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EA Sports UFC: Sim-fighting bliss for true MMA fans

EA SPORTS UFC

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The reviews haven't all been peaches and cream for EA Sports UFC. A common complaint is that it lacks the bells and whistles of the UFC Undisputed franchise, which I wouldn't disagree with. However one thing that I have a major problem with is that some reviews have said that this game is an arcade fighter.

I want to reassure every single MMA fan out there that EA Sports UFC is NOT an arcade fighter. Far, far from it. Anyone who says otherwise is nothing but an arcade fighting fan who's so upset by the realistic tactics this game demands, that he'll say the worst possible thing that could be said about an obvious MMA sim: it's arcadey.

EA Sports UFC does not have the hallmarks of an arcade fighter. It doesn't rely on frame advantage, has no "juggling" mechanics and doesn't require you to memorize complex combo chains. The stamina system requires you to fight at a measured pace or risk becoming slower, weaker and more vulnerable. Spamming is virtually eliminated. If you're looking to "dominate" your opponent with 10-hit unblockbables, this game is not for you.

This game requires you to fight realistically and to use real-life MMA tactics. The health system is dynamic, another non-arcade feature. That means you're not trying to drain a linear health meter to get the KO. Stoppages could occur within the first 10 seconds of the match or in the last minute of the final round. You land or get hit with the right shot at the right time and it's over.

The game's strongest suit is its stand-up, which features fluid controls, logical combos and a complete arsenal for every fighter. The best part of the stand-up is the wealth of defensive options you have at your disposal.

This isn't the rock 'em, sock 'em affair that most stand-up fights devolved to in UFC Undisputed 3, where you often got "juggled," meaning you were trapped in your own hit animations and were unable to defend yourself as your foe teed off. Here you can always defend yourself from the follow up strike, whether you parry, block, dodge or take an evasive step. The only reason you'll get hit with more than one strike at a time is if you neglect defense, and you can't blame the game for that.

When it comes to the ground is where EA Sports UFC feels a bit lacking at first if you're used to the strict, stage by stage transition system of past UFC games.

After dozens of fights I came to realize that my problem was that I just got used to UFC Undisputed's system and it was merely a matter of preference. Those games were more "lay and pray" friendly while EA Sports UFC's transition system is a bit more fair. It's easy to transition whether you have the dominant position or you're at the bottom trying to escape. It takes more than holding the stick in one direction to prevent transitions, though with skill and proper timing you can hold your foe down just the same.

One shortcoming of the ground game is the inability to scoot around the way you could in previous games. I miss being able to maneuver the bottom fighter to press his head against the fence.

Then there are the submissions, which consist of a mini-game represented by an octagon-shaped meter onscreen. I'm still not a fan of any immersion-breaking interfaces and would prefer to have a completely HUD-free game, but EA Sports UFC's submission system is a lot easier on the eyes than UFC Undisputed 3's.

One real issue are the takedowns, of which there are exactly 4 types, available to all fighters. That would've been more forgivable had the WWE-style back suplex not been one of those takedowns. It's an eyesore and takes away the authenticity whenever it occurs.

I can go through every nitpick and come up with dozens, but I'll save you the trouble. The bottom line is that EA Sports UFC is the best MMA game on the market despite its flaws. It expects you to understand the sport and won't hold your hand, which I suspect was the real reason for the mediocre reviews.

Reality-based fighting games are a different animal, may it be boxing or MMA. Most reviews you'll read were written by Mortal Kombat/Tekken aficionados who got their heads handed to them when they walked in thinking they could crush the opposition with a 12-hit unblockable combo.

If you love arcade fighting games, you'll absolutely hate EA Sports UFC. If you're a true MMA fan, this is an absolute must-have and worth getting a PS4 or an Xbox One for if you haven't taken the plunge yet. 5 stars out of 5.