The first rule of fight club is you...
Supremacy MMA is a case of not judging the book by its cover and, in this case, its name. Having previewed the title earlier, I had the luxury of knowing that Supremacy MMA is actually a traditional fighter that just happens to be steeped in underground cage fighting. Most people, though, will likely judge the game by their expectations of an "MMA" title closer to THQ's UFC Undisputed or EA MMA. And it really wouldn't be their fault—it's like looking at a game called "Power Wrestling" and then realizing that it's actually about the Olympic sport of wrestling. That said, plenty of users across the net have slammed Supremacy MMA for being deceptive, which is a shame, because while it lacks breadth and some spit shine, there's something here worth fighting for.
Just to be absolutely clear, Supremacy MMA is more a disciple of arcade fighters like Tekken except with a much more expansive ground game than it is of the more simulation-based MMA fighters. Instead of caring about realism and subtlety, it's the kind of game where it doesn't care if the fighters are obviously not in the same weight class, or if a successful kimura submission hold would actually end a real MMA fight, or if most MMA fights tend to stay on the floor for a long time.
This is about all about swift and visceral hand-to-hand combat. (I see "visceral" being overused in game reviews, but this game is visceral on the level of Fight Club.) Fighters sweat, bruise, and bleed all over a makeshift ring made from unwashed concrete and tattered cage wire surrounded by a bloodthirsty crowd who want nothing more but to see your face become unrecognizable. Wear down an opponent's arms and legs enough, and they will even break with a finishing blow or elbow-snapping submission lock, all to the sound of heavy hits, bone cracks, and a wicked track list full of independent metal bands to the likes of Destrophy. In short: Are you not entertained?
Each bareknuckle bout is meant to keep players on their toes without having to spend too much time messing with complex controls. Grappling is never supposed to take longer than twenty seconds, and transitioning between stand-up strikes, clinches, and ground submissions is quick and easy. MMA fans will immediately notice the lack of realism, as it's far too easy to get out of a terrible position on the ground and striking someone hard in the jaw with a clean Superman punch should result in an immediate blackout. The suspenseful and authentic possibility of an instant knockout in MMA is sacrificed for the sake of the game's adherence to a traditional fighter.
But while the game gets the blood plumping early, it loses steam quickly and the polish leaves something to be desired. There are only 12 fighters on the roster, with two female fighters in a separate Femme Fatale mode, with most fighters specializing in a distinct style like judo, kickboxing, and submisssion wrestling. Where boxers like to stay in close and avoid the ground, grapplers incorporate more throws from the clinch and submissions from every ground position.
It becomes noticeably clear, though, that stand-up combos don't inflict that much damage unless it's a parry combo, compared to a successful submission or takedown. If you're particularly good at twiddling the right analog stick, submissions are all that you need to take anyone down, sometimes within thirty seconds of the match. Each fighter also has a Supremacy Story that lasts about five to eight rounds, revealing each of their motivations and journeys, but none of them go far from the basic concepts of survival, honor, pride, and aggression.
Like an MMA rookie about to get into his first cage fight, Supremacy MMA is wild and energetic but inexperienced and rough around the edges. It's got guts, grit, and growl, but not enough stamina to last a full match, especially when stacked up against other games that cost $49.99. But it has the clear potential to grow into a contender with a fuller roster, perhaps a create-a-fighter mode, and an XP progression system that goes beyond clothing swaps for trunks. If you want a pick-up-and-play MMA fighter, though, Supremacy MMA is waiting for you in the back of the bar, down the stairs, and through the busted door. Just follow the blood. You'll find it.