Supremacy MMA touts a motto of "unlicensed, unrestricted and uncompromising," meaning brutal combat and graphic content is part of the game's no-holds barred presentation. But with gameplay rooted more in arcade fighters than sports, should it also add "unrealistic"?
Supremacy MMA, under development by Kung Fu Factory and due in late spring, makes no bones that its action is not simulation quality. Still, the development studio insists it'll portray MMA with realism, if not athletically then at least with respect to its culture through the game's career mode and cinematics. MMA fans are heavily invested in how their sport is portrayed, and a trailer this past week that tilted toward bloodsport themes riled many.
"All the realism that gets toned down in boxing, MMA and other games is here," said Ricci Rukavina, a co-founder of Kung Fu Factory. "We have lots of footage; we've studied it. We've gone underground and gone to lots of places and seen things people have not seen for themselves. People say that we're heading in a fantasy direction, and this isn't real. Well, MMA is fought in these kinds of places. We saw fights in warehouse environments. We were at a fight party in New York where they staged the bouts, then it was over and everyone got out of there."
Thursday, Rukavina and Kung Fu Factory gave Kotaku about an hour-long presentation that included alpha-build gameplay (none of it hands on). If not simulation quality, Supremacy MMA, aside from its title, will be a sports-style fighter in that it won't feature outlandish costumes, energy attacks, jiggling boobs or physics-defying flying moves.
But in the basic combat structure one sees a game clearly based on arcade fighters as opposed to a sports simulation. The HUD identifies moves and counts combinations that land. Both fighters work to deplete their opponent's energy meter to finish the fight. All of these are hallmarks of the fighting genre as opposed to sports.
In one sequence, a combatant quickly went to the ground, swept his opponent's leg and then landed a heel to his midsection. You're not likely to see that combination in many MMA bouts, nor spinning back kicks landing with as much frequency as they do here. Rukavina said the fighters' combat was hand-animated, not motion-captured (though introductions and cutscenes are motion-capture animated.)
Strikes land with a lot more visual and audible force, including a camera shake for good measure. Rukavina said simulation MMA titles like UFC Undisputed and EA Sports MMA are criticized for weak-sounding punches because, in reality, they sound weak in broadcast audio. Supremacy wants to indulge that sense of power, considering realism no large sacrifice.
I didn't see much clinch work or any use of the cage, likewise no choke-outs or submission holds. There is ground combat but it is purposefully limited, Rukavina said. "We're trying to keep gameplay on the ground shorter than is typical, and the reason for that is just sometimes when you get on the ground is just not as fun," he said.
Where Supremacy MMA will resemble a sports is in a career mode that explores the stories of its characters, drawing on lightweight MMA champion Jens Pulver's story as inspiration. Kung Fu Factory last week revealed that Pulver had lent his likeness and his consultation to the game; in the demonstration, Rukavina hinted that other real fighters might be on the way. Pulver will be playable in the game, Rukavina said, not an NPC mentor-only figure.
While it won't feature, as was rumoured, in-the-ring deaths ("That would be stupid," Rukavina said) it's clear Supremacy MMA will push the envelope on graphic content - regardless of the MMA community's self-consciousness on the subject. Fight venues I saw were deliberately seedy; cages featured little or no padding and plywood, not canvas, was the floor. Broken bones and strikes and moves not sanctioned by the more well known promotions - or any - will be a part of the game.
Many mixed martial arts fans feel that the sport's mainstream appeal is still jeopardized by underground, hyperviolent stereotypes based on its earlier days, when some lawmakers called it "human cockfighting" and sought for it to be banned.
Rukavina said his game will depict MMA as it is and has been for many fighters outside the spotlight. "They've fought in some amazing places; they've fought in some godawful places." Asked whether that shattered leg from last week's infamous trailer was grounded in reality, Rukavina replied. "Just go on YouTube or Google, search for any kind of MMA breaking bones, or violent endings. They're there."
Supremacy MMA, on Xbox 360 and PS3, is due for a May or June release and will be published by 505 Games, which published the unlicensed football title Backbreaker at the same time last year. XFO 38 a fight in Chicago this coming Saturday featuring Pulver, will be sponsored by the game, with more fight promotions to come, so we'll be hearing more about it.