Supremacy MMA Review (PS3)

MMA has grown an awful lot over the last few years. Organisations such as the UFC and Strikeforce have gone global, bringing in huge TV audiences along the way. Inevitably, a string of games have followed. So far, THQ and EA's attempts have been technical affairs, forcing players to have some kind of MMA knowledge before starting. If you don't know your kimora from your guillotine, these will have taken quite a while to get used to. This is where 505 Games' title comes in. Supposedly.

Offering an arcade experience, this game exchanges intricate skill for sheer brutality. Punches and kicks land with a satisfying crunch, splattering the mat with a dollop of blood. Bruises appear on a fighter's face after receiving a few powerful blows, often ending in a purple swell that highlights how the sport is not for the faint-hearted. Each battle takes place in a variation of arenas, ranging from underground fight clubs to environments filled with professionals. It provides a stark contrast, one that's meant to pinpoint the rags to riches story that so often plays out in real-world MMA.

The girls are the headline makers, despite there only being two to fight with

Unfortunately, this doesn't quite happen. Every fighter in the game has a tiny narrative to work through, something that seems extremely lazy. There's no sign of an engaging career mode, just a handful of encounters with each brawler. A smattering of licensed male fighters make an appearance, with the likes of Jerome Le Banner, Malaipet Sitarvut and Jens Pulver (plus one more depending on where you bought the game from), but the headline signings have come in the form of two female contenders. Michelle Guiterrez and Felice Hellig signed up and carried out a lot of promo work for the game, and while it's great to see the girls represented, it makes no sense that they're the only two who appear. The only possible match up for the females is against each other, making their individual stories two fights long.

Alongside the professionals, there's some hilariously awful character designs in place. For a game that takes itself seriously, coming up with names such as Jack Saxon, St. John Ackland and Dante Algearey is a terminal error of judgement. It would have been acceptable if the characters were developed into individuals who are mildly interesting, but it never happens. 505 want each fighter to represent a different area of martial arts; a plan that quickly falls flat on its face.

Look at the angle of the fighter who is kicking. Is that right!?

After a few rounds, it becomes clear there's a definitive way to win each bout, no matter what your fighter specialises in. Grappling and getting your opponents to the ground is the way to go, even if you're playing as a kickboxer against a submission specialist. Each move, whether standing or on the ground, can be blocked and reversed. An attack is usually blocked with a well-timed press of B (or wiggle of the stick when grappling), and then A is used to reverse it. The stand-up game is slow and unresponsive, even if your fighter holds the advantage. Each animation takes a couple of seconds to make contact, providing your enemy with the opportunity to take control. To guarantee yourself a victory, the ground game is much more effective. Initiating into a submission hold is easy, and to make it count, all you need to do is tap two corresponding buttons, filling a gauge quicker than the other competitor. The game-breaking aspect comes when you realise it's an manoeuvre that can be rinsed and repeated until the match is over.

A number of frustrations are thrown up during each confrontation, many of which could have been sorted if more care was put into the product. If you score a huge knockout, there's no replay to sit back and admire. While this is fine if you manage to do it in the few seconds of slow-mo that can be used after landing successive hits, most of the time your foe hits the floor in an instant. Each knockout is massively satisfying, as it's possible to break legs, ribs, or send them to oblivion quicker than Cheryl Cole's X-Factor USA career. A quick restart option is also missing, ensuring that if you're taking a beating you have to stick it out or quit back to the main menu.

Some moves are brutal, others leave your brains across the floor.

505 have made an attempt at providing players with a levelling up system, but it's inexplicably shallow. When the developers put little emphasis on learning a character, they shouldn't expect their audience to stick around once they've completed their set of story fights. Sure, new shorts can be unlocked, but it's never enough to keep interest sustained. To wrap up a disappointing package, online duels are riddled with lag, making each fight feel like one of those terrifying dreams where you can't lift your arms and strike out as hard as you want. Nobody else had them? Okay, just me.

Ultimately, Supremacy MMA fails to deliver. It promised a light-hearted take on one of the world's most serious sports and it never gets anywhere close to showing that. Poor character designs, terrible mini-narratives, and a broken fight system make this a waste of time and effort. Fans of MMA might satisfy some blood lust, but for everyone else, it shouldn't even register on your gaming radar. And yes, there really is a character called Dante Algearay.

Top Gaming Moment: Landing a delicious knockout blow.