World of Mixed Martial Arts 2 Review (PC)
Allow me to introduce you to World of Mixed Martial Arts 2, a game that will definitely fill up your needed quota of MMA goodness. Developed by Adam Ryland (of EWR and TEW fame) as Greydog Software’s follow-up release to the World of Mixed Martial Arts, WMMA 2 is a mixed martial arts text-management simulation game that sets out to emulate the world of mixed martial arts.
And as a management-simulation game, you are tasked with the job of managing a MMA company. This means that you are given the responsibilities of signing the fighters, creating the events, deciding the fight matchups, making a profit off those matchups and then using that money to grow the company. Ultimately, you are doing this to become the top MMA organization on the planet.
Unfortunately, WMMA 2 has no official licenses for any real-world organization or fighters -- although there are certainly some unofficial database mods available which give you this ability -- so the default MMA universe of WMMA 2 is a Adam Ryland creation set in 1999, which is filled with a collection of fictional MMA fighters and organizations.
But as I will explain, the variety of organizations and fighters in WMMA 2 is a positive aspect of the game. And it is so well done, that in the end, I preferred Ryland’s universe to the real-deal.
With that clarification out of the way, once you start playing the game, the first thing you do is decide who you want to manage. And, trust me, there are a ton of choices out there.
Say hello to 'The Big Bad' Hassan Fezzik. Possibly the best P4P fighter in the entire game.
Kings of the Cage, or is It Ring?
When you first begin, you will notice that WMMA 2’s world is populated with a nice cross-section of organizations.
These range from worldwide behemoths like the Japanese-based Alpha-1 (think Pride FC) to middling, but growing organizations such as the Southeast Asian-based Kadena De Mano Fighting Circuit (KDM FC for short), which functions similarly to the real-life organization WEC -- it focuses on lighter weight classes. And at the bottom of the spectrum, there are companies like Xtreme Cage Combat, which is a far away stop from the top.
Also, as you progress through the game there will be a multitude of organizations that will occasionally pop-up as competition (or possible new places of employment). Similarly to the default starting organizations, these companies will also run the gamut in terms of focused style, initial reputation level and financial health.
For example, organizations such as the Mexican-based OMEGA Fighting Championships specialize in having a unique boxing rule of 10-second counts after knockdowns, and the Brazilian-based World Vale Tudo Council aims to create a large-scale MMA organization for the South American region. These two organizations are just a small sampling as there are a ton of other organizations that you may encounter in your particular game.
And if all of these organizations do not satisfy your hunger, you can always utilize the editorial suite to create your own company to manage -- the game is user-friendly when it comes to customization. You can customize things like the fighters, companies, belts, weight classes, rules, belt design graphics and screen backgrounds. Additionally, if you do some searching through the official WMMA 2 forum, you will find a ton of quality mods that you can potentially add to your game.
Now, choosing your own company to manage is nice and being the boss is fun, but eventually you will have to start hiring employees.
Quite simply, the roster of fighters in WMMA 2 is amazing. With a mix of new faces and old returnees from WMMA 1, not only is the population of fighters much larger than WMMA 1, but the variety of fighters is also more diverse.
Representing both sexes, the fighters of WMMA 2 come in all ages, races, fighting styles, abilities and weight classes. And this thoroughness is to be commended because you will have fighters that satisfy many roles.
There are the "cans," who are there just to be used as stepping stones, "gate-keepers," who serve their role perfectly, your pound for pound best fighters in the world, and even some potential future superstars who just need some time and cultivation to succeed.
Also, all fighters possess a short biography describing some element of their career. Some of the bios focus on a fighting style while others describe their past history. And although these biographies are only a paragraph long, they do a good job personalizing the fighters.
Furthermore, all the characters in the game, from the fighters to the broadcasters to the owners, come equipped with a beautifully rendered model. Every model looks unique, and they all fit snugly into the overall fictional world.
In fact, when you combine the rendered models, the biographies and other elements of each character (for example, fighting style), you will become immersed in the game. And, eventually, you will surely find some personal favorites in the bunch that you will want to give that extra push towards success.
However, I prefer the scouting reports from WMMA 1, which go into more written detail about a fighter’s strengths and weaknesses. Also while there is a small written breakdown available in WMMA 2 that amounts to a few short phrases, the scouting in WMMA 2 is mainly done through a new colored belt-based system that uses a tiered system of colors (no color present, white, yellow, green, blue, purple and black) to rank fighters in a number of named categories, such as tap out artist or power puncher.
This new system is intended to help a player identify a fighter’s strengths/weaknesses, but it can take a while to become completely comfortable with it.
Nevertheless, these two elements of the game, the fighters and organizations, are handled incredibly well, and they are both positive aspects of WMMA 2. They both feel fantastically alive and that is amazing when you consider that it is all fictional.
Once you have your roster in place, you will then come to the nitty-gritty of the game: hosting events, making matchups and creating stars.
The combination of interesting biographical information and beautiful character renders helps the fighters come alive
Running the Show
The way an organization and a fighter’s appeal are judged has changed since WMMA 1. In the past, it was largely based on reputation, and although reputation still remains a statistic, the main qualifier is now popularity level.
New to WMMA 2, popularity levels are split into three tiers (regional, national and international) with each tier also split into three levels (low, mid, high). Any combination of these two items will give you a fighter’s overall popularity. So a fighter with low-regional popularity is your regular no-name off the street, but a high level international fighter is akin to someone like GSP or Fedor.
Popularity also feeds into WMMA 2's system of regionalism. WMMA 2 splits the world into 12 distinct regions (America, Japan, Canada, Mexico, South America, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Asia, Russia, Central America and Africa) with each region housing its own mini regions. For example, the United States is split into 50 mini-regions representing each state.
The importance of regionalism and popularity is that each fighter’s popularity is calculated differently in each region. So a fighter may be a superstar in America, but he or she could be a relative unknown in Europe. Just look at a fighter like Bob Sapp. He is big in Japan, but is not as well-known in the United States.
Speaking of Sapp, one reason why he became so popular in Japan is that he fought exciting fights, and the excitement level of those fights quickly accelerated his popularity over time. Similarly, the quality or excitement level of a fighter’s fights can also impact his or her career in WMMA 2. And while popularity is the biggest factor considered when staging events (as Ryland describes it, "it is better to have a dull fight between two mega-stars in the main event than an awesome fight between two nobodies"), having exciting fights is also a great thing because it can raise a fighter’s popularity more quickly than a fighter who fights boring bouts.
So why is popularity so important? Well, it determines who should be in your main events. For example, if your company has reached mid-national status, you cannot have your main events being fought between two low-regional fighters because your fans have come to expect more quality out of you. So you will need to round out your roster with quite a few high- or mid-national level fighters to fight in your top two event slots.
The bottom line is that you must create superstars to main event your fights so that they propel your organization into the stratosphere. And how do you do that? By being an efficient matchmaker of course.
Boom or Bust
Although setting matchups may sound easy, there are many factors to consider, such as a fighter’s popularity, fighting style (some styles do not matchup well) and recent form -- no one wants to see a fighter on a losing streak in the main event, no matter how popular the fighter may be.
In general, I feel that the matchmaking aspect of WMMA 2 is a fun and engaging process that becomes easier to figure out as you gain more experience playing the game
Thankfully, one of the best new features of WMMA 2 is the ability to book multiple future events and matches. This allows you to map out future bouts while making sure fighters are not lost in the shuffle.
However, I must say that perhaps the biggest thing I missed from WMMA 1 is the old matchmaking screen. In WMMA 1, the expected interest for every potential fighter matchup was listed on one screen, and it made creating an event a quick and easy task. In WMMA 2, much of this same process is now done through clicking a fan feedback button, which tells you how happy or displeased the fans are with a potential fight.
This is not a game killer since I eventually got acclimated to the new system, but I preferred the old setup because it eliminated a lot of clicking to see what matches are suitable. Plus, with the addition of the roster analysis screen, the job of that single screen in WMMA 1 has now been broken down into two separate screens in WMMA 2 -- that also means more clicking.
Again, it is not a big deal, but it calls attention to other user-interface issues I had with WMMA 2.
Making Things Snappier
As a text-sim game, having an easy UI to navigate is one of the most important factors to get right (just look at what a bad UI did for MLB Front Office Manager), and WMMA 2 mostly shines in this area. Every screen and area is clean and well-labeled so you will seldom get lost. However, it is not perfect and there are some places that could be spruced up.
For example, a small annoyance can be found in the character info screen. The annoyance is that I had to click a "view profile" button to view every profile. It is not a big thing, but I would have preferred to just double-click on each name to view the profile because it would speed things up.
I also wish categories on certain screens could be sorted. For example, on the fighter availability screen, I could not sort by the time remaining until fighters were able to fight. Instead, fighters were listed alphabetically. Interestingly enough, that particular page does allow you to access a fighter’s profile by double-clicking on his or her name rather than having to click a profile button each time.
But again, these are small personal quibbles, and the UI in WMMA 2 is quick and easy to use.
Now while I have talked about matchups, I have not touched upon the fights. And this is another area of WMMA 2 that has been overhauled.
A Mind of Its Own
The fights and the play-by-play of WMMA 2 are two of my favorite parts of the game, and personally, they give WMMA 2 an added appeal over similar Ryland products such as TEW. The main factor is that WMMA 2’s gameplay feels incredibly organic. It is different from other games such as TEW -- in that game you decide who the winners and belt-holders are -- because in WMMA 2 you just book the fights and see what happens.
In fact, the fights and winners are not predetermined at all, and there are a number of factors that impact a fight. These include things like fighting style, strengths and weaknesses, approach to a fight, game plan during a fight and how each fighter matches up against his or her opponent. WMMA 2 takes these elements and inputs them into its calculations in real time, which then determines the result and outcome.
I love this because it ensures that you will have a near-infinite variety of potential fights and outcomes, ranging from surprise knockouts or submissions to exciting five-round marathons to boring slog-fest matchups similar to the recent Silva fight.
And because of this change in how fights are calculated, another area of WMMA 2 that has undergone a revision is the fight play-by-play. In WMMA 1, each fight’s entire play-by-play was pre-written material, pieced together and displayed all at once. Over time you would often encounter the same phrases and situations repeating. But in WMMA 2, since the fights are calculated on the fly, so is the play-by-play.
In WMMA 2, the action is displayed line-by-line as the fight occurs, and because of the unscripted nature of the fights, this leads to an engaging level of commentary that easily bests what was seen in WMMA 1.
Additionally, there is also a button available that allows you to save each fight’s play-by-play commentary into a text file for viewing at a later time.
However, I hope that there are continued efforts improve the variance and complexity of the commentary because slacking in this area can make things feel stale in the long-term.
While there are no animated graphics to watch, the organic fighting system coupled with the new play-by-play commentary make up for that shortcoming. In my mind, it is a flashback to the early Championship Manager days when the play-by-play did a sufficient job of engrossing you in the action. Really, you are only limited by your imagination.
The superb fighting system and the play-by-play commentary are a solid pairing.
Since WMMA 2 is a computer-based title, I would be remiss if I did not talk about its performance. Again, this is an area where I have seen an improvement. Compared to WMMA 1, WMMA 2 is quicker in almost every area, from the simulation process between days to the time it takes to load and display the roster screen.
And rest assured, WMMA 2 is incredibly well-built. It is free from any crashes or other difficulties of that sort so you should have a fine playing experience. And if you do have any problems, Ryland is also usually quick to fix things up and release a patch to the game.
But besides those performance tweaks, there are other smaller improvements in WMMA 2. For example, a small modification to the fighter-camp system now opens it up to more members per camp and more fighter movement among the camps. Some fighters may outgrow a camp while others may change camps to help improve another portion of their game.
Another small change is the expansion of the end-of-year awards. Now you will see awards like upset of the year or even worst fight of the year. It may be a small improvement, but it is another thing that helps bring some more immersion to the game.
The financial side of the game has also been simplified. Now, many of the old business-oriented details (e.g. marketing or production) are handled automatically by the game. I am sure many will enjoy this change because it allows the users to concentrate on matchmaking and managing their rosters. Still, I enjoyed setting my various business elements in WMMA 1 because it felt like I was steadily making strides when I could afford one of the numerous upgrades.
Nonetheless, I know it is not nearly a unanimous opinion, and I know many fans probably feel entirely different.
On that note, there are also some nice new financial options available, such as the new ability to purchase smaller promotions to use as feeder organizations for your company.
I admit it, there are some things I miss from WMMA 1 -- the matchmaking screen and the old scouting reports. But, when I step back and realize just how many improvements have been made to WMMA 2 -- things like the larger roster or the new fighting engine -- there is no doubt that WMMA 2 is a great game. And in the end, it is clear: WMMA 2 is a significant improvement over its predecessor.
So for all you MMA fanatics, text-sim junkies or anyone interested in learning more about the sport, I heartily recommend WMMA 2 to you. But if you are only just curious at this point, at least try out the demo as it gives you a couple months of in-game time to tinker around and try things out for yourself.
So what is left to be said? Give WMMA 2 a shot because it is an addicting game that is definitely worth your time. Both the demo and the full game are available for download at greydogsoftware.com with the full game retailing for $34.95.
Gameplay: The intriguingly organic gameplay ranks among the best in text-sim play.
Graphics: The characters are beautifully rendered and the UI is mostly unobtrusive and straight-forward.
Sound: What sound? No sound to be found here, but that is just fine.
Online: No online multiplayer options available, but the WMMA 2 forum community offers some quality mods that could enhance your game.
Entertainment Value: WMMA 2 is definitely an addicting experience that is well worth your time.
Learning Curve: May take some to learn the nuances of the game, but the included help file can ease any difficulties.
Score: 9.0 (Exceptional)