Bellator Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is the second biggest promoter of MMA in the USA and the largest tournament based MMA competition in the world. So why on earth has Bellator allowed itself to have its name and brand on such a ridiculously awful game?!
Bearing in mind that Bellator MMA is only 1,200 Microsoft points, close to £10, still isn’t enough of an excuse to put aside how poor the whole experience is. You are given a choice between a standard Arcade mode hidden away as a Career mode, the ability to play online and, finally, you are able to create your own fighter; please do not be blown away by the choice . Arcade Mode lasts all of 10 minutes, and bouts you face online tend to last no longer than a minute. A good way to decipher how popular a game is, especially when it is newly released, is its online play; it took over 15 minutes to find a match, though, a rare positive, the few matches I did play never lagged. It is not difficult to guarantee that, even if you love MMA and all of its technique, you will be sick to death after about an hour of gameplay.
Combat is advertised as avoiding the technicality of other MMA games and thus, allows you to dive right in. This only stays true if you treat the game like a standard beat em up, which completely defeats the point of MMA anyway. You learn the combat system, split into striking, throws, submission and general technique via trial and error and the create a fighter mode. The challenges you do, that work as training as well as practice, are supposed to be used to level up your fighter, yet these sections actually feel like real training; incredibly painful, slow and tiresome. The scenarios vary from rock hard to pathetically easy, with a serious lack of difficulty curve.
Jumping from the training area, with loading screens galore and some glaring spelling mistakes (Cheltenham is spelt wrong), to the fighting arena, you will notice very little difference. There is no atmosphere to speak of whatsoever, and the surroundings of the various arenas might as well not be there. The fights boil down to a life and stamina bar, with every punch, kick and throw you enact steadily lowering your stamina. This works fine in practice but it tends to make little no sense in reality; if the stamina bar gets too low then your fighter begins to flash red, meaning the next strong blow that is landed on you knocks you out. This doesn’t stack up if you have spent the whole match pummelling your opponent until he is inches from being knocked out, for your character to flash red and for you to be immediately floored. It essentially takes any feelomg that the fighter can be in your control, meaning the difference between winning and losing is pure luck.
This gets worse when fighting moves to the floor, with the link to that fateful stamina bar giving the AI a stupid advantage. Trying to give an idea of the technique that is used in MMA with various floor holds manages to just look like two people bear hugging; hardly thrillingly stuff. Submissions are almost impossible for you to pull off, but if your opponent enacts one and you have anything less than 80% stamina than no amount of button bashing, which is actively encouraged by the game itself, will save you. All of these events occurred when the difficulty was as low as possible, so bear this in mind if you do decide to subject yourself to harder difficulties.
The roster on offer seemed pretty slim to begin with, but the fact that there are 72 Bellator contenders from the USA alone, not counting the rest of the world, having less than 20 fighters is, frankly, rubbish. The character models themselves are average at best, with them only having a passing resemblance to the real life men and women they are supposed to represent. That’s as far as individuality goes however, as every single person has the same entrance moves and celebratory moves which just puts further emphasis on how poor the quality is overall.
Music turns into the same drab rock music and the announcer manages to be irritating even though he shouts very little more than three or four words during the fight; don’t buy this thinking that it will have anywhere near the same depth of commentary, in truth, depth full stop, as the WWE games have had over the past few years. The character customisation is barebones and that’s being kind, with the choice on offer ranging from skinny runt to all around meat head; the ‘character’ you make is very unlikely to have anywhere near a resemblance to anything you actually want. This is even more evident in the online mode, with every fight that I played having a character looking almost identical to my own.
The game itself feels like it was released half finished with some of the notes in the loading screens talking about the developer adding more features soon. What makes it even worse is that it seems to be steadily migrating into cash cow territory if, god forbid, you were willing to put the time in. Additions to your created character cost 300 MS points and above per move, not per move set which is daylight robbery. There really is nothing to recommend this game to people with anything more than standard strikes feeling ineffective and boring in combination with a complete lack of atmosphere and crazy spikes of AI. Onslaught would have benefited vastly from more time in development , particularly as the screenshots do the game better justice than it actually deserves when it’s in motion. Passing interest or diehard fans of MMA; do not waste your time with this as your hard earned cash would be far better spent on something else.