STAFF REVIEW of Xbox Fitness (Xbox One)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014.
by Adam Dileva

Xbox Fitness Box art Now that the holidays are over and we’re most likely a little heavier than before them from some over indulgence, it’s now time to lose those pounds and get back to the fitness that we wanted. It happens every January 1st; you see the gym’s packed for the first few weeks of the year with people swearing that this year will be the year they stick with their resolution to lose the weight.

This is where Xbox Fitness comes in. Exclusive for Xbox One and powered by the new and much improved Kinect, this app is free (for now) to all Xbox Live Gold members until December 2014. The basis behind the Xbox Fitness app is that you follow along with actual famous trainers and workouts while the Kinect tracks your movements, form, effort, and heart rate, essentially make it a ‘game’ to hopefully motivate you along the way and to keep you coming back. Challenges and achievements are also included to motivate your frequent return, as are other items like badges and bragging rights when you reach certain milestones.

You’ll stream a variety of famous workouts while Kinect tracks your posture, effort, and a whole bunch of other factors that will score you as you go and compare you to others that are in your age range as well. Some of these workouts aren’t too bad and give you a quick 10 minute sweat, but there are longer ones that are extremely challenging and will have your heart rate going much faster, all in the privacy of your living room (provided you have the appropriate amount of floor space for the more intensive workouts).

One of the goals of Xbox Fitness is that it’s giving you (for free remember) authentic workouts from the world’s most known and greatest trainers. There are quite a few I didn’t personally recognize, but almost everyone will know the higher profile trainers that you’ll work out along with such as Jillian Michaels, Tracy Anderson, Shaun T (from Insanity), and even Tony Horton from P90X. Falling under the Beachbody umbrella of workout programs, having these famous trainers that most non-fitness focused people can even recognize, is a huge win for Xbox Fitness. There is a caveat to all of this free goodness though, as you don’t get all of the workouts from the get go, or for free. The best example of this is that you actually only get two of the P90X workouts currently through the app, not the full program that is for sales in stores. Some others also give you a free sample workout, but then charge extra for others.

Xbox Fitness really gets to show off the power and improvements of the new Kinect for Xbox One as well. Being that this app is completely independent from a controller, you’ll quickly notice the increase of precision in your movements and how much more detail and feedback you’re given during your workouts. Kinect tracks your limbs but also the muscles that are being worked on given an exercise at any given moment too. You’ll see the difference of force, meaning the harder you punch and kick, the more feedback you’ll see it give back (usually with particle effects). Kinect will know when you’re not trying as hard as you should be or if your form isn’t correct and let you know about it. This allows you to get more from your workouts and time with the app. Kinect can actually sense skin tone changes which relate to your heart beat and give you real time feedback on your heart rate as well, though it seemed a little inconsistent, or was only available with certain workouts (I wasn’t able to figure it out completely). The wider field of view also means that you can work out in a smaller space compared to the original Kinect on Xbox 360, but obviously the more room you have the better it’ll be.

Each workout is broken into separate sections and for each one you’ll see the remaining time and your current score and stars earned so far. The better you perform the actions and follow the trainer the more points you’ll earn. I can’t stress enough how much your actual effort is factored into the scoring. If you lift those legs or arms high with a lot of power and enthusiasm, Xbox Fitness knows and will score you better for doing so. You may also see random challenges pop up during portions of your workout, such as “earn 5 stars in this section”, which will push you harder and earn you bonus points for doing so. One you complete the goals, a new one will challenge you so that you’re constantly being pushed and hopefully getting the most out of your workout.

While Xbox Fitness is currently free for Xbox Live Gold members until December 2014, the only uncertainty here is that we don’t know what happens once that free time period ends. Will nothing be free and every workout app cost? Will certain ones stay free? These are all questions that we don’t know the answers to yet. For the time being, know that most of what’s contained within is free, and while not everything you hoped will be there (I would have loved the full P90X program), Xbox Fitness does do a good job at giving you a sample of what’s available (so that you can choose to purchase the ones you enjoy more so than others).

While it’s hard to look a gift horse in the mouth and make any complaints, there are a few issues I did have with Xbox fitness that stood out were a few glaring issues. First, there’s no real easy way to set up an overall workout plan with different routines and for a set amount of days. It would have been nice to be able to tell Xbox Fitness I want to do a 5, 10, 15, 30, etc day program so that it rotates between workouts for me, eliminating some of the guesswork, but alas there isn’t. Sure it offers small rewards and challenges, but it’s not simple to do and it’s something you need to keep track of yourself.

Xbox Fitness simply feels like I’m putting in a workout DVD and randomly picking where to start and end at. Because you are generally only getting a snippet of a full workout session, you don’t always get the warm-up or cool-down portions, which are incredibly important for a full (and safe) workout. Not stretching before doing some of the extreme workouts is going to be painful later on if you don’t know better to do it yourself.

Also, there’s no nutrition information or help to go alongside the fitness portion of the app. Eating well is half of the battle of losing weight and it’s not even remotely addressed within at all. Again, to people that don’t know or aren’t fitness savvy, they might not know better. If you’re not performing a certain move or motion correctly, it’ll try and give you an idea of what to do better, but it’s usually too vague to be of any real help. Some of the floor moves also sometimes had issues tracking with precision, though to be fair I don’t have the most floor space either.

Again, Xbox Fitness is free until December of this year if you have an Xbox Live Gold membership, but don’t go in expecting all of the world’s best full workout programs, but instead smaller trial workouts from each one. It’s not perfect, but again, it’s free. We’ve all probably indulged a little more than we should have over the holidays, so if you don’t have that expensive gym membership and have an Xbox One, give Xbox Fitness a try if you want to get your sweat on.

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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