If you’ve been looking for a new way to beat your friends senseless or watch as they tap out in virtual desperation, “Bellator: MMA Onslaught” might just be the game you’re looking for.
Combining the MMA moves fans of the sport love, with the kind of fast-paced style gamers used to pop a quarter to play in the arcade, “Onslaught” hit the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network on July 4 for the cool price of just $15.
I had the chance to talk to “Bellator’s” senior producer, Matt McEnerney, to pick his brain about the game, the unique fighting style, and the chances we might see Spike TV’s gaming brand use his engine to produce a TNA Impact video game in the future.
Here’s what he had to say.
ESPN Playbook: What do you think sets the “Bellator” game apart from the UFC games, or even EA’s MMA game?
Matt McEnerney: We’re working with the developer that made “Supremacy MMA,” and when we looked at “Supremacy,” we saw a lot of potential there, so we thought we could do something with them as the developer. But let me first explain for a second who we are. 345 Games is the publishing unit of Viacom Entertainment Group, so we cover Spike TV, Comedy Central and TV Land. We’ve done games for Deadliest Warrior and South Park before, and now Bellator is part of Viacom, with Viacom being part owner of the league itself. So we thought it was an interesting opportunity for us to work on a game as we just saw a lot of potential with the brand. We knew we couldn’t game heads-up against UFC. THQ has been making the game for years, and now that the license is going to EA Sports, we all know they will do their thing and make a great game. So we wanted to make sure we did something a little bit different, something that stood out. And one of the great things is, you don’t have to go to the store and pay $70 for this title. It’s at the XBLA store and PSN, and for $15, you get a fully featured MMA game.
One thing we tried to do is focus on making a game that’s accessible, and making a game that’s accessible is easier said than done, but part of the problem you have when playing these other MMA games is you need to have a deep knowledge of the sport in order to understand how to play the game, especially when the fight goes to the ground. If you don’t understand how the clinch really works, you can get pretty lost. So we wanted to focus on simplifying the controls, so that it’s easy for anybody to go in and just start fighting right away. We also wanted to keep the pace really fast. In the other MMA games, it might be fast when you’re on your feet and striking, but once you get to the ground, the pace just completely slows down. We wanted to make sure that whether you’re on your feet or on the ground, you have a fast, fluid pace. We still have the ground game and the clinch and submission holds you’re used to from MMA games, but we also mix in a lot of fighting-game mechanics like combos, flash knockouts and a parry system like you’d see in a more traditional fighting game. We’ve mixed the worlds of MMA and fighting games, and the results are both fast and furious.
How many Bellator fighters are featured in the game?
We started with eight, and you have to remember, this is a downloadable game, and we see this game as a service model, where we can work with Bellator and Spike TV in order to gauge fan interest in what they want to see. If they want more fighters in there, we can add more Bellator fighters. We’re starting with eight, and that includes six featherweights and two lightweights. Those are the stronger divisions in Bellator. A month or two after launch, if people want to see middleweights or heavyweights added, we’ll make them downloadable packs.
How robust of a created character model are you offering?
We spent a lot of time on the created fighter feature. Most people don’t know the Bellator fighters yet, but I think that’s going to change when the show moves to Spike in 2013. I think you’ll see a lot more of Bellator. But until then, we wanted to spend a lot of time on the created fighter stuff, and we wanted to make that whole process as easy as possible. We don’t have the precise control of moving your nose a quarter inch to the right or left or anything like that, but we give you a wide range of options. Then, like I said, if we hear from fans that they want more hairstyles or shorts, we can go back in and add more based on fan feedback. We really want to embrace this as a service model, which isn’t something you see too often on the console. Title updates are expensive for consoles, so we’re in a unique position to be able to do this.
In terms of fighting styles, when I create my character, am I able to button-map specific moves, or am I just stuck picking from a move package?
We start you off with a template, basically just to populate your moves list, but then you can go in and micromanage your moves individually. You can use the move editor and change every move if you want. Some people might not want that level of granularity, so we optimize it for you. Create-a-Fighter is a leveling system, so every time you fight you earn XP. It doesn’t matter what mode you use, whether you’re playing single-player, multi-player, on or offline, you’re always getting XP for your created fighter, and you use that XP to earn levels. With each level you earn skill points, and with the different skill points, you unlock new skills that improve your character or unlock new moves.
What can gamers expect from playing through a career?
It’s all about the fighting. We give you a set of training challenges that will not only help build your character up, it will teach you how to play the game. The basic moves are easy to figure out. The face buttons do all your punches and kicks, the right stick is for grappling, and you’re not spinning the stick in circles or anything like that to figure out what position you’re in. But for the finer points of the game, like parrying and counter throws, we introduce those through mini-games. You’re not hitting a heavy bag or anything like that, you’re in a real fighting situation against an AI opponent. Having a career in our game isn’t about following a linear storyline. It’s about building up your fighter and molding him into the fighter you want him to become.
With 345 Games building around the Spike TV brands, will you guys use the “Bellator” engine as a basis for a TNA Impact game. Seems like that is a license that already has a built-in audience ready to play.
Personally, I’d love to make an Impact game. They’re part of the Spike family, so it’s certainly possible. We’re still working with Kung Fu Factory on the updates for “Bellator,” so can we use this engine? It’s possible, but nothing is set in stone.