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What we learned from EA Sports UFC's first actual gameplay footage

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We're less than 4 weeks away from the release of the hotly anticipated MMA video game, EA Sports UFC. A couple of days ago EA released the very first unedited gameplay footage, featuring Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis in a full round of fighting. From what I saw, this is easily going to be the best MMA game to date. My only wish is to have Adam Sandler's remote from "Click" so that I could just fast forward to June 17th. Below are some of the observations I made.

The parries are realistic. The parry system has been one of my biggest concerns since Brian Hayes made mention of it. The way he talked about it made me think of the ridiculous parrying from Fight Night Round 3, which could literally freeze you for up to 3 full seconds. The parries I saw in the video were very realistic and had no freezing or stun effects. At one point, after Aldo got parried he was able to immediately block Pettis' follow up punch. I'm guessing that depending on the type of strike, the opening a parry creates will vary. Regardless, I saw enough parrying situations in the video to feel confident that it isn't going to be anything like the garbage from Fight Night Round 3.

Defense is reliable. This isn't the rock 'em sock 'em affair that UFC Undisputed 3 often came down to. One of my fears was that EA would purposely gimp the defensive mechanics in favor of combo-centric slugfests that might appeal to casual gamers who don't really understand MMA. I no longer believe this to be the case after seeing Pettis and Aldo block, parry and dodge with apparent ease. The blocking seems to be tuned to have the advantage over strikes, which is the way it ought to be. You shouldn't need to be a psychic to successfully defend against strikes.

No more "juggling." UFC Undisputed 3's stand-up played very much like your typical arcade fighter where juggling is the norm. Though you weren't exactly launching your foe and keeping him afloat by punching at his ankles, the effect was pretty much the same--one fighter gets "trapped" in his opponent's combo, unable to break out of the hit animations. There wasn't one instance in the video where a fighter just stood defenseless while the other teed off. Landing combos seems to be a matter of timing, anticipation and finding the right openings rather than the result of an arbitrary juggling mechanic.

It has the vibe and rhythm of a real MMA bout. There was a good mix of offense and defense from both guys and they stayed mobile. The locomotion is fluid and the animations are nuanced. Aldo and Pettis were light on their feet, in contrast to the fighters in UFC Undisputed 3, most of whom moved as though they wore cement blocks for shoes. In the video, Aldo suffered a knockdown and appeared to be seriously hurt as he fell face down to the mat but was able to recover a few seconds later. The brief sequence looked very organic.

Authentic presentation. The camera angles resembled a UFC broadcast. The punching sound effects were neither over-the-top or muted. The crowd reactions were very lifelike and whenever the crowd got a little quiet, it resulted in a "hollowness" in the arena without the "white noise syndrome" common to the crowds in other sports games. Most importantly, there was none of the trademark EA nonsense we've seen in the Fight Night games, like the obnoxious slow-motion replays during the round or the "ear ringing" sound effects when a fighter got stunned.

No submission attempts. EA wasn't quite ready to reveal the submission system. I find it curious that those who have had some hands-on time with the game have avoided going into the specifics of the submission mini-game. They've said that it's a "cat and mouse" affair and relies on reflexes, but that's about it. They've said nothing about the meters or visual cues that will be used during the submission battle. I absolutely hated the submission system in UFC Undisputed 3 as it took you out of the action with its over-sized, octagon-shaped meter that was as big as the screen and drew your attention away from the combatants. I'm hoping that EA is still tweaking the visual interface of the mini-game to be as subtle as possible or better yet, so that it could be played properly even with the HUD turned off (vibration feedback, perhaps?).

No clinch/fence fighting shown. This may or may not have been done deliberately, but I didn't see any clinch or fence fighting in the video. I'm not too concerned about it nor do I think EA is trying to hide anything. I believe it has more to do with marketing and I expect to see videos in the next couple of weeks explaining the clinch and various cage positions in great detail.

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