UFC Personal Trainer Review (Xbox 360)
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It seems that the novelty of fitness games is starting to wear thin. Publishers are no longer content just producing "pure" fitness games. They must now come with a themed wrapper, be it NFL or dance trimmings. This isn’t typically a bad thing because, for some, this content focus helps make the game more inspiring and the user more motivated. UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System attempts to add another layer of interest and follow down that personalized path.
There’s nothing too surprising here if you’ve been following the development of this genre over the the past few years (going as far back as Yourself! Fitness on the original Xbox). You are given a selection of individual workout activities, premade or custom workouts, and a stat tracking 30 or 60 day fitness program. There are also a few workout games with multiplayer functionality. And, as usual, it all starts with a fitness test to determine your baseline levels.
What makes this game different than competitors is the inclusion of UFC fighters/trainers and the focus on combat-based training. There are two distinct advantages with this theme. First, more than any other fitness title available on the 360, this one seems inherently geared toward men. Most of the others have had a family slant -- there is nothing that says kids can't play this game, it’s just much less bright and cheerful than titles like EA Active or Your Shape: Fitness Evolved.
Secondly, the activities fit the theme much better than other titles. For instance, the NFL version of EA Active claimed to include authentic football activities, but at some point it's clear that running in place isn’t the same as going out for a pass. Here, sparring really does imitate the real thing in a much more realistic manner.
The UFC theming is quite well done here, and it permeates every aspect of the game. If you have a real fondness for UFC, you’ll like how things are setup.
Yet, if you aren’t a die-hard fan, some of the faults might be a little more apparent. There is good reason these guys are fighters and not actors. When they talk, it’s pretty wooden and obvious that it’s being read. This isn’t a big deal in the introductory videos, but during a workout it’s crucial you get more organic and helpful feedback. What’s here is limited and not that useful, reducing, at least for me, a big chunk of the motivation.
Like most fitness titles, if you commit to a workout routine (and a lifestyle that supports it), you’ll likely see results. I felt that the routines did a good job of getting me sweaty, and I look forward to long-term results.
That being said, I wish there were some more "gamey" activities here. As it is, there are only four, and one is just a punching bag for your "freestyle" enjoyment. Since these particular activities form the backbone of the multiplayer, I can’t see much lasting enjoyment with this portion of the title. That’s unfortunate, as a full blown fighting-style mini-game seems like a natural fit for this game -- I still think Wii boxing is one of the more enjoyable "fitness" activities available.
The Kinect functionality is as good or as bad as any other game I’ve played thus far. Punching and kicking feel pretty responsive. You’ll still need lots of room in order to complete some of the activities. The producers have also allowed for controller or vocal input in most of the menus, saving you from having to strike goofy poses or wave your hand in just the right spot.
However, some familiar issues were apparent. Going to the floor for things like pushups or situps often gave the Kinect fits. There’s nothing as infuriating as thinking you have cranked out 15 pushups and then noticing the game has only tracked five of them. Also, while the vocal menu options are nice, I wasn’t always successful getting it to correctly record my choice.
UFC Personal Trainer does a great job of wrapping a fitness game in the trappings of Ultimate Fighting. The activities are a natural fit, the environments and trainers are authentic, and the workouts are effective.
However, the subtitle of “Ultimate Fitness System” is a misnomer. The activities and games are simply too limited to give a non-fan a true sense of enjoyment. The theme is partly responsible: You will not find any yoga or stress-reducing games here. And the in-game trainers are not nearly helpful or motivating enough to encourage you to persevere.
Learning Curve: Nothing is too difficult for the beginner, though lack of specific feedback may increase levels of frustration.
Control Scheme: The Kinect is still dodgy at times, but I like the ability to use a controller or vocal commands (when working) in the menus.
Online: There is the ability to send challenges to friends via Xbox Live.
Visuals: The representations of fighters like Javier Mendez are pretty good, as are the environments. Cloth physics!
Audio: Again, the speaking is a little stiff and feedback is not at all helpful.
Score: 6.0 (Above Average)