And they're very positive. Here's a decent compendium of the major video game sites offering meaningful reviews.
Before I highlight the better excerpts, here's what's important to consider. Most of the reviews are very favorable. This game, by critical standards, appears to be a hit. That makes this entire MMA experiment by EA all the more intriguing. Were the game to be sub-standard, the idea that a massive industry player like EA could help usher in a more bi-polar MMA world wouldn't even be worthy of consideration. But by virtually all accounts, EA has turned in something special. And if you haven't noticed, they are dumping quite a bit of money into the sport. EA's deliverable could change the competitive landscape and re-test the hypothesis that MMA can be popular beyond the UFC universe. Quite a bit at stake here for EA and MMA. You could argue the game could succeed on it's own terms, but I don't put much stake in that idea. Anyway, onto the reviews.
The main drawback of MMA, its underwhelming roster, is perhaps understandable considering the behind-the-scenes feuding between EA and UFC bosses. While it is great to be able to finally see Randy Couture square off against Fedor Emelianenko, the lack of even a handful of high-profile names from the UFC feels like a glaring omission in what is an otherwise all-encompassing game.
Comparisons between MMA and THQ's UFC Undisputed franchise are inevitable, but the two games offer up very different experiences that are, for the most part, complementary. MMA is a fuller game that celebrates the broadest scope of the sport with a loving precision, while UFC brings out a roster of more recognizable fighters for a more casual, beer-and-buddies experience.
It remains to be seen if there is enough interest to support both franchises, but with the series' first outing,EA Sports MMA provides not only a must-play experience for fans, but a compelling argument for a two-MMA-game world.
Game Informer also complains about the roster, but underscores the game's nuances and how they appeal to our intuitive senses:
With two MMA titles currently on the market, it's hard not to compare this with THQ's game. EA offers up a faster-paced, less-technical fighter, and it doesn't seem to care how much you already know about the sport. Its analog-based combat allows fighters to jab, hook, and uppercut by throwing the stick through different rotations. This makes the action a little more about feeling out your opponent's weaknesses and responding to his attacks than it does about memorizing a stock set of pre-scripted attacks. The game also allows you to employ a certain level of strategy. For example, if your opponent is running all over the mat so that you can't get a lock on him, you can focus your attacks on one of his legs until it becomes dead weight that he has to carry around the ring.
After taking your opponent to the mat, MMA becomes a strategy game where you're trying to balance your stamina against your opponents, as you fight for better positioning. With the simple press of a button, you transition forward towards a posture that will set you up for a submission hold, choke, or the ground-and-pound. Your opponent can block or reverse your maneuvering if he acts fast enough, but you can also throw a few punches at his head to throw him off his game. It's a fairly simple system, but the nuances of knowing when to attack, when to block, and when to shoot for the risky double transition gives the game some complexity that is especially exciting when you're facing a human opponent.
IGN argues with a few adjustments this game could be the best sports game of the year:
EA Sports MMA wrestles away the belt from the reigning champ with its stellar combat that feels much closer to the genuine article than what we've seen elsewhere. While its modes don't span the same breadth of other sports titles, it gets things like the international flavor of MMA and the raw nature of the sport down perfectly. Now if they can just refine the AI a bit and add some meat to the scope of the career mode, this one will transcend MMA games and could contend for a spot as one of the best sports games of the year.
Taken as a whole, MMA's fighting system has a lot in common with Undisputed, which is understandable. But while Undisputed emphasises depth and complexity, MMA's gameplay is more forgiving. That's not to say an experienced player won't dominate an octagon newbie, but MMA has the less demanding learning curve.
SBNation's own WKR even offers their assessment from the MMA fan's perspective:
Truthfully, I didn't expect this much out of EA MMA. It's rare that I sit and play a game non stop for...let's just say a long time, to save myself the embarrassment. EA MMA has put their best foot forward, and made quite the statement in the world of gaming. UFC license or not, EA has made the best of the resources available. Presuming there will be future installments, EA has laid a foundation for success, without a doubt. I suggest at least renting the game for anyone who is still on the fence, but go read around, this isn't the only review that has good, or even great things to say about this game.
I give EA MMA an 8/10, for being innovative, fun, and just plain good.