Bellator: MMA Onslaught is a combat fighter game that recently came onto the PSN and XBLA. It’s another effort by Spike games who seem determined to turn any of the combat based TV shows on Spike into commercials in the form of downloadable games. Frankly, I think their efforts up to now have been a waste of time.
This recent game seems to be trying to cash in on the popularity of the UFC titles from THQ. It also tries to mix in some arcade fighting game aspects by having long lists of combos for each fighter and health bars indicating how close they are to being knocked out. Even the opening of every fight has a distorted announcer voice saying “Ready… Fight!” reminiscent of such games.
The biggest issue I have with this game is the lack of polish, both in presentation and in the fighting mechanics. For a game trying to fuse faster arcade fighter elements with a genre of fighters that deals with things in a generally slower and more methodical way, the responsiveness of the controls are simply not up to par.
There are moments where what I pressed simply caused nothing to happen on screen, like the fighter forgot what was going on. Worse than that, are moments when the animation shows a punch occurring, that was in range and not blocked, but does not hit the opponent because as far as the game is concerned… it did not happen.
Ground grapple situations do a lot to slow down matches, especially when paired with the stamina system that limits how many attacks you can do consecutively.
If you’re the one in the submissive position, it becomes a waiting game as you lose control of being part of the fight and just hold onto the block button till your opponents attack stops, or you both block and wait to see who makes the next move while you wait for your stamina to recharge.
You can try to get up or reverse the positions, but based on stats, non responsive controls (hit button… nothing happens) or the kind of fighter your against, sometimes it’s not even worth trying. There’s no dynamic excitement of trying to fight back or defend in these situations, it’s boring and destroys the fights pacing.
Basing submissions on your stamina bar is also a point of contention I have with the game. Regardless of how much damage you’ve taken, if your stamina is even half full when the computer gets you in a submission hold, just put the controller down, because it’s over.
In an attempt to be fair, it is obvious they spent some time trying to create a deep system for this game including parrying, counter strikes and even finishing blows called “Bellator moments”. However, the aforementioned lack of polish to the system does it no favors.
The title has a creation mode that is pretty bare bones for this type of game. Fairly limited supply of aesthetic options in each category, it’s hard to make a fighter that feels particularly unique. I understand this is a budget title, but I am of the opinion that if you’re going to offer a feature, you do not ‘half-ass’ that feature.
Speaking of which, while creating my character, I discovered the first of several graphical glitches I encountered while playing. As I was trying to decide which of 8 pairs of shorts my character was going to wear, a graphical glitch occurred where the front of the long shorts below the length of the shorter short options became embedded inside my characters thighs.
It never corrected itself in matches or when I tried to cycle through all the shorts again. Funny? sure, but also deeply problematic.
Another graphical glitch I enjoyed a great deal was when, playing as my created fighter, his hair disappeared, his upper torso became a featureless mass of bronze, and his legs above his feet and below his shorts looked as if he was wearing black stockings.
In general, the visual presentation is not particularly endearing. Many of the fighters look the same, aside from the odd bit of facial hair or dreadlocks. If you’re not actually paying attention it’s easy to not be able to tell the difference from one arena to another. It is just very dull.
In the created fighter section, you can go through training challenges where you learn the nuances of the combat system. Unlike most fighter games I’ve played this game has your opponent actually fight back. I still can’t understand why, as a training dummy means you can learn the moves without worrying about the opponent fighting back.
Having an AI opponent trying to counter and fight back while you’re simply trying to do a take down several times is incredibly annoying.
There’s also “Super Fight,” which is basically an exhibition match with any characters you chose. The other single player mode is “Championship Road”, where you fight a series of matches with little real incentive until you either lose once or beat them all. You can gain experience for your created fighter in any of these modes to make him stronger, but by this stage I had gave up caring.
You can of course play online as well. Play random matches or ranked matches and compete to be on the leaderboard. This is another game where it took forever to find someone to play against online. To the games credit, online seems to work well enough without any lagging or slowdown during matches.
The system is still as clunky as in the single player, but at least it isn’t made worse.
Bellator: MMA Onslaught is conceptually a mess. Sure it’s a $14.99 game and expectations can not be set too high. Sadly, the fact of the matter is it obviously wants to pretend it can compete in some small way with the UFC games or EA’s MMA title. It does not.
In simplest terms, even just as a game, there was not a moment where I was truly enveloped in this one, enjoying it despite its flaws. So, even at that basic level it is a failure.