Fitness games are incredibly big business. Wii Fit sold a phenomenal amount bearing in mind the high price, and readers of the weekly UK chart will know all about a little game called Zumba Fitness…
My main problem with these titles is that they very rarely offer a decent alternative to going outside and partaking in actual exercise. Wii Fit was pedestrian at best, and EA Sports Active came with peripherals so flimsy they seemed to degrade before my very eyes.
I’ve heard lots of positive things regarding UFC Personal Trainer, though, including sentences such as “this review is actually going to kill me”, so naturally my interest has been piqued. Currently I’m on my own little mission to lose a few pounds as it is, so I’ve decided to replace cardio at the gym with the 30 day weight cut program in the game, and do a weekly report on how it’s going.
For clarity, I’m actually going to be doing this properly. The 30 day program consists of 22 days of exercise, and eight days of rest (albeit spaced out). I shall be supplementing this with my normal schedule of weight training at the gym, as well as not scoffing every bit of food that happens to stray into my eye line. The review copy sent was for the Xbox 360, so I also get to wipe the layer of dust off Kinect and give that a blast.
Upon booting the game you are presented with an impressive list of options. You can choose various activities, quick workouts or set up a 30 or 60 day program. As mentioned earlier I am opting for the 30 weight cut, but you can just as easily choose a program focusing on the increase of cardio or strength. Another nice addition is that you can also choose an option that integrates real weights into your program.[drop] Before you can go ahead and fully start your program, UFC needs to assess your level of fitness. Actually, the first thing that happens is your UFC trainer appears on screen and gives you a bit of a pep talk about how you are your toughest opponent, and that you should lock yourself in the bathroom and stare at yourself in the mirror. If you didn’t feel like a tub of goo before, you will now!
Choosing to create a new 30 day program reveals the game’s first real problem: Kinect needs a heck of a lot of space to function properly. I have about seven to eight feet of clear space between Kinect and the couch, more than enough for the other Kinect games in my collection, but this doesn’t seem to be enough for UFC to recognise certain moves such as press ups and forward lunges. I can see this getting very annoying.
To progress you are given several tasks to do, each with a time limit of one minute, and you have to perform as many reps as possible. Press ups, squats, star jumps, different types of abdominal work; it’s actually quite a thorough workout in its own right. I would love to tell you I passed with flying colours, but the game deemed it necessary to place me at the ‘beginner’ level. It turns out I ate all the pies.
Fitness assessed, it was then time to move on to the first actual workout. Christ on a bike, I wasn’t expecting it to be so tough. The game is very health and safety focused (and rightly so) so you spend a fair amount of time warming up with gentle movements and stretches. This actually lulled me into a false sense of security, before things kicked off and I suddenly found myself puffing away and wondering if perhaps I should have agreed to review Transformers instead.
There was a good variety of exercises in the first day of the program. Lunges, squats (with and without a hold), punches, elbows, and about 500 different ways to torture my abs. For me, that was the killer part. I frequently do weight training and cycling, but rarely bother with sit-ups. Suddenly having to do so many variations was a major shock to the system, and highlighted an area I really need to work on.
Each exercise requires you to complete a certain number of reps in the time permitted before the game deems you to have passed. If you do manage to fill your quota before the time runs out the trainer then pushes you to do a few more. The times you manage to achieve are stored, and I’m guessing you’ll be competing against them over the 30 days.
The whole sequence certainly worked up one heck of a sweat, as well as that satisfying ache that comes after a hard workout. That satisfying ache wasn’t so satisfying after I sneezed though! Argh, my abs! The pain!
As I’m a bit of a He-Man (or an idiot), I then decided to try out one of the activities. I went for advanced work on the heavy bag, which consists of five minutes of continuous punching. It’s fantastically brutal, as you can push yourself as hard as you like without constraint. Sweat pouring, arms leaden, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Hats off to Kinect, too, as apart from the space issue it so far has picked up all my movements without a fuss. I’ve seen people saying that you can cheat the sensor and trick it into thinking you are performing the exercises, and maybe you can, but what’s the point? That seems counterproductive to me.
I am genuinely excited about carrying on with UFC Personal Trainer. What I’ve seen so far has been fantastic, and the 30 litres of sweat lost speaks for itself. Could this be the fitness game that actually works? Well, let’s find out.