The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Review of Nike+ Kinect Training for Xbox

Posted by steve on October - 30 - 2012 with 7 Comments

Nike+ Kinect Training

The best workout game for the Kinect

With a professional set of exercise routines, truly personalized training programs, excellent motion tracking, and enough bell and whistles to keep the game from getting repetitive, Nike+ Kinect Training takes the mantel as the best workout game for the Xbox 360.

Rating by steve: 5.0 stars

Nike+ Kinect Training for Xbox ReviewThe world of fitness video games has come a long way. The original Xbox and PS2 had a game called Yourself!Fitness which was essentially a glorified exercise video. That game was ported to the Wii and renamed “My Fitness Coach”. Around that time, Wii Fit was released by Nintendo that started a revolution in video fitness names that even spawned the new phrase “exergaming”.

EA Sports brought exergaming to the next level with the release of EA Sports Active 2, which it released first to the Wii and then to the PS3 and Xbox 360. It brought a lot of innovation, from professionally designed exercise routines to an effective multi-week regimen. Unfortunately, EA all but gave up on this product, leaving the door wide open for someone to take over the mantle of best video game exercise program.

As readers of the blog know, I tend to divide fitness video games into two categories: “fun” motion games like Kinect Star Wars and Kung Fu Live where you get a workout just in the course of playing a game, and “pure” exercise games that are designed from the ground-up to be workout games. In the world of “pure” fitness games, so far there have been two contenders for being the best on the Kinect: Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Adidas MiCoach.

I’m happy to say that from what I’ve seen do far, Nike+ Kinect Training powers its way to the top of the list of all Kinect Fitness games. It has the most accurate motion detection and interface of all the workout games I’ve seen to date, has a truly innovative fitness test, and puts together workout routines that really feel personalized for you.

While the Adidas game had appearances by animated versions of very recognizable athletes such as Dwight Howard and Eric Berry, with Nike you have animated versions of Alex Molden or Marie Pervis, both best known as Nike certified trainers (although Molden did spend 9 years in the NFL). I found that fact that these are actual trainers lends a bit more credibility to the training, as opposed to other games which hire big name athletes or pop stars to drive sales. When they talk you through things like proper form and posture during your exercises, it’s clear they really know what they’re talking about .

The concept of the game is quite simple. You start out by selecting your goal (such as Get Strong to increase your power and build explosiveness, Get Toned to develop lean muscle and muscle definition, or Get Lean to maximize calorie and fat burn). Then, you go through a fitness assessment, after which you’ll get a customized circuit training routine to do over the next four weeks. In other video games I tried, the assessment is really just smoke and mirrors–however you do on your “fitness test” those games will give you the exact same workout routine and call it a “personalized one”. With Nike+ Kinect, the workouts I was given really feel customized to my exact goals.

The Fitness Challenge basically runs you through a series of exercises, using the Kinect to measure both how well your form is and how many reps of each exercise you’re doing. You’ll see a video image of your animated trainer and a silhouette of yourself next to him or her. One thing to keep in mind is that you need a minimum of 8 feet in front of your Kinect sensor with a clear view of the floor, and you’ll also need a good 8-10 feet from left to right for certain exercises where you’ll be jumping from side to side.

Each exercise is similar in that you’ll see your trainer to the left of the screen, and you’ll see a silhouette of your body to the right. Your silhouette will be orange at first but will glow blue when you’re using the correct form. The Kinect is extremely precise and did a great job of gauging whether I was doing the exercises right each time.

The first part of the assessment tests your lower body and upper body mobility by having you strike a few poses (first lying down and raising each leg, and then standing up and stretching with your arms behind your back).

The next part of the assessment has you doing a variety of exercises, from a hop and stick (this is the one that requires a ton of space from left to right), a squat jump. What’s really cool about this is that not only does the system judge your performance, it’ll also give you detailed data that you can try to beat each time you do the exercise; for example, the squat jump will tell you your vertical leap in inches.

There’s a cool exercise that tests your speed, reaction and agility, where you have to hop and jump to various targets on the ground. You’re also tested on squats, push-ups, and high knee sprints. Again, I loved how you could set a benchmark and then try to beat it with each rep you do. A bar on the bottom of the screen will show you how good your form is; the more it fills up the better you’re doing. I also loved how the system displayed things like time and reps; it’s stylistically integrated into the background of the scenery in a way that’s easy to read and has a certain “coolness” factor.

Motion sensing was excellent, something I always try to test with these kinds of games. I tried to throw it off several times, but it seemed to do a great job of keeping up with me.

After your evaluation you’re given something called a “unique fuel print” an interesting metric that tracks your “Fitness Score” on one side and your “Athleticism” on the other side. During the test you basically establish a benchmark and then every four week you’re given the same test to see how much you’ve improved. I started with both numbers in the 30s, which I knew meant I had a LOT of room for improvement.

You’re also set up with a custom 4-week workout that focuses on your goals as well as things from your fitness evaluation that need improvement. There’s a cool visual representation that shows the system picking the right exercises for you.

The game, not surprisingly, is pretty well integrated into the whole Nike+ system. If you have a Nike+ FuelBand the game will connect with that. The game tells you how many “NikeFuel” points you earn after each workout.

One thing I also love about the game is that it’s supported by Kinect PlayFit, so calories burned will be counted along with all your other PlayFit-compatible games.

The one thing I wish this title had was more “fun” activities where you could get exercise by simulating real sports. This is something that other titles such as Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and EA Sports Active 2 both have that provide some nice variety and diversion to keep the workouts from getting too monotonous. Nike+ Training is more like a virtual experience at a gym, so if you have a tough time getting motivated to go to the gym every day, chances are you might have a tough time keeping up with regular workouts with this game. That said, the game does  “basic training and exercise” better than any game before it, and makes a great addition to your Kinect workout game collection.