When you think of the UFC, what do you think of? I think mixed martial arts and mats covered in blood. Now I also think of PlayStation Move, Kinect, and the Nintendo Wii thanks to UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System. Motion gaming has been a popular avenue for interactive fitness ever since DanceDanceRevolution proved that nerds love to sweat. UFC Personal Trainer combines the UFC brand with support from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). It takes fitness seriously, and I like that, because I'm serious about my health.
It's clear that a lot of planning went into UFC Personal Trainer. It's clean, well-organized, and the inclusion of real UFC trainers and the presence of the NASM legitimizes the exercises. But there are a lot of problems that come along with this game on all the platforms. It's certainly not the "ultimate fitness system," and a lot of the technical issues kept me from properly enjoying my workout. It got me sweating, but Wii owners beware: this is a much less enjoyable experience than what you'd get on Kinect.
When you're ready to get fit with UFC Personal Trainer, you have a few options. You can rock a pre-made workout with one of three trainers: Mark DellaGrotte, Greg Jackson, or Javier Mendez. These workouts are made up of several sets of individual exercises, bookended by a warm-up and cool-down. Or, you're free to design your own workout and choose the exercises you desire. These workouts can be saved and enjoyed later whenever you feel the need to bulk up.
There are also several activities to do if you're up for something more "gamey." The main attraction is Hit the Mitts, where you follow guide arrows and execute a bunch of punches, knees, and kicks.
If you're feeling adventurous and equally motivated, UFC Personal Trainer offers 30 and 60 day programs designed to organize your workouts and help you keep track of your progress. I appreciate this option, as physical fitness is a long journey and it's always great to get help along the way.
With UFC branding, the NASM support, and modern motion devices, you'd think UFC Personal Trainer was on the road to victory. I thought so myself when I first started playing and quickly worked up a sweat from punching the air with vigor. But there are many puzzling problems here that contradict the hard work that went into UFC Personal Trainer. Chief among them is the sound.
n a game of digital coaching, sound is critical. This is about giving you a personal trainer to work with, so that trainer needs to be an organic, helpful ally in your quest for better health. In UFC Personal Trainer, the characters are more like bots with short term memory loss. They all have the same script, rarely change up their commentary, and will often repeat the same line multiple times in one set. In fact, one trainer said "We're priming the body for a great workout" twice in a row.
This is a serious issue for me. If I'm going to exercise with a personal trainer, I want valuable feedback, not repetitive, unrelated one-liners. I might be failing an exercise and the trainer is telling me to keep up the great work. There was a massive disconnect between that character and my routine. This was especially true when I completed 47 reps out of 30 in half the time I was originally allotted. I was proud, until my digital trainer told me to do better next time. That doesn't sound like the right feedback for that situation. Also, it hurt my feelings.
There are other moments in UFC Personal Trainer that feel out-of-place in an otherwise clean, well-organized package. During warm-ups, for example, you'll finish a stretch and then stand there, staring at the silent trainer for 15 seconds. It's awkward. Why am I wasting 15 seconds of every stretch standing around, inactive? And speaking of warm-ups and cool-downs, why is there only one of each? I don't always want to start a workout with arm circles.
If you can ignore the mind-numbing commentary of the trainers and you're serious about following the routines, you can work up a real sweat with UFC Personal Trainer; I have several damp t-shirts as indisputable evidence of this. The routines are better if you have at least some experience with the included exercises, because your trainer doesn't correct your form and you're in real danger of hyperextending a joint during striking exercises. So if you're getting into it, be careful.
The Wii version of UFC Personal Trainer is the worst of the bunch. While it does support two Wii Remotes at once, as well as the Wii Balance Board, UFC Personal Trainer just doesn't work all the time. The ground work (including sit-ups and other floor-based exercises) isn't accurate, and any upper body combos that incorporate an occasional knee or kick don't actually read your efforts -- it does them for you. More importantly, the Wii Remotes just don't read motion as well as the PlayStation Move controllers, and I found my punches go unnoticed often. With such poor feedback, most of my time with UFC Personal Trainer on the Wii was based on the honor system.
UFC Personal Trainer had potential, but it stumbled along the way. The Kinect version is notably superior to the Wii version, so choose wisely if you happen to own both platforms.
If you're looking for motivation to get in better shape, UFC Personal Trainer will annoy before it inspires. While some of the upper body routines are fun when they work, plenty of lower body interaction is sacrificed due to the nature of the hardware. In some ways, UFC Personal Trainer is less like a game and more like an instructional home video. It clearly wasn't designed with the Wii in mind, and the experience suffers because of it.
OVERALL SCORE - 4 'BAD'