just not domestically but abroad. For example, a Jiu-Jitsu master may play popular in Asia but not as much in Alabama where more street-brawling fighters are more desirable.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Once you arrange all the matches, which occur just a few times a month, you follow the fights via scrolling text. Due to the infrequency of matches, I often found myself reading each line of text, to see if I paired up the correct fighters.
If you are a mixed martial arts fan, I think WMMA is worth a shot. It retails for $34.95, and it would really acquaint casual fans to all of the terminologies such as fighting styles, the concept of the global nature of the sport (it started in Greece but caught on with the late Bruce Lee), and the advertising side of the business. In terms of how it compares to other text-sims, I do think the deep database of virtual fighters and the excellent Extreme Wrestling sim engine makes WMMA more than just a game banking on a novelty sport, it is a game that stands very well on its own.
In the Cage: The inclusion of fictional, not real, fighters actually enhances gameplay in my view. There is no charging that so-and-so fighter was given incorrect punching ratings.
Graphics: Because of the infrequency of matches and less stats than other sports text-sim games, there is more attention to detail facet to the interface. Each fighter has a 3-D animated picture.
Sound: What sound?
Entertainment Value: I was curious about mixed martial arts and got consumed with the game. The hilarious names and fictional “bad blood” among fighters is amusing.
Learning Curve: It can be steep, but the interface is helpful and there is a solid Help section if you ever get lost.