STAFF REVIEW of UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011.
by Adam Dileva

UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System Box art To get in shape you need motivation. Thats usually the missing ingredient to give someone enough focus to get out to the gym or even outside and exercise. With motivation being the biggest driving factor, be it for health, looks or anything, you need motivation to push yourself and take time out of your busy lives to really stat healthy and get in shape. Back in my time, the only way us gamers got some serious exercise and sweat stained clothes was playing Dance Dance Revolution for hours on end. These days people are much more health conscious and there are numerous fitness games across all different platforms for you to choose from. UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System (UFC Personal Trainer for short from here on) may be for a clique audience of UFC and MMA fans, but even if you arent the biggest UFC fan, dont write this title off right away until youve read this whole review. Theres something here for all types of people, regardless of UFC and MMA knowledge.

Now first I need to put a disclaimer here about UFC Personal Trainer so theres no misconception of what this game does and what its trying to do. This is not a game in the traditional sense, youre here to work out and build up a sweat. UFC Personal Trainer also will not teach you how to be a UFC fighter. Yes, youll learn some striking and some moves that fighters themselves use but dont make any false pretenses that youre going to go from regular Joe to UFC champion by picking this up. UFC Personal Trainer is to get you in shape that a UFC fighter needs to be in for all their fights. You arent going to learn how to do an arm bar, omoplata, kimura, guillotine choke, rear naked choke or any other types of submissions or move sets aside from some basic striking with hands, elbows and knees. Youll effectively be learning basic move sets from MMA like jabs, crosses, uppercuts, hooks, elbows, push kicks, knees and more coupled with basic workout routine moves like sit-ups, jumping jacks, push-ups, leg wipers (I hate you so much), mountain climbs (I hate you even more) and more variants.

I could never get into my wifes other fitness games for very long due to it not being very interesting for me and generally they arent very targeting for my male demographic. This title feels almost the opposite and it seems all these exercises are built for me, you know, not including the whole being a UFC fan of course. It didnt take long for me to lose interest in Wii Fit after being called obese from the get go (which Im not, thank you very much) and punching colored blocks in Your Shape just didnt resonate with me to keep me motivated (theres that word again) in the long run. Being more focused on combat and athleticism being trained by UFC fighters easily caught my attention.

Once I knew I was going to review UFC Personal Trainer, I was excited as Ive been looking for some motivation to get into summer shape; being a huge UFC fan helps as well. I was actually on board with doing the full 30 day workout program before writing this review to show my starting and ending results. I committed fully by cutting out all take-out food, pop, ate healthy and everything when I started on day 1 and stick with it quite religiously.until I started running into issues, but more on that later on.

First things first. You will NEED (I dont mean suggest) the full eight feet of recommended space for Kinect if you want to do all of the workouts. Normal standing room works just fine for some exercises and activities and usually has no issues recognizing your moves but soon as you need to do moves on the ground thats where issues start to creep up. I didnt have the full eight feet of uninterrupted space for Kinect but I did make a work around to get it workable for my living room. I actually had to move my Kinect onto the dinner table off to the side of the TV and play that way. It meant I was facing the table and Kinect instead of the TV, but all I had to do was turn my head to see my instructions. This wasnt the reason I was running into issues as I had the full amount of space needed with this odd setup.

For some reason certain activities like Leg Wipers, Sit-ups and now that I think of it, almost all leg orientated activity never detected properly even though I was always clearly in view. Kinect does great at recognizing when it works but when it doesnt you wont know why even though youre in the correct play space and doing the activity properly. This is also one of the big flaws in this title, that when you are doing something wrong it wont tell you why. Its not like Dance Central where if your limb is out of place, it glows red so you know what to adjust; itll simply just not count that rep.

Just like other fitness games, your first objective when starting for the first time will be creating your profile (gender, age, height, weight) then immediately taken to a quick fitness test to determine your fitness level starting point. Sit-ups, Push-ups and Jumping Jacks are how theyll determine how fit you are apparently. The issue with this is what I noted above, that if youre doing it wrong its not going to tell you why. So even if you can do a hundred Push-ups in the allotted 30 seconds but it doesnt recognize them properly, itll set your fitness level to beginner (but at least youre able to change its suggestion if needed).

A big feature that UFC Personal Trainer has going for it over other fitness titles is that this is actually approved by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) which has been around for more than twenty years and is the leading authority on these types of workouts. Because of this you know the routines are safe and have actual science behind the methodology.

As you play through the game youll easily recognize a bunch of the faces of the fighters and trainers even if youre a casual UFC fan. Three of the most successful trainers in MMA are included to teach you their workout routines. You can choose between Mark Dellagrotte (Sityodtong USA), Greg Jackson (Jacksons MMA) or Javier Mendez (American Kickboxing Academy) who has trained some of the best UFC fighters in the world (and current champions) and will take you through a series of workouts you choose that actual fighters would use to get in shape. If you want to hit some pads with some of your favorite fighters you can do that as well; the Kinect version even has four extra fighters (Dan Hardy, Frank Mir, Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian) along with nine extra routines. These routines have been designed to cut weight, improve your conditioning or build your core strength while using MMA techniques.

Youll always have a fighter or trainer speaking to you or showing you how to do set moves encouraging you to push harder or do better if you dont meet the set amount of reps. If you need to do ten Push-ups and only do nine youll be given a hard time but then be told to do better next time for motivation. Now on the flip side, I was able to do well more than the preset amount of strikes, got an A+ with 140% and I was still told that I can do better next time. Definitely a little confusing and mixed messaging going on that doesnt always give the proper feedback. Get ready for some of the most repetitive audio though. Seriously, if I hear Were priming the body for a great workout ever again itll be too soon.

Upon hitting the main menu youre given a few different choices; Workouts, Quick Workouts, Activities, Programs, Player Tracker and Multiplayer. Activities have different options such as Hit the Mits (striking), Free Striking (hit the bag of your choice), Tire Flip and Speed Bag. Tire Flip is entertaining, though its difficult to put any real credit into it as theres obviously no tire and weight behind it; think of it more has a squat and spring-up simulator. The rest are self-explanatory and can be used during your off days of your program to keep your body warmed up and used to even a light sweat.

The Workouts are preset or custom made (which is a great option if you simply dont have the room for the ground exercises) routines that include a warm-up and cool-down along with the routine. Speaking of the warm-ups and cool-downs, it should be noted that for these you really only need to be standing in front of the Kinect for it to register youre there since it doesnt track your movements, score or judge you unlike the actual routines themselves. This means you can cheat during these lengthy sections (though you shouldnt) and it wouldnt be able to tell if you were standing there eating a cheeseburger instead of doing leg stretches. With the pre and post routine activities like these being so lengthy (and sometimes longer than the actual routine workout itself) it can be hard to follow it without it telling you youre not doing it. Its basically using the honor system, which isnt a great idea when someone is using this game for a reason.

The star of UFC Personal Trainer though has to be the programs, which can be a 30 or 60 day commitment. After youve chosen what type of program you want (strength, weight loss, or cardio) you can then see the month (or two month) long calendar of each days activities. One day will have you doing abs, the next legs and the day after that maybe upper body. It keeps things fresh so that it doesnt over work your muscle groups and keeps things interesting because doing the same routine everyday becomes very stale and not very motivational. Its just like in a real gym where you dont do the same exercises two days in a row. In the options you are able to set the game to tell it if youre going to use extra peripherals such as weights (then will ask how much they weigh) so that it can take that into account into your stats and calorie loss. The calendar is laid out so that you have a rest day now and then so you dont over work yourself, but you can always do a simple activity or quick workout on those days to keep your daily routine going if you wish.

Everything you do will be tracked. Itll know how many times youve thrown punches, how many calories youve burned in various activities, what medals and rewards youve unlocked and more. You can see your total play length from day one and even a breakdown of every muscle group so you know if youre over working specific areas or not enough somewhere else. As you progress you can unlock special rewards like punching bags and even link your tracker to your social networks to automatically show off your progress (not pictures though).

The biggest issue that UFC Personal Trainer has though is that it will show you the proper way to do an exercise before you begin but after that it wont show you why you are doing something wrong if the Kinect doesnt properly recognize your movements. For example, if it doesnt register your pushup its not going to tell you to get lower or push your body up higher. So when you do 20 pushups and it only recognizes 3 it can become quite frustrating. Certain activities for me never captured correctly (Leg Wipers) no matter how exaggerated I made the motions in hopes it would pick up my movements correctly. Also, if you miss your limit of ten within the time limit by even one youll get quite a stern talking to. The same goes for when you excel past your goal and get an A+, your trainer will still tell you to do better next time.

Surprisingly there is a multiplayer component that allows you to challenge a friend to certain activities or routines to see whos in better shape. You can do this side by side with someone, hot seat taking turns or over a challenge on Xbox Live. The issue with this is that its limited to your friends list though, meaning no random people challenges. Youre also able to create a specific routine if you really excel at something and then challenge your friends; or keep it simple and see whos better are Tire Flips or the Speed Bag.

As I mentioned above, I was completely one hundred percent committed to doing the 30 day program and making it work for me but then I started running into save issues with my progress. I started the program twelve days ago and on my second day it thinks I didnt complete my first days routine. This meant I had to redo the ab workouts for a second day in a row (you cant change the preset days routines). On the next day it saved so I was happy and progressed a few days of routines. Day five and it thinks I missed the previous day again even though when you finish the workout you see the checkmark on the calendar and everything. I sweated for twelve days straight and Im still yet to get my achievement for exercising seven days in a row. Every day that I missed I had to redo the previous days routine to make up for it. Ive even unlocked the same videos and awards twice. The third time this happened to me I was completely demotivated and upset that I wasnt progressing according to the game. I searched online and read other reviews to see if anyone else ran into this saving issue and sadly I think Im the only one. So to be fair, Ive not found anyone else with this issue but it did happen to me quite frequently that made me stop my 30 day program because of it.

Before being discouraged about my issues with the program I set I was quite enjoying it. Yes, the first few days are going to hurt and you will be sore but I noticed that about four or five days in everything seemed to be getting slightly easier. I was doing more reps and without as much strain or resistance from my body. Youll sweat and it wont feel like a chore some of the other fitness games make it seem like. Its very challenging; theres no doubts about that but if you commit to it you will see results. What it doesnt do though is give any education about a healthy lifestyle outside of the game. It wont teach you about eating right or normal exercise so you cant continue eating fast food and doing this program thinking youre going to get ripped. But hey, at least it doesnt call you obese like wii-fit or make you run in place like other fitness titles. This is a tool meant to be used in conjunction with your healthy lifestyle, it just doesnt tell you that.

Because Kinect sees your whole body theres no cheating here (when it works). No half doing those pushups, it sees all of your movements surprisingly even when on the ground. The menus are controlled with your hand like other Kinect games but it can be laggy at times and doesnt snap to your options like in Kinect Sports. You can also select your options with voice commands but I found they didnt work well and wasnt intuitive at times either.

After you do certain routines and exercises youll unlock videos that would have been more useful to see beforehand. These live action videos will come from your trainers and the lovely Rachelle Leah. This game might turn out to be the bane of achievement seekers as well as theres achievements for working out three, five, seven, thirty and even one hundred days in a row.

If form was emphasized more and it told you what you were doing wrong instead of simply just not registering I would have probably enjoyed it even more. Because it doesnt you have no idea what you are doing wrong or if its a Kinect issue. UFC Personal Trainer does a great job at making you feel like youre actually training in a UFC gym by some of the greats rather than looking silly in your living room. Because of my save issues I do have to knock down the score a little bit but as I mentioned again I couldnt find anyone else with the same issues as me so dont take it into account when deciding whether or not to pick this up and start your sixty day program to a better body. In the twelve days I did it before becoming too frustrated with my issues I did lose four pounds and had much more energy throughout the day. Itll be hard work but it works.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 4.0 / 10


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