Bellator: MMA Onslaught was developed by Kung Fu Factory and published by 345 Games. It was released on July 11, 2012 for 1200 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.

Bellator: MMA Onslaught brings mixed martial arts (MMA) to Xbox Live Arcade for the first time. Onslaught is based on the Bellator Fighting League so it will likely be unfamiliar to those who only know about the UFC. Bellator utilizes a tournament system to determine who will get a title shot. Otherwise the rules in Bellator are largely the same as any other MMA organization. Onslaught’s main game mode revolves around the tournament and becoming the champ. The real question is whether or not Onslaught can compete with the MMA video game big boys the same way the Bellator league is attempting to compete in the MMA scene.

Here’s what we liked:

Accurate character models – It is difficult to accurately depict a real person in a game, but developer Kung Fu Factory has done an excellent job of accurately portraying the fighters. Each model has a fair amount of personality so it’s easy to distinguish each competitor. In truth many won’t be familiar with a lot of the people on the roster; nonetheless a good job has been done in representing them and making them feel compelling.

The “other” MMA – Bellator is an organization that does a lot right and has made a few stars along the way. The inclusion of the tournament format goes a long way to legitimizing their champions. It is nice to see these guys getting some exposure on a platform as broad as XBLA.

Character creation – The character creation mode does a serviceable job of creating unique characters. There aren’t a ton of options, but there are some unlockables to make things interesting. Once you’ve chosen a look things get interesting. You pick between four base skill sets: Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Kickboxing or MMA (again — Mixed Martial Arts). Once a specialty is established, you use skill points to boost skills in different areas. Skill points can be earned in the Challenge mode.

Challenge mode – The challenge mode acts as a tutorial teaching a lot of the basic and advanced skills. It also helps you rack up skill points to power up your custom fighter. Some of the challenges are a bit silly but they all serve the purpose of teaching and leveling. At any rate it’s a good distraction from just doing regular fights every time.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Unbalanced and sloppy gameplay – Sports games have to make a choice right at the beginning. Is this game going to be a simulation or an arcade game? Onslaught doesn’t know what it is. Some parts feel like a simulation, others like an arcade action game. The elements do not come together well. There are two “life” gauges for lack of a better expression. One is regular health; when it gets to zero you are knocked out. The other is stamina. Each action you take uses stamina which slowly replenishes over time. But if you use too much stamina you can put yourself in danger of a flash knockout. It’s very easy to pummel an opponent for an entire round only to get knocked out with one punch due to lack of stamina. Obviously the idea is to play a balance between attack and defense but in practice it doesn’t work well and certainly isn’t much fun. The crux of the whole problem is that the game plays in a way that makes you want to unload a salvo of punches and kicks. But if you do so you’re almost guaranteed to lose. The game really feels like you should be able to let loose but you can’t and this just feels wrong.

Sometimes fun, often not – In those moments when you have the stamina to actually attack the game can be a lot of fun. Then one of two things happens. Either you are caught in a flash KO/submission or you have to retreat and recover. Neither of these is much fun.

Unrealistic – One punch knockouts and out of nowhere submissions are great for the highlight reels but really are the exception and not the rule in MMA. Despite this they are rampant in Onslaught. This really makes it difficult just to get some momentum going. Even more amazing is the prevalence of takedown KO’s. Getting KO’s by a slam in real life is exceedingly rare, but in Onslaught it is an everyday occurrence. And it isn’t just slams either; simple takedowns can KO an opponent as well.

Bellator: MMA Onslaught tries to do a lot of things and only partially succeeds at some of them. There are a number of great ideas that just aren’t polished and fleshed out. It certainly has its moments, but they stand too few and far between for a recommendation. Hardcore MMA fans may be able to find something to love here, but most gamers simply won’t resonate with an obscure MMA organization and mediocre gameplay.

Score: Skip It