Itâ€™s nice to see a game in a purple packet that isnâ€™t a dance game. And, although UFC Personal Trainer falls into that other Kinect category of â€˜fitness gameâ€™, itâ€™s equally welcome to see an exercise title not aimed directly at women for a change. Weâ€™ve had â€˜Mel Bâ€™s Mad Workoutâ€™, â€˜The Biggest Loser: How About Nine Pie & Chips?â€™, â€˜Zumba: Sexy while Sweatingâ€™ and half a dozen other feminine calorie burning games. As a red blooded male, Iâ€™ve never had much inclination to tone my relatively feeble body with any of these yoga/aerobic related workouts. Which is why UFC Personal Trainer might just get me off the couch and into shape this Winter.
Just like the competitive, brutal combat sport of the UFC, this game takes itself pretty seriously. Developers Heavy Iron worked closely with The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) when designing the exercise routines and, alongside MMA experts, have created a vigorous and authentic fitness trainer. The training regimes mimic those used by professional MMA athletes, but despite the testosterone-oozing associations, UFC Personal Trainer is an excellent workout for anyone, whether male or female, and across a variety of body types (from casual through to Shane Carwin wannabes). Taken directly from the sport of UFC, the game includes a combination of approaches to keeping fit based around fighting forms like boxing, Muay Thai, kickboxing and wrestling. Learning how to wrestle might sound daunting to many, but the basic moves lend themselves perfectly to traditional exercises that most people recognise.
The pre-templated, ready-to-play workouts focus on toning particular body parts or achieving personal fitness goals, such as building strength, losing some weight, improving your endurance, or simply trying to keep warm in a frosty flat in the middle of July. UFC Personal Trainer has an impressive 71 different NASM-approved routines for you to mix and match, across different skill levels to suit.
Although a lot of the exercises revolve around repetitive knees, punches and kicks, there are activities to stretch muscles, work on basic cardio and even low impact, floor-based exercises too. Itâ€™s important to note here that some exercises recommend using weights (not included with the game) for an extra challenge, but I personally recommend just getting a soft Yoga mat for activities like sit-ups (trust me, your spine will thank me).
Fitness programmes can be fully tailored and include preset 30 and 60 day calendars to keep you motivated and conditioned daily. In fact, the amount of progress tracking in UFC Personal Trainer is sure to keep you on your toes. Nearly every aspect of your development is monitored by graphs, statistics, and mind-boggling tables of information that can make you feel pretty good about yourself (or send you back to the kitchen for some comforting Russian fudge). The game also takes photos of your body shape using the Kinect camera and displays the changes to your physique with before and after shots.
UFC fans will recognize certified trainers Mark DellaGrotte, Greg Jackson and Javier Mendez who host and guide you through each exercise routine. They are joined by famous UFC fighters as well, including Dan Hardy, Frank Mir and Diego Sanchez, but itâ€™s important to note that you never actually do any fighting in UFC Personal Trainer. This game isnâ€™t a fight simulator or along the lines of Playstation Moveâ€™s The Fight. Instead you learn the basics behind fighting styles from a purely fitness point of view. The UFC fighters will appear in videos showing you moves or they can walk you through routines as a virtual training partner. You wonâ€™t get to knock-out Kenny Florian here (or anywhere for that matter).
Despite getting the heart-rate up effectively, UFC Personal Trainer on the XB360 isnâ€™t quite perfect. Like most Kinect titles, it has some quirks that you canâ€™t help but notice even in the middle of a ball-busting work-out. Sometimes the Kinect hardware gets confused in registering your movements, especially when on the ground doing horizontal exercises. Occasionally your head or arm will be registered as doing a repetition when you donâ€™t mean it to and although it doesnâ€™t prevent you from working up a sweat, it can get recorded and affect your statistics.
Even the usually helpful voice recognition for navigating menus can also fail to register commands properly. Being able to use voice commands is a God-Send compared to having to hold your hand out over icons, but when you have to repeat yourself four times you canâ€™t help but look at your old-school buttoned controller with new-found adoration. And finally, like most Kinect titles, you will need a lot of free floor-space to properly let lose with UFC Personal Trainer (unless you fancy accidentally kicking your house-mates in the face). Anyone whoâ€™s played a Kinect game will be fully prepared for this anyway.
Despite these respectful niggles, UFC Personal Trainer is successful purely because itâ€™s fun. Summoning up the will-power (and body-power) to exercise in the middle of Winter can be a daunting task. Perhaps itâ€™s an Alpha male thing, but the aggressive combat-styled exercises, when combined with the comfort of my own living room, made this game an enjoyable and physically worth-while experience. The only problem now is keeping it up for the next 11 weeks. Joe Rogan (you stupid bastard), here I come.