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Not a contender

Every time I see video games like Bellator: MMA Onslaught, I’m disappointed that most developers don’t really seem to “get” mixed martial arts. Sure, the basis of MMA naturally lends itself to the fighting genre, but the way that most of these titles are executed, they’re marketed for the bottom barrel of the MMA (and video game) fan base: knuckle-dragging idiots who just want to see violent knockouts.

Looking back at developer Kung Fu Factory’s history, I’m retrospectively surprised that I expected anything else. But there’s still room for disappointment here, as the team has effectively made a functionally worse game than Supremacy MMA, which is a real feat, given how offensive I found that title to be when I reviewed it for GamePro last year (and gave it a 2.5 out of 5 score).

At the very least, Bellator: MMA Onslaught tries to look like a real sport. From the venues to the fighter roster, everything is an approximate rendition of the real Bellator MMA promotion that you may have watched on, or more likely, YouTube. But the real hook is that the game has been packed into a downloadable title, which presents a tradeoff between quality and quantity of content.

Bellator: MMA Onslaught brings a small list of fighters to the dance from two different weight divisions: Michael Chandler, Pat Curran, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, Patricky Freire, Daniel Straus, Ronnie Mann, Joe Warren, and Marlon Sandro. All of these fighters are ones that have had the most success in Bellator’s tournament-style season format, with Chandler, Curran, and Warren all being former and current champions.

Create-a-Fighter is thankfully included, and it’s only here that the game has any real sense of depth—you can add move sets and improve your character’s base abilities with XP, which can earn for just about everything you do.

Despite the fact that all the fighters look impressively like their real-life counterparts, their fighting styles aren’t quite up to snuff. Bellator: MMA‘s combat system doesn’t leave a lot of room for skill or nuance, either. In every fight, you’ll wing punches back and forth while trying to keep your health and stamina bars full. If too much of either one drains out, you’ll be at extreme risk of getting KO’ed, which will happen often.

Kung Fu Factory and 345 Games want to tout this as fluidity, but the reality is that the combat system lacks much finesse. It’s like every fighter went to the Leonard Garcia School for Striking, as their jerky animations make them look like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots instead of real people. Takedowns, grappling, and submissions all use flicks of the right analog stick, which takes some real practice, as the feedback in that system isn’t very easy to learn or implement.

Essentially, the player who figures out how to chain strikes into takedowns will win most of the matches, as Bellator: MMA doesn’t really allow you many ways to fight off your back. Pulling off sweeps and getting back to your feet is always a better option than trying to snatch a submission, which—in my mind—unfairly weighs the game towards wrestling-based fighters like Chandler and Warren.

For anyone who’s played UFC Undisputed or any other fighting game, I can’t imagine that Bellator: MMA Onslaught is going to be an attractive offer, even at its budget downloadable price. At 15 bucks (or the equivalent Microsoft Points), you’ll get much more for your money with Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, Skullgirls, the upcoming Marvel vs. Capcom Origins, or several other games.

Even if you want to buy this because you’re an MMA fan, I’ll just warn you to try this game first before committing the hard drive space. If this is what Bellator’s bringing to the small MMA sub-genre in the video game market, I don’t think EA has anything to worry about when they start working on the next UFC game.

SUMMARY: If you’ve got 15 bucks to burn on a fighting game, think wisely before spending it on Bellator: MMA Onslaught—even if you’re a hardcore MMA fan.

  • THE GOOD: Surprisingly well-detailed fighters.
  • THE BAD: Combat system needed another year in the gym.
  • THE UGLY: No fight commentary? C’mon!

SCORE: 3.0

Bellator: MMA Onslaught is available on XBLA and PSN. Primary version reviewed was for XBLA.