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UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System


Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

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.

There's bonus video content galore for UFC fans.

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.