Version tested: Xbox 360
Five fitness games at launch, plenty more since, and still Kinect owners must wait it out for the ultimate interactive workout that seemed inevitable when the motion-sensing device was unveiled.
EA Sports Active 2 was a broken mess; Zumba Fitness proved unserious and shallow; Your Shape scored big with tech, but bored with everything else; while The Biggest Loser showed some method to its occasional madness - but still nothing has come close to offering a flawless workout.
The next contender is the boldly titled UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System. Backed by the considerable muscle of the US MMA organisation, the title offers a more intense, aggressive, bloke's approach to exercise than, say, the spa-like calm of Your Shape's girly yoga contortions.
Exactly what you'd expect, in other words, from a game that promises "the ultimate workout for the ultimate UFC body". This is no Wii Fit-aping stepping stone for 30-stoners: it assumes you're already minded to get stuck in hard.
Manually entering vital stats at sign-in lacks the sci-fi sex appeal of Your Shape's full body scan, but once past this initial hurdle - and a vigorous fitness assessment - first impressions are very encouraging.
From the main menu you can dive into a quick workout (divided into strength building, weight loss and stamina boosting sets), create your own custom routine, or tackle an activity: which either involves punching something (mitts, bag) or flipping a giant tyre in the name of squats.
UFC Personal Trainer's meatiest feature, however, is one borrowed from EA Sports Active: 30- or 60-day workouts built around your general fitness goal.
I can't emphasise enough how important it is to weave motivation into the fabric of a fitness video game: as with any exercise plan, there'll always be days where you'd rather smash through a box of Crunchies than a set of crunches.
Manageable, structured goals with meaningful feedback and performance tracking are all the things that fitness games can do - and should be doing - in their role as virtual trainer.
UFC Personal Trainer plays a good numbers game. You can track progress via overall stats on calories burned, time spent exercising and level of focus on specific body areas, or go right down to individual exercises.
The game also smartly highlights previous personal bests to help drive you towards beating your best time to a full set of reps, further bolstered by Xbox Live leaderboards and the option to send challenges to friends.
In a further simple, effective touch you can take photos of yourself as you progress for an all-too-vivid visual history of your progress (or lack thereof) towards that ripped UFC body.
Really, this feature set ought to be the standard for the genre, but it isn't and so developer Heavy Iron deserves credit for going into as much detail as it has: compared to a lazy brand cash-in like Zumba Fitness, it's clear that the UFC - as has been the case with its recent revival in the fighting genre - respects its brand and the medium enough to make the effort.
So far, so solid. Sadly, this confident sense of purpose can be frustratingly undermined when it comes to the bread and butter of the workouts themselves.
Kinect is certainly a more effective fitness companion here than in EA Sports Active 2 and Zumba Fitness. But it's far from foolproof and yet another example of the tendency of Kinect tracking towards flakiness in challenging circumstances.
This is usually most pronounced in games that aim to follow fast, precise multi-limb movement. Ubisoft's remarkable Player Projection technology only unravelled during Your Shape's quick-reflex exercises. While the player's silhouette appears on screen in UFC, there just isn't the same sense of precision or immersion.
The problems stemming from this are three-fold: first, it's very hard to get a sense of correct form, since you're either getting a move right or wrong, with only limited corrective guidance. Finding out what the game expects is often a case of trial and error.
Second, while you couldn't get away with it in Your Shape, it's very easy to cheat in UFC. During one exhausting session, I wimped out during Ice Skaters - springing from side-to-side - and found it would register perfectly if I stood still and tilted my shoulders from side-to-side.
Obviously this is not the point nor in the spirit of the game. But one of the strengths of a real personal trainer is his or her ability to stop you cutting corners and push you harder than you'd manage under your own steam: something Kinect itself was supposed to deliver.
And the third issue is, while Kinect does an admirable job for much of the time when standing, it can fall apart dramatically when you're on the floor.
Mileage varies from person to person, home to home, depending on the playing environment. What I can say about my own experience is, though my beaming green silhouette suggests I'm in the right spot, registering moves like push-ups and sit-ups is a frustrating lottery.
Not only does this disrupt the flow of your workout, it also screws up the stats. I have (as far as I'm concerned) done the reps, but thanks to Kinect's dodgy eyesight, failed the exercise to a mocking chorus of boos. It's moments like this where I'd happily see the relationship with my 'personal trainer' descend into an actual UFC fight.
Repetitive motivational and instructional dialogue from the UFC trainers - particularly during unchanging warm up/down routines - compounds the impersonal air of many of the workouts: real engagement with the game comes through the accumulation and analysis of your workout data, not the glib scripted remarks of an avatar.
To its credit, THQ has already acknowledged and is promising to fix some of these issues in an upcoming patch, including - though I've never encountered it - a freezing issue some have experienced in the lengthier programmes.
Menu navigation, by the way, is not bad as it goes, but I much prefer having a controller handy to rattle through the various options - particularly as the voice communication isn't much cop either. Is this really the future we were promised when Peter Molyneux introduced the world to Milo?
That's a lot of negatives coming after opening with more fulsome praise. And I want to finish on a more positive note as, for all its irritations, UFC Personal Trainer remains a decent training tool capable of delivering punishing, varied workouts and a palpable sense of improvement.
You get out what you put in, of course, but if you approach it with the right attitude, there's a good chance that you will have noticeably improved your fitness within a few weeks of effort.
There's a great Kinect workout waiting to be made - this isn't it. But though it is flawed, UFC Personal Trainer should still get the committed fitter faster than its current rivals - just not without frustration along the way.
6 / 10