Supremacy MMA – the PS3 Attitude review
At a glance, you would be entitled to think that Supremacy MMA’s main “attraction” is its grimy underground environments, ugly menacing fighters and bone-crunching violence; it is a hardcore game for those who think EA’s MMA and UFC Undisputed are too soft. However, once you strip away all of the gruesomeness and awful metal music, you find something deeper and even quite thoughtful underneath.
Kung Fu Factory is a team full of fighting game fans, who genuinely love the sport, and in Supremacy MMA they have tried to capture it in its purest form through accurately portraying a wide range of fighting styles. Supremacy MMA even tries to build a connection between the player and fighter by showing their backgrounds and explaining their reasons for fighting. It’s essentially a tribute to the fighters, the sport and their disciplines.
The gameplay sits somewhere between the arcade and sim genres. Holding down the L1 button allows you to sidestep, which gives it a similar feel to a Tekken or SoulCalibur, but the fighting is mostly done from a standard 2D side-on view. Arcade fighting fans will feel at home counting frames as they landing a series of combos.
The sim aspect of it comes into play once you enter a clinch, which can occur in a number of positions, including: standing face-to-face, back-to-face and on the ground at the leg, arm and head positions; you can also sit on your opponent’s chest. Fighters can transition between multiple positions and act out reversals. Believe it or not, it is actually possible to spend the majority of a fight on the ground.
The sim side slows the gameplay down significantly, putting it at odds with the intense metal racket that’s being played over it. It also feels out of step with the aesthetics of the game. You expect something much faster and fluent than it actually is, and we can’t help wondering if its looks are going to drive in an audience who won’t appreciate the gameplay, while warding off those who could actually love it.
It’s a complex game that takes a while to get used to. Kung Fu Factory were hoping to make it simple and intuitive, so anyone could pick it up and play, but it’s safe to say they haven’t been successful. There’s nothing out of the ordinary with the face buttons — Square and Triangle are straightforward punch and kick buttons (although some fighters such as boxers can only punch), X is clinch and Circle is parry — but it gets more complex elsewhere.
Charge attack is mapped to R2, momentum boosts is on L2; adrenaline rush is activated by pressing L2 and R2 together; sidestep is on L1 and feint is on R1. There is a also whole new interface to learn for clinch positions, and even a mini game for submission moves. The mini game asks players to shake the right analogue stick faster than their opponents. If they hold down L2, they can use their momentum to fill the bar quicker. It’s actually pretty fun once you get the hang of it, but it’s awkward at first.
That sums up Supremacy MMA’s gameplay overall when you first pick it up. It feels sluggish and unresponsive, but it does get considerably better. The gameplay puts a lot of emphasis into timing, so it won’t fall together until you nail that side of the game. Once you have, you can start to perform parries and brutal counters. These up the tempo and make the gameplay smoother and more rewarding.
The main concern is that most players will give up long before they reach the point where Supremacy MMA starts to feel good. It doesn’t help that the in-game tutorial isn’t much cop either.
Aside from the main health bar, players should also take into consideration the adrenaline meter and body diagram. Players can use their adrenaline at any point to deal extra damage and slow play down, making countering and blocking easier. The body diagram shows which body part is taking damage, and if you focus on that limb, you can hurt your opponent quicker and hopefully activate a highlight KO. Once again, it’s rewarding once you understand it, but hugely overwhelming at first.
Also confusing matters more is that there are multiple fighting styles to learn. There are 10 in total, ranging from striking based disciplines such as French Savate and Muay Thai to the technical styles such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Submission Wrestling. However, we think having this variety is the best thing about Supremacy MMA. The styles can vary significantly, offering a nice variety, and it’s clear that Kung Fu Factory has put a lot of care into faithfully recreating them. It’s also interesting to see which ones come out on top.
The balance is sadly a little off though. The striking disciplines, in our experience, were much less effective than the submission-based fighters. With Jack Saxon, an MMA fighter, we can finish a bout in well-under a minute; we get our opponent to the ground and continuously use arm, head and leg locks until they either give up or we snap their arm.
We find fights much harder using kickboxers and other striking disciplines. Fighters like Dante Algeary are very fast but their attacks feel weak, despite the best efforts of the shaky cam to convince us otherwise. Our opponents generally have no problem defending against our more advanced combos, so we often resort to simple one-button punch combo, which are disappointingly more effective. It could be that these styles simply don’t suit us. It is a subjective matter.
The number of attacks available for each fighter is disappointingly low sadly, and that’s a slightly less subjective issue. It is made worse by the fact that fighters share pretty much identical move-sets with others in the same discipline. So, suddenly, Supremacy MMA’s 16-fighter roster starts to feel disappointingly small.
It’s such a waste because we actualy like what Kung Fu Factory has done with the fighters otherwise. The majority of them have their own story modes, which are basically similar to any other story mode in an arcade fighter; however, these stories are very personal and explore the motivational reasons behind their fighting. The acting and dialogue is a little hammy, but it’s a nice touch all the same. It’s clear that an effort was made to go the extra mile here.
Players, if they adapt to Supremacy MMA’s unique gameplay, can look forward to completing a number of challenges for each fighting style. These vary from simple ‘block five attacks on the ground’ challenges to more nasty ‘snap an opponent’s legs’ kinds. They are pleasantly achievable and should keep players going for a while.
There is also an XP levelling system for each fighter with a level cap of 15. Points are awarded for winning, winning fast and winning in style. Fighters begin as something lowly, such as a Smoker, and reach higher classes as they progress up the ranks until they reach Supremacy — the highest goal for all fighters. It works similar to karate’s belt system. Players are awarded new arenas and outfits as they level up. XP is gathered in singleplayer and online ranked and unranked matches.
For ranked matches, the loser can request a revenge match; if they win the fight the next loser can request a final match to decide who is better. Players must move on to a new challenger after the decider. It’s a simple but effective set-up. There are also standard leaderboards available, so you can compare your skills with friends and people from around the world.
One word of caution though: several of our online matches have been very laggy, but that could possibly be our connection. We’d like to hear from others who have been playing online.
There is certainly no risk of Supremacy MMA stealing the crown from the giants of the arcade fighting genre. The gameplay just isn’t sharp enough and the fighters need more moves. It’s also questionable if sim fans will take to its peculiar style, and the lack of big name fighters won’t please them either.
That said, Supremacy MMA has its merits and once you get past the initial awkwardness and learn to tolerate its ugly art style, you will find yourself enjoying the clash of styles and its unpredictable fights. The move-sets may not be particularly deep, but if you find the right style, you can really make the most of it. It’s also great fun getting a group of friends round for a game — watch as they audibly wince when you snap their fighters’ bones. Ouch.