Monday, December 24, 2007

World of Mixed Martial Arts Review

World of Mixed Martial Arts, developed and published by Grey Dog Software.
The Good: Extremely thorough management options, helpful match and roster suggestions, detailed play-by-play, highly modifiable
The Not So Good: Navigating through the antiquated interface should be easier
What say you? An enjoyable sports management simulation: 6/8

Now that the appeal of professional wrestling has died down, it’s time for another violent sport to take its place. That sport is mixed martial arts, which is essentially wrestling with punches and kicks and (supposedly) real outcomes. Simulating the world of mixed martial arts is the appropriately named World of Mixed Martial Arts, the next title in Adam Ryland’s series of management games that includes Total Extreme Wrestling 2007 and Wrestling Spirit 2. How will World of Mixed Martial Arts improve upon previous titles?

World of Mixed Martial Arts is a text-based management game, so most of the time you’ll be looking at, well, text. The interface is getting quite old by this point; one of my main complaints about the game is the inability to view more than one window at a time. For example, I would like to access my roster while booking matches and peruse the rankings, but each of these activities must be done separately because you can’t look at more than one window at once. With computers supporting high resolutions, it seems odd that you can’t fit all of this information on one screen. While the interface is archaic, the 3-D renders of each and every martial artist (I guess that’s what you call them) look great. Though they are a bit repetitive, it really puts you into the game and they have obviously taken a lot of time to create. As for the sound, there isn’t any. Hooray! Less writing for me!

Your job in World of Mixed Martial Arts is to control a mixed martial arts company. The game has a fictious game world set up (using real athletes would be too expensive) with two dominant organizations and a couple of smaller ones; you are free to start unemployed create your own as well. World of Mixed Martial Arts includes three default in-game characters (a guy, a girl, and a cat for some reason) to choose from; it would have been nice to include editing options when you start a new game without having to mess with the default game world. You “win” the game by having a good rapport with fans by providing good matches, a dedicated roster of fighters who are paid on time and treated fairly, and pleasant media relations. World of Mixed Martial Arts does come with an extensive game world with tons of wrestlers (each with a unique 3-D portrait), though you are free to make modifications; editing is straightforward in World of Mixed Martial Arts and you can expect multiple mods to be released in the near future.

While you don’t directly control the matches, you are in charge of pretty much everything else. Most of your time will be spent creating and booking events and dealing with your roster. You will typically have one event scheduled each month, although more can come about when TV and pay-per-view deals are made. Booking matches in World of Mixed Martial Arts is generally easier than with previous games as an approximate match rating is given during the booking process: the game will show all possible matches for the event and rate them on potential popularity and quality. This makes booking so much easier than in the past and less guesswork. Of course, you will need to include less popular workers that you are pushing to the frontlines. The interface comes in to play here, as you can’t look at multiple screens during the booking process: rankings, rosters, ratings, and other data are kept on separate pages instead of having a single “master” information display. This results in some tedious work during the game that is frankly unnecessary. Thankfully, the rating system works well enough where it’s not a completely frustrating process. World of Mixed Martial Arts also includes a bunch of filters on almost every page to find exactly what you are looking for, and this also reduces the burden of information somewhat.

One major difference between World of Mixed Martial Arts and wrestling titles is that the results are not predetermined. This makes matches more exciting and your grand plans for major pushes can go up in smoke with an unexpected loss. It makes replay value greater as well, since the randomness is increased. Your company is more interesting to follow in World of Mixed Martial Arts because you’re just not sure what’s going to happen. Matches themselves are given long play-by-play descriptions of the action in place of actually seeing it; the match accounts let your imagination go to work and are more effective than crappy 3-D renders would have been. The different statistical ratings of each worker are used to determine the outcome, and the results seem realistic enough.

You will need to adjust your roster on an almost constant basis: scouting for new talent and renegotiating existing contracts. Each worker has an opinion on their role in your company, so you really have to keep tabs on each and every worker in your organization in order to be effective. This is obviously a lot easier in the smaller companies, but usually the “big boys” will swoop down and snatch your good talent if they become too successful. Because of this, you’ll have to bring in new workers and build them up over time in order to keep people interested in your product. Granting an exclusive contract will guarantee their position on your roster, but they are prohibitively expensive and only viable for the large organizations. Almost immediately after a good win, a worker will ask for a new deal; if you don’t give it to them, they might become mad and quit working for you. Wrestler requests and other important information is conveyed through e-mail; when a worker requests a new contract, you must click on their name, then click on “employment,” then click on “negotiate;” that’s two clicks too many. You may also see important events appear on the in-game news website; this happens more commonly for the bigger organizations. The webpage also shows forum topics, which range from discussions about particular workers to smack talk between forum members: a neat touch. You are able to adjust the titles for your company in addition to the weight classes, if you so desire.

World of Mixed Martial Arts also includes the managerial aspects of running an organization, although you can choose to leave these processes up to the AI and they do a decent job at it. Corporate jobs include dealing with finances, advertising, merchandise, and other monetary issues. You will also need to manually negotiate television, pay-per-view, and sponsorship deals; like the worker contracts, negotiations take about a week to complete. Television and pay-per-view events obviously need commentators, so you will need to hire those employees as well. So what’s the bottom line? Overall, World of Mixed Martial Arts is a more polished and ultimately more enjoyable iteration in the wrestling series. User feedback has been increased and semi-random results inject some uncertainty, while the comprehensive nature of past titles remains intact. Is it really that much different from wrestling? Well, it’s easier to make matches and the results aren’t predetermined, so in the end World of Mixed Martial Arts is more interesting to play. The title won’t win over people who don’t enjoy this genre because of its archaic interface, but management fans will find a fun game.

World of Mixed Martial Arts is another quality title in Adam Ryland’s series of sports management games. The reduced event count (one a month instead of one a week) and improved feedback on match popularity will make it more accessible overall. The fictitious game world is quite comprehensive, including the impressive 3-D pictures. You can leave a lot of the financial minutiae to the AI and concentrate on booking matches and adjusting rosters, but those who want complete control and still do so. The interface has been improved, but I’d still like easier accessibility to multiple pages and pertinent information. World of Mixed Martial Arts certainly passes the “addictive” test as it demands your attention through comprehensive simulation. World of Mixed Martial Arts is also highly moddable, so expect some real-world rosters and organizations soon enough. Fans of the genre will find another quality title, while those unfamiliar with sports management games will be put off by a cumbersome (but improved) interface.