Also available on: PlayStation 3, Wii
Developer: Heavy Iron Studios
UFC Personal Trainer is the latest keep-fit title to be released for Kinect. Despite only hitting the shelves a little over six months ago, Microsoft's hands-free gaming device features a remarkable number of dedicated fitness games, such as Get Fit With Mel B, The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout and EA Sports Active 2.0 - not to mention gut-busting mini-game compilations such as Kinect Adventures and Kinect Sports.
If UFC Personal Trainer is to stand any chance of succeeding, therefore, it will need to stand out from its rivals, or find a way to appeal to gamers with no previous desire to jump around their living rooms in order to get in shape. Fortunately (and much to the relief of my ever expanding waistline), with the aid of the UFC license, Heavy Iron Studios has managed to craft a fitness title more in tune with the wants and needs of the core gamer.
There are a couple of things to point out, however, before we begin to talk about the game's many features. Firstly, this is a pure fitness title. At no point will you go toe-to-toe with Brock Lesnar or trade blows with Tito Ortiz. The game does, on a fairly basic level, teach you how to kick, punch, grapple and gouge (well, maybe not gouge) - but these activities are mainly for cardio purposes and will not hold you in good stead in the Octagon!
Secondly, in order to get the most out of the game and really feel the benefits of each workout, you're going to need a lot of room. The same is true of most Kinect games, but is particularly pertinent when it comes to UFC Personal Trainer - a nice thick carpet or workout mat is also advisable. If you're not planning to play the game in a tiny box bedroom and trimming the fat is your main objective, then UFC Personal Trainer - despite a few technical issues with the Kinect sensor - is one of the better keep-fit games on the market today.
One weapon that the game has in its arsenal, is that unlike Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, for example, which was a little drab and dreary, UFC Personal Trainer benefits from having an interesting and appealing license, which aids, among other things, the presentation side of things. Well-produced and informative videos introduce players to the game, while training takes place in professional and authentic-looking gyms, as well as in the Octagon itself. Meanwhile, each exercise or workout routine is hosted by certified trainers Mark DellaGrotte, Greg Jackson or Javier Mendez, who are also joined by actual UFC fighters in unlockable videos, which detail certain moves and disciplines.
Like any keep-fit title worth its salt, UFC Personal Trainer features a nice blend of preset workout routines and customisable options. There are scores of ready-made quick workouts, which focus on specific body parts or goals, as well as a number of 30 to 60-day fitness programmes, which aim to build strength, cut weight or add endurance. Players may also pick and choose their favourite exercises from the multitude of individual options available in order to create their own custom routines. Exercises include countless knees, kicks and punches, as well as ground strikes and lunges; there are also plenty of traditional cardio activities and stretches, aimed at making players stronger in the arm and lighter on their feet.
The exercises are tough and the game really pushes players to the limit, although an initial and rather gruelling fitness check ensures that the programmes and routines are pitched at the right level of difficulty. There are also some additional games to choose from, which are a little more fun and fight-related, and involve such activities as hitting the mitts, punching the bag and the excruciating tire flip, which, while punishing, is also a lot of fun.
Perhaps most impressive is the game's progress tracker, which features lots of graphs, stats and tables as a means of measuring a player's development. It also contains a rather novel camera mode, which is able to chart progress visually by taking snaps during different stages of the programme. This results in some interesting before and after shots for proof of the more cosmetic changes in a player's physique.
The game isn't without its flaws, however, but the majority are either relatively minor, or fairly typical of most Kinect games. The biggest problem is that exercises such as sit-ups require too much space in order to effectively perform. Some of the strength activities and programmes also require weights, although these activities only crop up if enabled at the start menu. There is also a slight delay issue with some of the striking workouts. However, anybody who has played games such as Kinect Sports will be used to this, and know that it simply requires a slight timing adjustment and a little patience in order to get to grips with.
A little more irritating are the number of phantom strikes and reps that occur from time to time. A misplaced arm here or a shake of the head there, sometimes registers as a repetition (this was especially evident on the sit-ups) which does have some bearing on your statistics. The voice activation is also a little hit-and-miss. For the most part, it works wonderfully and makes menu navigation and customisation much more fluid. However, from time to time it fails to pick up vocal instructions and seems to have a huge problem recognising the "pick two" command - whether this is a problem for anybody else, however, remains to be seen.
Personally, I would have also liked to have seen more UFC footage and an increased number of fight-related mini-games, just to give players more to do between sessions or with friends in multiplayer. The current multiplayer activities are rather limited, involving high-score battles hitting targets or flipping tires, although they can be played online.
UFC Personal Trainer is an excellent fitness title and well worth investing in for those keen on losing a few pounds and gaining some muscle. The game is well presented and full of useful exercises, routines and programmes, which are tough but fair and occasionally even fun.
While it may suffer from a few technical issues, it's still largely trouble-free and among the more reliable Kinect games available at this point. The lack of actual fighting may be off-putting to some and the amount of room needed to play the game may also be an issue. However, those who can accommodate UFC Personal Trainer won't fail to be knocked out by its benefits to the body.
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