While Fight Night could mainly make do with a close-up viewpoint, MMA brawls, with their bigger rings and awkward cages, not to mention their kicking as well as their punching, mean the camera has to work a bit harder too, zooming in and out of the action as fighters move across a larger game space. Luckily, so far the engine can handle everything the bouts ask of it, and, in debug mode, the developers can move from a full-ring view straight in to see the individual pockmarks on Fedor's face. Not that Fedor has pockmarks, right? (Play along. He might be reading this.)
It's not just the legacy of Fight Night that hangs over MMA, of course, there's the fact that THQ made a pretty good UFC game recently: a polished and surprisingly physical effort filled with star power and the sport's queasy glitz.
EA is confident it can compete, however, pointing out that MMA isn't tied to a single league, which opens the door for the differing strategies of ring matches as well as cage fights, while also ensuring that the game's an ideal vehicle for solving those eternal playground arguments over who would win in a scrap against who if their respective organisations ever allowed for a meet-up. EA also wants the game to work as a primer for the sport - something that will encourage new fans to take a closer look and learn the surprisingly complex nuances of MMA's particular brand of face-pummelling.
All EA's traditional stuff is to be included, with Photo Game Face and Create A Fighter slotting in alongside career mode, but even without the ability to play as Yehudi Menuhin or the family tortoise, MMA is looking extremely promising at the moment. There's a lot EA's not willing to talk about yet: it's mostly quiet on the roster, although it is willing to reveal the team's going for a fan-favourite mix of legends and rising stars, with Frank Shamrock, Randy Couture, and Gegard Mousasi already announced, and there's very little clue as to how the ground game is going to work (the greater game itself will allow for either stick or face button controls as with Fight Night), with the developers announcing only that they're currently iterating on several different approaches, and that the winner will be chosen via a kind of beauty contest at some point in the future.
So we're back to prettiness again and, as Rivero, a self-confessed hardcore fan, who has even managed to get his wife to start following the sport, stares at the screen, controller in hand, his face does seem to have the rapt expression of a man in love, so maybe his original phrasing was bang on the money after all. There's a lot of waiting to be done until it will be clear whether EA has what it takes to floor THQ, but if what the team's currently showing is anything to go by, MMA will certainly be able to put up a decent fight.
EA Sports MMA is due out for PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2010.