Modern fighting bouts are glamorous events these days, but it hasn’t always been this way. Fighting for honour, societal positioning or for the unadulterated brutality and adrenaline rush, the warriors of Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted are so highly trained in the art of fighting that their bare hands are lethal weapons. Do you have what it takes to face the deadly competition in these bare-knuckled brawls? Step into the ring and let’s find out.
Dark, vulgar and ruthless depictions of the lives of these mixed martial arts combatants come through storyboard-esque cutscenes, fleshing out the strong line-up. In this world of MMA fighting there’s only one way to prove yourself, and that’s to win fights. To get to the top you’ve got to start at the very bottom: underground. Fighting to the final title match on the MMA stage from these beginning bouts – regardless whether they’re fictional, based off actual MMA fighters or one of the real-life fighters themselves – creates a connection similar to an Aksys Games’ brawler (e.g. BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND). The low-resolution textures that commonly infect low budget titles fit the game’s crude atmosphere, while a jukebox of hardcore metal and underground hip-hop tracks set the game’s disposition perfectly.
Stepping into the cage, the storyboards become yesterday’s newspaper burning to provide warmth for gamblers outside the rusted cage: it’s time to unsheathe your animosity and put your well-trained skills and hardened muscles to work. Each fighter is a master in their preferred martial art and brings unique skills to the ring. Where St. John Ackland uses the submission wrestling form that’s commonly found in MMA fights and has a well-rounded mix of hand-to-hand skills and ground-based attacks, pugilist Jens Pulver singly puts all of his weight behind his fist alone, giving the bout a very different feel depending on the rival chosen to control. Adding in the numerous other styles (e.g. Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Judo, wrestling, etc.) to this, ensures that almost every bout faced will have you desperately trying to find a way to exploit the other's weakness and gain the upper hand in the match.
Regardless of the fighting style, the Square and Triangle buttons are used for punch/kick attacks, with directional variations mixing up the attacks. The L button pressed in tandem with an up/down direction is used to block high and low attacks, and the Circle button can be quickly pressed for bone-crushing counter attacks if timed correctly. The X button is left to grapple and slam fighters to the ground, where you can in turn try to inflict further damage with submission holds, by either rapidly wiggling the right analogue stick, or swiping the touch screen (preferred) to fill a meter. The touch screen can also be tapped for attacks and pinching the front and back touches together will initiate grapples, but even though these optional controls work, they don’t provide the necessary speed and accuracy needed. Ruthless fights require split-second reaction times to thwart or counter oncoming attacks, or you’ll quickly find yourself broken boned in agony on the ground if trying to use just touch controls. Just like in Uncharted: Golden Abyss though, all the control methods are available at all times, so using a hybrid mix of button presses and touch controls simultaneously is completely welcomed.
Unlike THQ’s UFC Undisputed titles that are more wrestling oriented and true to UFC rules and regulation, Supremacy brings an old-school fighting style that features a health bar. Submissions don’t stop a match here, instead they inflict severe damage to the affected appendage — weakening its attack strength – and the match is only over once a combatant’s health bar has been completely depleted, like typical fighting games. It’s a simple concept that might seem out of place at first, but having a hybrid fighter that’s essentially a mix of Tekken and UFC Undisputed, grapples into a unique blend that’s light on the rules and heavy on the fun.
Supremacy comes with a supreme difficulty though and it’s understandable that many could even see it as having severe balancing issues. Fighting styles that feature strong kicks and ground slams can chip away damage much faster than a hand-to-hand combat focus, making some fights seem near impossible even on the standard difficulty. Impatient types will undoubtedly want to put a foot through their Vita over this, but others will find that the imbalance actually plays into the game's charm, because unsanctioned MMA fighting is unbalanced, unregulated and raw. Sticking through the pains and frustrations to take an underdog fighting style to the top by mastering all of their available skills and near perfect execution is extremely rewarding.
Rounding out the package, Supremacy offers two tournament modes (Battle Royal and Survival Ladder) to take your favourite fighter(s) through, as well as both local and online modes to duke it out with others. While you can easily take a snapshot to show your rival exactly who’s beating their face to a pulp, the online mode is plagued with latency problems, diminishing what could’ve been a heavy hitting online option for Vita. Lastly, Femmes Fatales offers two side stories following female MMA fighters, outside of the main Supremacy Stories. While short-lived, this mode is more of an extra, but it still shows that these ladies can bring the pain just as hard as the boys, and we only wish this mode was expanded on further.
Unsanctioned, brutal and wholly unrefined in its raw underground presentation, Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted breaks free from the restraints of licensed properties and locks two highly trained human adversaries in a cage, putting their martial art forms to the ultimate test. While not for everyone, those willing to take a few merciless beatings will find some enjoyment here — it’s just a shame the online comes off like a stiff kick below the belt.