As a gamer of almost 25 years now, I'm used to games kicking my ass. Playing in the NES era, some games were so hard that I have yet to beat them to this day. But I have never had my ass kicked quite like THQ's new contender for the video game fitness crown, UFC Personal Trainer. With a little motivation, and a lot of effort, you can truly reap the rewards that come with the committed fitness routines the title has to offer.
When you first pop in the game, the game gives you a fitness test to measure your weight, height, BMI, and your ability to do simple workouts like sit-ups and jumping jacks. Based on your performance, the game will assign you a rank and customize your workouts. From there, you can customize your own workouts, take part in some activities, or the real meat of the game, the 30 and 60 day programs.
The full programs are likely where you'll spend most of your time. You're given the option of building strength, cutting weight, or building endurance. The game then gives you a set schedule to abide by of five workouts a week. As you progress day by day, the game will throw more and more intense workouts your way. For example, while working on the 30 day strength building routine, my first few workouts had several push-ups to do, before evolving into T-pushups a week later. For the uninitiated, a T-pushup has you doing a normal pushup, except at the apex, you raise one arm to the ceiling while supporting yourself with your other arm.
What's great about the programs is that you'll be exercising a different part of your body every day. One day you'll focus on abs, another will be lower body, and the next will be arms. The game also puts you through proper stretches before and after each workout to avoid injury. It's important to stretch properly before and after each workout, and the game makes sure you do it properly. Each daily workout is usually around half an hour long, definitely enough time to break into a drenched sweat. I've got the damp shirts to prove it.
It bears mentioning that the out-of-shape and unmotivated need not apply. This game is a flat out commitment to fitness that not everyone is capable of. Miss a day of workouts, and the game will scold you before readjusting your schedule to make up for lost time.
It helps with the motivation when you're made to feel like a real UFC fighter, which the game accomplishes very well. By training with real UFC trainers like Javier Mendes and Greg Jackson, you'll feel like you can take on all comers once you get into the swing of things.
While the meat of the game is in the programs, the most fun you'll have is with the activities. My favourite was hit the mitts mode, which has you in the octagon with a real UFC fighter or trainer. You'll punch, kick, and knee your way to fitness and have fun doing it. It plays kind of like a full body DDR as you move up through harder and faster routines. You'll also be able to free strike a punching bag or speed bag, and do some tire flips to work on your thigh muscles. Once you get into the swing of things, you'll also be able to play pre-made and customizable workouts with the trainer of your choice.
Given the choice, definitely get the Xbox Kinect version. The full body tracking of the Kinect version ensures that you're doing the exercises correctly. The PlayStation Move and Wii versions approximate the workouts through a leg strap and an arm remote. Those versions rely a lot more on the honor system, as opposed to the Xbox version which will keep you honest. You can also include weights or weighted gloves to increase the intensity of the workout. Even with the Kinect version, however, you'll encounter some lag or make a move that is not recognized by the sensor. These moments can really break up the momentum of an intense workout, but are not that common. Also, those with limited space may need to consider other options, as this game will have you doing side to side and front lunges that take up at least 8 cubic feet to perform properly.
Completing the package are a few hot-seat multiplayer modes and online leaderboards to compare you fitness to other users.
The graphical presentation in the game is rather lacking, but it's not going to make or break the game. There's only so much graphical presentation you can wring out of a gym setting. The animations on the trainers are excellent, which is the most important thing when you're trying to follow the correct procedures. The voice acting in the game is very repetitive, but it keeps you on your toes. Still, hearing that "we're priming the body for a great workout" over and over again when you're doing your stretches gets annoying to say the least.
There's never been a better time to channel your competitive gamer spirit into some real results. In the end, UFC Personal Trainer will have you feeling the burn and getting in shape, while having fun doing it. After a week and a half with the game, I already noticed increased muscle mass and more definition on my own body, and you can do the same, provided you stick with it. Make sure to check with your doctor before taking part in any exercise routine, especially one as intense as this one.