Full disclosure: The UFC 140 and 141 pay-per-views were free to some press members, so I didn’t pay for these events.
UPDATE 2: Those affected by UFC 141's technical issues should have received an email from Microsoft by now letting them know that they will be getting January 14's UFC Rio plus one month of Xbox Live Gold for free as a makeup.
UPDATE: Earlier (see below), I wrote a very positive report on UFC for Xbox Live based on a preview with the UFC 140 pay-per-view (before the service was available to the general public). I wanted to make sure I updated this post in light of recent events.
As some of you might've heard (especially if you followed all my frustrated Tweets last Friday evening), UFC 141 was a complete disaster on Xbox Live. Due to technical issues with the 30,000 promotional freebies Microsoft had sent out, the UFC on Xbox Live app wouldn't load for a lot of people; would continuously crash or reset to an earlier point in that night's event (with no way to fast forward to live broadcasting); would constantly switch between high definition, standard definition, and Vaseline-all-over-your-TV-screen definition (generally preferring the latter); would stutter and pause while trying to buffer; etc.
It was a huge mess and ensured that a lot of Xbox 360 owners won't be using this system to watch future live events when cable pay-per-view is still a sure thing. I apologize if anyone out there paid for UFC 141 based on anything I wrote earlier and had a poor experience.
I asked Microsoft for the reasons behind the problems, and here is the official response from a spokesperson (at least those affected will get a make-up freebie in the future):
"The broadcast of UFC 141 through the UFC for Xbox LIVE application was hampered by technical issues appearing in the hours leading up to the fight. Despite restoring service to some users during the course of UFC 141, there is a great deal of room for improvement. All 30,00 users who registered to view UFC 141 for free will be provided access to a future fight at no cost.
"We want to ensure that the 30,000 giveaway recipients for UFC 141 have an optimal experience with UFC on Xbox LIVE, and we are currently working with our partners at the UFC to ensure we deliver just that. The gamertags of the 30,000 users who registered for UFC 141 are being safely kept on file for free access to a future UFC event, and we will have more updates to share in the near future."
Something was missing on my Xbox 360. Virtual violence? Nah. Master Chief and Marcus Fenix have that covered. Make-believe violence? Netflix and Zune movies help fill that gap nicely.
I figured it out this past Saturday evening: It’s real violence. Like during UFC 140, when light heavyweight champ Jon ”Bones” Jones gashed Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida’s head open with a sharp elbow strike, causing a small blood waterfall to cascade over Machida’s face. Or when Frank Mir snapped Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira’s arm with a gut-churning pop that made my friends and me scream out in empathetic pain (though that didn’t stop us from watching the replay about 10 times).
So now the trifecta of console-based violence is complete — or rather, it will be when the UFC app officially launches to the public on December 20.
My first experience with UFC on Xbox Live was pretty much perfect. I’ve sat through some dull pay-per-view fights in the past, wishing my cable company would refund my money before I would slip into some boredom coma. But UFC 140 was exciting, with underdog wins, come-from-behind victories, and even a seven-second TKO.
The Xbox 360, however, doesn’t get credit for any of that man-fighting excitement, but here are six things the UFC app does get right:
1. Fight picks
You may have heard about this feature before; it’s easily the best thing the UFC app has to offer (besides being able to watch the fights themselves, obviously). If you select the “Fight Card” option, you can see every major matchup for the upcoming affair, and you can pick not only which fighter you think will win but how he will achieve that victory (knockout, submission, or decision).
By the way, UFC fans may notice that the layout here is fairly similar to UFC.com’s….
UFC on Xbox Live:
The Fight Card picks system isn’t some pointless thing like when the UFC asks you to text in your votes for who you think will win — the app actually, literally offers you points….
After the show’s over, the Fight Card section will display your picks (and those hows) and compare them to what really happened. Then it will formulate a score based on how well you did and put you on a leaderboard next to your friends to see who should really be taking his precognition skills to Vegas instead of wasting them on Xbox Live.
OK, maybe this is pointless (with points) as well, but it is a fun way to make UFC viewings more interactive than they’ve been before the 360 got into the game.
I only had one other friend on my list who’s in this early preview program: Carlos Rodela from the Press Pause show that I co-host weekly. He beat me 700-500. That’s the last time I base my choices on who has the coolest nicknames.
You can check out all tale-of-the-tape stats for the major fighters, including win-loss record, country of origin, age, height, weight, and reach.
The app offers several hype videos that promote the next big event. UFC 140 alone has 15 of them, including weigh-ins, interviews, and open workouts.
5. Image quality
I actually didn’t watch UFC 140 live — I had plans this past Saturday evening, so I had a viewing with my buddies the next day before the 24-hour expiration (after the initial purchase) came up. But the HD replay was perfectly crisp and colorful.
I did witness a couple of hiccups at one point during the 2.5-hour-long broadcast, when the image briefly became a little jumbled and distorted. But that lasted for just a few seconds, it only happened once, and I can’t say for sure whether that was due to the service or my own Internet connection. Otherwise, everything looked fine, from the blood splatter on the mat to Host Joe Rogan’s pulsating neck veins.
The video controls worked just as you’d expect on the 360, so I was able to pause, rewind, or fast forward at will (and they all seemed much more responsive than when I used to pay-per-view these fights on my Comcast cable service). Of course, the controller shutting off by itself after a while was a minor annoyance — I might have to spring for a proper 360 remote now — but I’m sure you’ve experienced that for yourself while watching movies on this machine.
I didn’t try out any Kinect controls during UFC 140, though. Who wants to hear me barking out commands during the fights?