-Error reading from ESRB datastream-
Please visit ESRB.org for rating information.
Sitting down with Bellator was definitely an experience. While I have dabbled in my share of fighting games over the years, I had yet to lay hands on one based in the realm of MMA thankfully this snappy arcade title blew any doubts I had about the genre straight out the water. Straight from the word go it was clear the game took no prisoners and was going to be a tough nut to crack.
First and foremost, despite the game being excellent as a pick up and play title, if you plan on spending a lot of time with it then I implore you to spend a relatively short amount of time fighting and to make one of the earliest destinations the Create A Fighter feature. Starting here will give you a great introduction, set you up for online play right off the bat and give you the chance to run through some practice exercises and get to grips with the control system nice and early.
Create A Fighter
Before you can hit the practice challenges though you have to first build your fighter. For an arcade game, there is a surprising amount of variation on offer. Naming the fighter is first up, but this can be quickly bypassed thanks to the game generating a random name which isn’t something stupid like ‘Geoff404′ or ‘Plyr1′. Building your fighter does have some restrictions for those who want an exact body double, with everything being preset rather than having a slider option to dictate certain points. Once you have selected the appearance through body type, face type, hair, tattoos, outfit and so on, it’s time to get your moves and fight style laid down.
Initially there are three main styles wrestling and BJJ are all about the force, from laying down hard and heavy hits as a wrestler to the BJJ option which will allow you to perform quick submissions, but as a slow and sluggish player. Kick boxing will bring speed, agility and some hard kicks to the table and finally there is the MMA option which is like the good, all rounder choice and pretty good for beginner.
Having quickly created a fighter, the randomise option means you can be set to go in less than 60 seconds, you can begin to fine tune your moves and get ready for the onslaught. The choice of moves is literally into the hundreds, allowing you complete control over how you will fight. Move and combo sets can be changed as time goes by and as you unlock even more brutal smackdown’s. Everything from the punches you throw, to the moves you make while pinned to the ground can be changed here giving a great depth to the game.
Once your moves are selected, time to hit some challenges, where you can really get to know how your fighter play and earn some EXP in the process. Bellator features a great progression system where EXP will increase your fighters level, which in turn grants skill points which can be used to apply various upgrades to the four main areas of fighting strikes, throws, submissions and technical.
There are two choices for the single player experience which Bellator has to offer, first up is Super Match. Here you can choose whatever you like. You can fight as one of the 8 preset fighters, all big names from the Bellator tournament or one of your own four custom fighters. Super Match also gives you a choice of opponent, with the options limited to the preset fighters, whether you’ll be able to pit two custom fighters against each other in a future update remains to be seen. This is a great place to get some practice in before heading to the main single player event as you can work out the advantages and disadvantages when taking on some of the smaller players such as Ronnie Mann who will quickly kick you into a bloody mess or some of the bigger fighters including Daniel Straus who can force you into submission early on and incredibly quickly.
The games main single player event lies in the Championship Road. This is easily the most challenging part of the game, with any mistakes instantly punished by a quick and ruthless AI and the word Challenge in the title definitely earns it’s place, forcing you to compete against seven fighters, one after another without failure, lose a fight and it’s back to the beginning, tail between your legs.
While most games these days have a stamina rating along with your health, few seem to be as essential to the gameplay as with Bellator, stamina is easily as important as health if not more so. Where being smashed in the face or kicked to the ground will wear the health bar down, stamina is what you need to get out of a sticky situation and to manipulate a quick and easy victory. When either players stamina runs too low, they will begin to flash red allowing the opposing fighter to end the fight with a single, well placed shot, but low stamina can also destroy your chances of surviving a submission. Once a submission has been initiated it’s time to start bashing the buttons, making it a tense race to the finish where success can be the difference between ending the fight quickly or dragging the bout out for another few minutes.
Overall, the gameplay is nice and fluid experience where the speed and timing of shots is crucial, occasionally if you are eager to land a shot and press the button a few to many times then you can have a fighter wildly throwing the same shot into thin air twice reducing stamina and throwing you off guard. Bellator makes you not only think, but encourages keeping a cool head. Difficulty can be a bit of an issue, with the gap between easy and normal being relatively large but the gap between normal and hard being almost non existent, there is never shame in playing through on easy mode.
Finally, we get to the overexerted, beating heart of the Bellator experience, the online play on offer here is easily of full game calibre and the greatest online, arcade experience I have ever witnessed. It is full on, fun and intense but does have a few flaws, none of which however, manage to take a lot away from the experience. as with single player, there is more than one possible experience to be had in the multiplayer section.
Daniel Straus Showing You How It’s Done
Local play is an option which can be found in Super Match, giving the arcade option to connect a second controller and go to town on your friends in the comfort of your own home, ranked match allows both the hosting and searching of online games and incorporates a leader board allowing for bragging rights, win the fight by fighting well and the rank and EXP rewards will be great. Ranked matches can only be played using your own fighter. Finally, Player Match is the quickest way to get into a game with friends and allows you to customise match settings and use the preloaded fighters. It is unlikely you will ever feel the need to extend the number of rounds or overall length f an online match though, seeing as most fights are over fairly quickly, rarely making it to the second round.
With the fast pace of the game, the occasional bit of lag can be infuriating at times, but the instances I experienced where so few and far between that it was negligible. Diving into the online play though, it became apparent that until the game gets more online players, finding a match could be difficult. It was not unusual for me to end up in the ring with the same player countless times and finding a game in the first place could take a while. Being on UK time, the small hours of the morning seemed to give up the most players and, being British, I feel the need to point out that I am undefeated against the French menace with one, particularly vocal Frenchman being the only instance I had to suffer someone quitting out early.
While the online experience is great, it does appear it is exploitable. Whilst playing this afternoon I was ‘lucky’ enough to be paired up with one particular player for six games in a row and was quickly destroyed in seconds by their continual use of a low-kicking three hit combo with several games resulting in me downed without landing a single punch. Bad times, but possibly awkward for the developers to fix given the way moves are upgraded and the fact that the game has the option to purchase several, temporary boosters which will increase certain aspects of your fighter for a limited number of online matches, they are reasonably priced but not really essential to the experience.
Overall Bellator has been a fantastic trial by fire experience for my entry into the world of MMA fighting games and I have enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. With the customisation available and up to twelve playable fighters, the gameplay experience is as long as you want it to be. Nothing feels repetitive about the gameplay and mixing up a fighters moves every once in a while is a great way to keep the game feeling fresh and new. It is one of the most in depth arcade games and has a longevity to be desired. So go buy it, right now so I have more people to play online against.
- Fast paced and easy to pick up and play
- Has a vast amount of depth, making the play time as long as you like
- Looks and plays like a full game
- Can be exploited to an extent online
- DLC arenas, characters and moves would be more exciting than boosters
- Currently not a lot of online players
Bellator MMA Onslaught is available for PSN and Xbox Live Arcade Now priced at $15 and 1,200 Microsoft Points respectively.