Xbox Fitness is an odd piece of software to review for a gaming website, given that it’s not really a game. Rather, as the name suggests, its a workout app, with some game elements thrown in to help motivate you to do your best and stick to your fitness regime.
In light of that, I’m not reviewing Xbox Fitness as I would a standard game. Things like graphics, gameplay, music, and so on are tangential to the actual purpose of the software. Instead, I’m looking at how well Xbox Fitness achieves what it sets out to do - create an accessible, yet challenging exercise framework for people to enjoy in their living rooms.
Xbox Fitness takes workout tapes from well known fitness instructors, and then uses Kinect to track how well you’re following the video’s instructions. The harder you push yourself, the more “Fitness Points” you’ll earn, and the higher your score at the end of the regime.
This “workout DVD with points” mechanic is the bulk of what the software has to offer - and the simple driver of trying to better your score every day can be pretty motivating - but Xbox Fitness also makes use of other gamification techniques to help drive you along. There are plenty of achievements (both standalone in-game achievements and those connected to your Xbox profile), and a “stamp card” system that rewards you for using the software daily.
The big thing that Xbox Fitness has over just going out and buying a fitness DVD is the new and improved Xbox One Kinect. This is a great title for showing off just how good the new hardware is at tracking your movements, because throughout your workout, a little silhouette is displayed on screen to relay information about your actions back to you. As well as drawing an outline of your person with impressive detail (which will pick up even slight movements), Kinect is also able to measure your heartbeat and track heat the heat signatures of your muscles. Using this information, the game calculates your energy expenditure and rewards you with Fitness Points for high intensity exercise.
The only real issues with Kinect are the space required, and that the tips offered when you’re performing poorly are often not helpful. How much room you need will naturally vary from workout to workout, depending on what exercises are contained within, but I had issues with being too close to the camera or straying out of view with all the ones I tried. Admittedly my living room is small, but it’s not tiny. As for performing poorly, the game often doesn’t tell you what you’re doing wrong, and when it tries to help, the tips tend to be rather vague.
Challenging yourself to one-up your friends (or complete strangers) can be a great way to pump yourself up, and the folks behind Xbox Fitness have captured this well with leaderboards. As well as your standard rankings for each workout, the game will tell how you compare to the average scores for your demographic.
Just as important as rankings, though, is privacy, and the developers have realised this too. With body image issues as common as they are, many people might feel uncomfortable with having their results shared with others out of a fear of not living up to expectations. To combat this, the game guides through privacy settings on the initial start-up, so you don’t have to go digging through menus to get it set to what you prefer. While you have options to have your results shared with everyone, just friends, or just yourself, the latter option is the default, so you actually have to opt in if you want to share. This is a welcome touch, and will hopefully help avoid the issue of people sharing more than they’d like.
Overall, Xbox Fitness is a fantastic app for anyone who wants get a bit more active. There are workouts of all skill and fitness levels, and the game elements and incredibly accurate Kinect tracking combine to do a great job of motivating you. What’s more, the app is free for Xbox Live Gold members, so you lose nothing by giving it a go - except, maybe, some fat.