We all do things that are stupid. I once told my best friend that a rope swing “looks safe”. Two weeks, a metal plate, lots of stitches and a monstrous scar later we managed to laugh about it. As I write this, my core (I didn’t even know I had one) is currently cursing me for being stupid enough to put my hand up to review UFC Personal Trainer.
That’s not a slight on the game at all. It’s more of a commentary on my pudgy, neglected frame. All UFC Personal Trainer has done is point out just how out of shape I am, for which I’m slowly becoming grateful.
Game: UFC Personal Trainer
Developer: Heavy Iron Studios
The first thing you’re going to do when you load up the disk is run through a few questions, (height, weight etc) and then run through an initial fitness test. It’s pretty simple, you’re given 60 seconds to do as many sit ups as you can, followed by push ups and finally star jumps. You then check your heart rate (you don’t need anything special for this, the classic two fingers on your throat works fine), enter it in and you’ll be presented with your fitness level. I can’t say I was stunned when I was presented with “beginner”.
One thing that immediately jumped to my attention was the space that UFC Personal Trainer requires. I suppose it’s actually blindingly obvious when you consider that you’ll spend a lot of time lying flat on the deck. Still, a lot of people will be moving furniture. I’m quite fortunate in that I was only having to slide our single seater a few feet to create enough space to work out comfortably.
Initial impressions of the games responsiveness were mixed, with it missing 3 of the 20 sit ups I did, and a whopping 9 of the 55 star jumps. This was particularly strange as overall menu navigation using Kinect is sharp, and (thankfully) the hover and continue icon is also very swift. Obviously, the other options for getting around menus come in the form of the pad and voice control. You’d think that you couldn’t get pad navigation wrong, but it turns out you can.
How? By leaving Kinect navigation on even when you’re using a controller. Let me give you an example. You want to view your stats and progress as you’ve just finished a workout, so you sit down and grab the controller. Problem is, your hands are still being picked up, so you can find yourself fighting against your own mitts to get to where you want to be. It’s an extremely strange sensation and a pretty big oversight.
Thankfully, the voice control in UFC Personal Trainer is the star of the show. It’s absolutely spot on. Wherever you are in the menus, each available option will be numbered. Saying “trainer” will bring up a small pop up at the bottom of the screen, displaying further voice command options. Once you understand the system, you can skip through menus quickly and easily, without needing to wait for the pop up to appear. “Trainer, pick one” will select the first option in the current menu and take you there. I quickly began using it to navigate the user interface regardless of what I was doing. It’s by far the best implementation of voice control I’ve seen from Kinect yet.
Jumping in to the main menu, you’re presented with numerous options for buffing up. Head in to workouts and you’ll see options for jumping straight in to pre-built routines, hosted by three separate trainers. These are usually made up of around 8-12 different exercises, each designed to work a different area. There is plenty of here to keep you busy, but if you do tire of the routines or can’t find anything that suits, you can create your own using up to ten of the available exercises. If you wish, you can even save them for future use.
Activities are simply that. Not quite mini-games, but certainly not a full workout either. They do work well as a supplements to the more intense workouts though. Firstly you’ve got “Hit the Mitts”, which consists of a simple sparring session with one of the UFC fighters. Depending on the difficulty you’ll perform a mix of punches and kicks to the pads, starting from simple jabs and crosses, moving up to longer combos including knees, hooks and uppercuts.
“Free Striking” is just you aginst a heavy bag, which you can unlock more skins for as you progress. Pick between 1, 3 or 5 minute intervals and off you go. The bag physics feel fairly realistic, and considering you’re not actually connecting with anything physical, Heavy Iron have done a good job of using sound and visuals to provide that important feeling of feedback. It doesn’t nail that feeling of hitting a real punchbag, but it still somehow feels like more than just flinging your arms around.
“Tire Flip” sees you going through the motion of flipping a monster truck tyre, an imaginary one. In my review notes, I wrote “dumbest thing in any game ever”. I’ll leave it at that.
Lastly there’s the “Speedbag”, which is fairly responsive, but there’s a very fine line between too fast and too slow. When used in the workouts, it’s a nice way to break them up, but as a standalone exercise it doesn’t offer much.
Next up, you’ve got “Programs”. This is the real meat of the game for anyone who is looking for a serious change in their fitness or physique. After choosing between a 30 or 60 day program, you need to decide what your motives are. Are you looking to build endurance, cut weight or build strength? Once you’ve set the program up you’re taken to the calendar view, where you get to see what you let yourself in for. Before anyone panics, it’s not completely brutal! The calendar basically maps out when you’re due to workout. Thankfully, it’s not daily. I started a 60 day cut weight program, and my first week consisted of 3 days on, 1 day off and 2 dayson, 1 day off. Selecting a day that you’re due to workout will show you a breakdown of the exercises you’ll be doing that day as well as how long it’s expected to take, and how many calories you should expect to burn.
The calendar view also shows you how many workouts you’ve completed and missed, as well as how many remain in that program. One downside is that you can’t move workouts. If you absolutely can’t do a workout, there isn’t a way to shift the workout to a spare day.
Typically the workouts last around 20-30 minutes and take you through the warm up/cool down process as well as the core routines. In the top left corner there is a counter for the total time spent on the current session, and on the right there’s the timer for the current exercise. All the information you could want or need is displayed clearly either during or at the end of each exercise. It’s clear to see that Heavy Iron have learnt much from the mistakes other developers have made in this area.
When doing an exercise you’ve done before, your previous effort as well as your personal best is displayed. This provides a great incentive to better yourself and push harder.
The workout journal is the stats hub of the game where you can see the breakdown of where your time is going. Total time working out, average workout time, estimated total calories burned and average calories burned per workout are all viewable.
The online side of things is pretty light as you’d expect. There are leaderboards to compare grades and scores for exercises either against your friends list or globally. Competetively, there are online head-to-head versions of the “Speedbag” or “Tire Flip”, along with challenge modes for both of those and also “Hit the Mitts”. You select your activity, set your best score and then post the challenge to your friends. Simple stuff, but you can be sure that when a “Hit the Mitts” challenge gets delivered, you’ll be busting your gut to beat it.
Overall, there is a wide variety of game modes, and there is certainly enough content here to turn a 30 stone chubster into a svelt 10 stone machine without much repetition (possible exaggeration). However, it must be stated, you’ll only get as much out as you put in. You really do need to have a lot of self motivation to get the best from UFC Personal Trainer. When working out, it’s very easy to stay within a routine that is comfortable. It brings to mind the classic phrase “you’re only cheating yourself”, which is 100% true. However, the fact is, whilst UFC Personal Trainer is good at mapping what you’re doing, it’s not bulletproof. It won’t chastise you if you’re not giving 100%, and it sometimes feels like speed is preferred over form.
The instructor comments are quite useful to begin with, but they get old quickly and begin to annoy shortly after that. Another 100 or so comments would’ve certainly helped to keep things a little more fresh. Then you have the warm up routines that aren’t regulated, which means you could literally just stand there and watch them. Obviously, this isn’t advised as you’d probably end up hurting yourself during the actual workout. To add to that, whilst you’re shown how your body shape should be for stretches, you’re not shown you exactly where you should be feeling the stretch. It’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but this simple addition would’ve almost certainly enhanced the overall experience.
As much as the above seems to be peppered with negative comments, the majority are niggles rather than game breaking issues. I’m still “playing” UFC Personal Trainer and will continue to do so. As someone who can never find time to go to the gym, this is an ideal light replacement. I’m under no illusion that I’ll see similar results, but the fact that I’ve been continually motivated to get off of my sofa and partake in workouts, speaks volumes. Whether or not I’ll get impressive results is yet to be seen, this is one for the long term. As I mentioned though, I’ve started a 60 day cut weight program, so I’ll do a follow up to this once that’s completed and keep you lovely people informed. I’ll probably type it using my new pecs.