July 06, 2011
Our first fight with UFC Personal Trainer wasn't in the Octagon, but rather with the whole rigmarole involved in setting up Kinect to do the obligatory fitness test before you can actually get into the meat of what the game (if you can call it that) has to offer. Never has a Kinect title required the aid of a controller close at hand so frequently, demanding that we enter the Kinect tuner to manually angle the sensor down to the floor so it can see us doing sit-ups and press ups. It's annoying, but thankfully doesn't rear it's head again once you're into the game.
You enter your sex, age, height and weight at the beginning with the idea being that you periodically retake the fitness test to gauge how well you're doing. Then you have to see how many sit-ups you can do in a minute and how many press-ups you can do in a minute, before star-jumping for a minute and taking your pulse for thirty seconds. Once that's over and done with, you're free to return the Kinect sensor to its default position and you're let loose in the UFC Personal Trainer gym, where there's video tutorials from Mark DellaGrotte and a lovely lady warning you to consult a doctor before starting any form of intensive exercise. And they're not wrong, either.
From the main menu, it's really up to you what you do next, although the game recommends trying out some of the daily workouts that are set up and scheduled for you. These workout sessions are not to be taken lightly however, as they're genuinely intense and lengthy, exercising all of your key areas based upon whether you want to build strength, lose weight or increase your endurance. If you like, you can use weights and resistance bands to ramp up the intensity, but you'll probably already be in tip-top shape if you're able to do this.
We'll freely admit that we've let ourselves go a bit lately, and playing UFC Personal Trainer really hammered that home. Doing the warm-up stretches weren't a problem, and nor was doing basic sit-ups, bicycle crunches and the exercises that don't demand straightening your legs. Once we got to the V-sit exercises, that require lying flat and leaning up to your knees while raising your legs – thus making a 'V' shape – we had to throw in the towel and take a break. It would have been preferable if UFC Personal trainer had some more bitesize workouts to ease you in, but the only way to enjoy a quick session in the game is with the activities.
Even the so-called ' quick workouts' take quite a while, as do the pre-made instructor-specific exercises, of which there are a dozen allocated to the game's three instructors, DellaGrotte, Greg Jackson and Javier Mendez, each of which last between 15 and 20 minutes apiece. Not exactly something that's conducive to casual play or anyone hoping to simply dabble with the game. UFC Personal Trainer is serious stuff then and doesn't have time for any lily-livered players looking to simply hit a punch bag for 5 minutes a day, hoping that they'll look like Brock Lesnar after a few weeks.
If you are looking for something that's not too demanding, you can always dip into the activities, although there's only four to choose from. You can either 'hit the mitts' with the UFC fighter of your choice, go freestyle on a heavy bag, hone your rhythm with the speed bag or flip a gigantic tyre, which really requires weights or resistance bands, or you're basically flipping thin air. But then, you're basically punching and kicking thin air anyway, so weights are definitely beneficial in getting the most out of these mini-games. Hit the mitts is clearly the most enjoyable of these activities though, as it's focused and you're actually executing jabs, hooks, uppercuts, knees and kicks.
That said, you're not shown any fighting techniques, so if you're hoping to climb into the Octagon and knock someone's teeth out, you'll still have to go and enrol at a dojo. To be fair, UFC Personal Trainer doesn't claim to be a teaching tool for fighting, but as the box states, it's positioned as “The Ultimate Fitness System”. Endorsed by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) lends the game a great deal of credibility, but when the trainers fail to issue you with helpful advice or any kind of meaningful commentary during your workouts, it hardly feels 'ultimate'.
With its intensive workouts, bookended by warm-up and cool-down exercises, you'll certainly work up a real sweat with UFC Personal Trainer, but there are a lot of shortcomings to take into consideration. First and foremost among these is the inane ramblings of your trainer, whose repetitive lines you could really do without during your workouts. They don't particularly contribute much other than some words of encouragement for doing well or a dressing down for failing to pull your weight. It would have been nice if some help could have been offered by the coaches on how to improve our form or if they could have told us what we were doing wrong when we failed. For instance, what could we do differently to master those tough V-sit exercises? It would be good to have some pointers.
Furthermore, the more overtly game-oriented segments of Personal Trainer are great, with their score tallies and clear, concise instructions, but you're not shown which you've aced and what your scores are for each, so there's no incentive to go back and strive to improve or achieve perfection in the activities, which seems like an oversight. Still, there are a lot of great options in the game, including the ability to create your own custom workouts that you can save and return to whenever you like, and you can plan out 30 or 60-day workouts based upon how much you want to tackle.
If you want to garner all of the achievements, you'll really have to knuckle down with UFC Personal Trainer and have total discipline, as some require completing 100 days of workouts and acquiring countless medals, while other achievements ask that you complete every one of the game's numerous exercises, with a paltry 10G assigned to beating all 12 of each of the three trainer's pre-made workouts. That's 10G for about 3-4 hours of intensive exercise. The best way to think of the achievements are as bonuses on the road towards attaining that ripped UFC body you've always wanted, but you're looking at the best part of a year exercising as often as you can to bag yourself the full 1000G. Now that's dedication!
Clearly, UFC Personal Trainer is a serious fitness title that will truly put you to the test. There's a fantastic suite of workouts for you to engage in - provided you're willing to put up with the pointless blather of your trainer – and with quick workouts, some fun activities and even multiplayer challenges to try out, UFC Personal Trainer has a lot going for it. It's not a game for the weak-hearted though, and it's evident that only the truly dedicated and committed will get the results that they really want from the game. And if you're willing to put in the time and the effort, there's no reason why you can't achieve the body of a lean mean fighting machine. As exercise games go then, UFC Personal Trainer is as real as it gets.
Repetitive lines from your trainer soon grate, although it's nice to have the actual voices of some of the UFC's top talents in the game.
The visuals do the job, plain and simple, with the likenesses of the UFC fighters faithfully recreated just as nicely as they are in the Undisputed titles and there are some lovingly rendered punch bags and gyms too. On-screen directions are also clear and concise, which is great.
This really depends upon how much you're willing to put into UFC Personal Trainer. Throw yourself in whole-heartedly and you'll reap the rewards, but if it's a casual workout you're after, then go play Kinect Sports or something.
Again, this hinges upon whether you're looking to just play or get a proper sweat on. There's little here in the way of games, with 'hit the mitts' being the only real event that you'll want to repeatedly play. In terms of authentic workouts and exercises however, UFC Personal Trainer is pretty deep.
Personal Trainer's achievement list is almost entirely centred around getting every medal, completing every exercise and committing to days on end of exercise. You'll need to be in for the long haul here. It's a shame that there's a lack of invention present in the list though.
UFC Personal Trainer is a great addition to the small stable of fitness games on Kinect, offering something that's both in-depth and incredibly intense. However, it's simply let down by a lack of more casual, enjoyable game aspects and pointless trainers with little to contribute. That said, if you give it your time and attention, UFC Personal Trainer should yield some real results to show off on the beach this summer, if that's what you want.