The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Review of UFC Personal Trainer for Kinect

Posted by steve on July - 2 - 2011 with 12 Comments

UFC Personal Trainer

A truly exhaustive and exhausting workout that’s perfect for UFC fans.

UFC Personal Trainer easily takes the title of “most strenuous Xbox Fitness title”. It features workout routines by several UFC mixed martial arts stars which are well-scripted from warm-up exercises to cool-down stretches, although some of the exercises may be a little too intense for some.

Rating by steve: 4.0 stars

The way I see it, there are two classes of fitness games evolving for the Xbox Kinect–those which are more fun games that provide somewhat of a workout (Dance Central, Kinect Sports), and then there are “pure” workout games that are less on the “fun” side and more like a session at the gym (Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout).

UFC Personal Trainer falls squarely under the latter category. If you’re a fan of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) looking to shed some pounds and get a great workout, there is no better choice than this one. But regardless of whether you’re a fan or not, this is the most intensive workout available for the Kinect to date.

You start the game like many others by inputting your age, weight, and sex. Once again, it’s a little disconcerting to have to “click click click click click” the numbers until I reached my age and weight (both much higher than the default). Then again, it’s good motivation for me to work out so the next time I won’t need to click as much. You can also choose whether you wish to use hand weights, something possible with this game that’s not possible with the PS3 or the Wii due to both of your hands being free.

You start off with a fitness test. Unlike other games, this one is definitely intense and does a great job of pushing you to the limits to see what your real level is. You do as many sit ups as you can for one minute, and then do the same for push-ups and jumping hacks. You don’t need to do the counting, as the Xbox will do all that for you. After the jumping jacks, you’re asked to check your active heart rate (the system will count off 15 seconds, and you need to feel your pulse).

Based on all this, the system will determine your level. I was placed at “Beginner”, which was fine by me.

One of the first things I noticed was that you can speak commands to the Xbox. Say “Trainer” to pull up a small menu and then say “choose 1”, “choose 2”, “choose 3”, etc. to select a menu option. The voice recognition was hit or miss for me–there were times I had to repeat myself a few times. But I really like this as a feature–it sure beats working out and then hunting for a controller to choose menu options.

You have a couple menu options:  Workouts, Activities, Programs, Quick Workout, Multiplayer Games, and Player Tracker.

I selected “Workouts”. Here, you can pick an actual UFC Trainer who will be your guide through each workout session. You get the UFC Trainer’s real voice, but on-screen, it’s a cartoony character of him. You can choose from Mark Dellagrotte, Greg Jackson, and Javier Mendez, each of whom have slightly different workout routines.

I chose Javier Mendez first. I liked that I could choose any of his 20 workouts right away–none of that “unlocking” nonsense. The workouts were all based on skills needed for MMA, including punches, kicks, and cardio. Here were his workouts. Each one lasts about 15-20 minutes.

  • Workout I – Intro to Strikes
  • Workout 2 – Combos
  • Workout 3 – Strikes and Evation
  • Workout 4 – Agility
  • Workout 5 – Balance I
  • Workout 6 – Upper Body I
  • Workout 7 – Core I
  • Workout 8 – Legs I
  • Workout 9 – Power Combos I
  • Workout 10 – Strength I
  • Workout 11 – Upper Body II
  • Workout 12 – Core II
  • Workout 13 – Legs II
  • Workout 14 – Power Combos II
  • Workout 15 – Cardio
  • Workout 16 – Upper Body III
  • Workout 17 – Core III
  • Workout 18 – Legs III
  • Workout 19 – Thunder I
  • Workout 20 – Thunder II

Mark Dellagrotte had a similar set of routines, with these differences:

  • Workout 2 – Knees and Teeps
  • Workout 3 – combos I
  • Workout 9 – Cardio Combos I
  • Workout 10 – Agility Combos I
  • Workout 14 – Cardio Combos II
  • Workout 15 – Core Cardio I
  • Workout 19 – Look in the Mirror I
  • Workout 20 – Look in the Mirror II

Most of Greg Jackson’s workouts were also similar, but in a different order.

  • Workout 1 – Upper Body I
  • Workout 2 – Core I
  • Workout 3 – Legs I
  • Workout 6 – Upper Body II
  • Workout 7 – Core II
  • Workout 8 – Legs II
  • Workout 9 – Iso focused
  • Workout 10 – Cardio I
  • Workout 11 – Upper Body III
  • Workout 12 – Core III
  • Workout 13 – Legs III
  • Workout 14 – Cage I
  • Workout 15- Cardio II
  • Workout 16 – Albuquerque I
  • Workout 17 – Albuquerque II
  • Workout 18 – Albuquerque III
  • Workout 19 – Championship I
  • Workout 20 – Cardio III

When you choose a workout, you’ll get a video introduction to your trainer, and then the trainer will talk you through the exercise. You’ll be asked to practice the move two or three times. When you get it, you can start the actual routine.

Throughout the routine, the trainer is shouting out information which is really helpful. Unlike other games where the on-screen character shouts inane thing like “Way to Go” and “You’re looking good”, your UFC trainer will actually tell you important things about the reasons behind warmup stretches, good posture, technique, breathing, and so on. Uncannily, it’ll catch you doing mistakes and correct you (for example, I was holding my breath during the cool-down stretches, and the trainer told me not to do that).

One problem I faced was that my Kinect is only about 6 feet from me. For many activities, you need at least 7-10 feet of space, especially for exercises that require you to get on the ground (you’ll see a silhouette of yourself in the corner of the screen which turns green when the camera recognizes you and red when you start going out of range). Frustratingly, there’s no way to skip exercises without penalty, so I just had to try my best but take the failing grade. I’m hoping that the upcoming Nyko Zoom will alleviate these woes.

Other than that, the motion sensing is pretty good. There were times when I’d be “cheated” out of a rep or two even when I was in camera range, but so far things are much more accurate than the Wii (although arguably not as accurate as the PS3, at least for exercises involving punches and other upper body motions).

One thing I was completely blown away by was the intensity of the exercises. Even at “beginner” level, I was huffing and puffing (one gripe I have with EA Sports Active is that even at its most difficult level it becomes a walk in the park after a few times). The exercises are very strenuous and at times very high-impact. For some of the you absolutely need to have a training mat to avoid issues with your knees (or your downstairs neighbors!) Up to now, The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout had been the most intense game, but this one is far more intensive.

You can select “Quick Workouts” if you just want an abbreviated version of the aforementioned workouts. You’ll choose a goal (Build Strength, Cut Weight, or Build Endurance) get a random trainer who will give you warm-up exercises, followed by 2-3 shortened versions of the full workouts, followed by cool-down stretches. These are not bad to do at the end of the day after work for a quick but comprehensive all-around exercise. Here’s a set of quick “Strength Training” workouts with Mark Jackson.

“Activities” lets you choose from various fun activities, including:

Hit the Mitts, where a UFC fighter will hold up mitts and let you practice various boxing and kicking moves.

Free Striking, where you can go all out against a heavy punching bag.

Tire Flip, where you work out your lower body by squatting and simulating lifting a huge tire.

Speed Bag, which acts just like a real speed bag.

I’d say these activities do a pretty good job of simulating the real thing, especially if you’re working out with hand weights.

The game also lets you select Programs, which are 30 day or 60 day preset routines which let you bruilg strength, cut weight, or build endurance. They are comparable to the 90-day challenge on EA Sports Active in that you can use a calendar to chart your progress.

The game is not without annoyances. Every single workout starts with a very long set of warm-ups and ends with a very long set of cool-downs. This becomes annoying if you want to do a couple workouts in one day. Another annoyance is that when I was sitting perfectly still, sometimes the system would think I’m selecting menu options. I already mentioned the annoyances with the voice recognition and the occasional motion tracking hiccups. And one thing I wish they had build in was the ability to really fight and spar with opponents on-screen–this is, after all, a UFC title.

I wouldn’t say this game is “fun”–to the contrary, it is as tough as any real training you’d get a in a gym. So you need to be committed to following through with it if you plan to buy it, or it’ll end up just as every other piece of exercise equipment lying around that you never use anymore. One great way to motivate yourself is through the multiplayer games. You can play Tire Flip or Speed Bag side-by-side with a friend, or you can take turns playing Hit the Mitts to see who gets a high score. You can also connect to Xbox Live to challenge up to 15 friends in Hit the Mitts. I wish they had provided more options for multiplayer games, but perhaps in the future they will as downloadable content.

Having said that, I found this to be the most strenuous workout game available for the Kinect yet. It gets a solid 4.5 of 5 stars for exercise value from me and a 3.0 for fun, for an overall rating of 4 stars. Highly recommended for anyone who really wants to push themselves, and a must-have for UFC fans.