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Game Review: Supremacy MMA Unrestricted

For: Playstation Vita

From: Kung Fu Factory/505 Games

ESRB Rating: Mature (blood, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language, use of drugs, violence)

Price: $40

"Supremacy MMA Unrestricted" is, without a doubt, the best mixed martial arts game in the Playstation Vita's library.

Unfortunately, that's partly because it's also the only one. And while some MMA action is better than nothing, there's enough working against "Unrestricted" to temper the enthusiasm serious fans may have for the sport's Vita debut.

Most glaring is the uphill battle against UFC's and EA Sports' games for fighter name recognition - a problem "Unrestricted" arguably eschews by opting for a mostly fictional roster of fighters based on real-life fighters whom casual fans likely wouldn't recognize anyway.

The fictional roster allows "Unrestricted" to take liberty and give most fighters a unique storyline to complete. The stories are short and won't win awards for creativity. But it's an angle the other games can't take, especially with a level of grit that doesn't always flatter the fighters. The cutscenes, distilled through voice-acted motion comics, look and sound good, too.

"Unrestricted" also breaks convention by including woman fighters, and here it does opt for real-life fighters. Problem is, only two - Felice Herrig and Michele Gutierrez - are included, and they can only fight each other. Unsurprisingly, their storylines wrap after 10 minutes because there's nowhere else for them to go.

The actual act of fighting is a similar case of enticing and off-putting, though it doubtlessly will lean toward the latter for MMA purists.

Like its peers, "Unrestricted" accommodates multiple fight disciplines (wrestling, kickboxing, Jiu-Jitsu and so on) and provides the necessary means for ground, standing, striking and submission combat. Different fighters succeed differently based on their disciplines: Focusing on strikes if you're a submission specialist will, for instance, probably end poorly.

Unlike its peers, "Unrestricted" distills its action through what essentially resembles a non-MMA fighting game. You get a lifebar, and the only way to win a fight is to drain your opponent's lifebar. An opportunistic counterattack will hurt more than a plain strike, but there's no way to thread the timing needle and land one perfect punch that turns a losing contest into a knockout victory. Similarly, the only way to make an opponent tap out is to perform a submission when his lifebar is already near zero. "Unrestricted" rewards players for focusing on specific body parts by giving attacks on weakened areas a damage premium, but the facets of a tense MMA fight - both on the technical side and the thrilling, this-can-turn-in-an-instant side - are dampened when the lifebar rules all.

"Unrestricted" also mimics fighting games by taking place almost exclusively on a 2D plane. You can move more freely to change stances during a ground attack, but when both fighters are upright, they're always facing each other without any means to circle around and use the octagon.

These aren't minor shortcomings if you want a true-blue MMA experience and not a fighting game with MMA trimmings.

But if you can settle for the latter, "Unrestricted" at least does that pretty well. Its handling of multiple disciplines certainly suffices, and each fighter has a nice complement of moves he performs merely adequately as well as expertly. You can mix button and touch controls freely - escaping submissions is ideal with touch, while basic attacks work best with buttons - and pretty much every move has a weak spot that can be countered and reversed if you time it correctly.

"Unrestricted" also performs sufficiently in the features department. Along with storylines for 14 fighters, the 16 male fighters each have separate upgrade paths that unlock customization bonuses. A training mode and two tournament styles round out the single-player options. A no-frills multiplayer option (two players, local/online) is available as well, but attempts to find an online match (and sometimes even connect to the server) proved unsuccessful.

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