Bellator: MMA Onslaught Review
With the UFC license transferring over to EA in the near future, there's a bit of a window for another mixed martial arts product to fill the gap. UFC Undisputed 3 is still going strong in its own way, but I'd say the genre could still use some more competition, iteration and innovation. Sadly, Bellator MMA Onslaught does not offer much in the way of competition. Frankly, it doesn't engender much good will at all, as the product just falls down in pretty much every area. It sets its goals much lower, as it is a downloadable product with an arcade style, but it still fails to carve out a niche for itself.
The action on display resembles parts of both UFC Undisputed 3 and EA MMA, but only as far as aping aspects of each game's control scheme. This is an arcade fighter, to be sure, and it's actually more akin to something like Virtua Fighter. The strikes are thrown by hitting the face buttons, and the L trigger blocks incoming attacks. The right stick handles the clinch and ground game, but it's just basic directions to transition, counter and apply submissions — no quarter circles or half circles.
Still, I said the game feels more like Virtua Fighter, and that's the truth. Your fighter robotically shuffles around, throwing out stiff strikes when you get a bit of a rhythm. Unfortunately, much of the striking is heavily dependent on spamming, and you can easily trap opponents (or get trapped yourself) in an endless loop of leg kicks and front kicks. Since your character moves so rigidly, it can be hard to disengage, and you aren't able to find much solace from the block or parry buttons, as they're usefulness is minimal for avoiding damage or escaping a bad situation.
The ground game has a bit more of a system to it, as you have to initiate transitions and submissions by hitting the corresponding direction on the right stick, but submissions can happen lightning quick, as the subs are applied by mashing all of the face buttons at the same time. The maddening thing is that the game uses a life bar and stamina meter, which is fine, but your stamina can get depleted by strike spamming, and then an opponent can ground you and tap you in one quick move. There's nothing you can do once your stamina is lowered, as you are incredibly susceptible to submissions. This can happen within 30 seconds, which is a big problem.
Most of the fights play out super quick, and it can just be frustrating to have finishes happen so nonsensically out of nowhere. You're graded on your performance in all aspects of the fight — throws, strikes, subs — but you'll likely learn little from this guidance, as most battles just degenerate into who can spam the most front kicks fast enough to weaken an opponent. I will commend the “Bellator Moment” feature, which is kind of cool, since you can get a highlight-reel strike or submission by hitting the left bumper after stunning an opponent. Overall, though, the gameplay is just flat, wooden and boring.
Probably a big part of why I didn't respond much to the action in the ring is because the presentation in this game is sorely lacking as well. Bellator MMA Onslaught looks like a late generation Xbox or PS2 game, with mediocre environments, aliased fighters, poor lighting (with visible layers and bad coloring) and just flat out bad animations that stutter fighters from one move to the next. The combatants themselves don't look too bad, but of course there are only eight of them — another huge letdown. The roster of two lightweights and six featherweights is baffling (the only real notable being featherweight champion Pat Curran), even when you factor in the $15 price tag the game carries. The audio doesn't fare much better, with no commentary, the same basic intro over the PA for each fighter, and some generic SFX and music to back it all up.
There isn't much to do on your own with Bellator MMA Onslaught, as you can only participate in standard exhibition matches and take on an arcade-style tournament ladder against the game's tiny roster. There is a create-a-fighter feature to use for the “Championship Road” ladder, but the options for your fighter's look and move set are about as bare bones as it gets. On top of that, it takes a good deal of play to unlock XP and skill points to augment your fighter, and there's even some hooks for buying XP and skill point boosts. I don't know who's going to be spending money on what is essentially an arcade fighting game, especially one that brings so little to the table.
You can play the “Super Fight” exhibition mode with two players locally, or you can take the fight online. That said, “taking” the fight online might be an issue, as this game isn't forming much of a community. As of this writing, only 190 people had logged fights online, and most of what I played was a complete mess. Not only was I facing the few people who had sunk in major time — giving their fighters a huge edge in move set, strike power and overall speed — but the latency was downright bad. I had several instances where I was “knocked out” yet remained on my feet. I guess the game hadn't caught up with that reality. Also, I had clearly powered out of some submissions ahead of my opponent on the meter, but the connection didn't reflect that, leaving me tapping out. The striking just felt sluggish, and opponents resorted to spamming leg kicks, which drain life, stamina and make you susceptible for a quick sub.
I can't honestly recommend Bellator MMA Onslaught on any front. It doesn't present itself very well, the creation features are lacking, the online barely works, and the game just isn't that fun to play, even with an arcade style and simplified control scheme.
Learning Curve: It's pretty easy to get up and brawling in this one, as the action has been simplified heavily when compared to the likes of UFC Undisputed 3.
Control Scheme: It borrows what it needs to from UFC Undisputed 3, but everything is much more spastic and unresponsive.
Visuals: The visuals are consistently found wanting, with poor layering of lighting effects, aliasing on the fighters and an overall dated feel to everything on screen.
Audio: Nothing to write home about at all here, with only the most bare bones of audio packages accompanying the proceedings.
Value: There are a couple modes of play to go along with the online, but since the online is borderline broken and the gampelay is sub-par, there's not much of a reason to play for very long.