Game: Nike+ Kinect Training
Developer: Sumo Digital, Microsoft Game Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Available on: Xbox 360 only
A comfortable breathing pattern quickly turns into a heavy pant. A bone-dry forehead is now like a babbling brook. Legs turn to jelly, arms get weak and the most sedate personality starts to scream at the digital representation on the television to stop everything before they crumble to a heap on the cold, hard ground.
Fitness games! They are a tricky hurdle for developers because of their niche market and, let’s be honest here, the stereotype of the overweight gamer is there for a reason. The balance of fun vs. exercise can be difficult to get right, but some achieve this with relative precision. Nike+ Kinect Training focuses more on the fitness aspect and does it quite well. Along with the motion tracking of Kinect, this title will get you off the couch and perspiring like a prisoner on death row. This game will ask a lot of you, but won’t give you everything you want in return.
Firstly, you better not be expecting Uncharted 3-esque visuals or a story that would make Valve re-think their writing team. Like most of these exercise games, Nike+ Kinect Training’s graphics are minimal at best, with environments lacking any kind of charm or vigour. Boring, colourless gyms and football pitches that are devoid of life are the order of the day. Your personal trainer’s avatar looks okay at best and your on-screen virtual-self does its job with a similar lack of frills.
The aforementioned personal trainer is your new best friend, by the way. At the very beginning of the game, you chooses between two trainers who will act as drill sergeant over your initial workout program. The game puts you through your paces for about 30 minutes and then measures your fitness and athleticism based on how well you performed the activities, along with your age, height, weight and gender. Before your workout plan can truly begin, the trainer will give a choice of what area you want to work on: do you want to improve your strength, gain muscle tone, or lose weight? A four week program is then built around the days of the week you choose your workouts to take place, taking the control out of your hands. Some may see this as a flaw, but this title has been tailor-made with personal trainers so, more often than not, they will know more than the average player when it comes to viable exercises, and the game will construct a sufficient program that will get tougher as the weeks go on.
For those looking to put in some extra time, there are individual workouts where the player can predicate time period and intensity, as well as fun little mini games. Whether it be avoiding footballs by ducking and jumping, or trying to fit your body through virtual glass walls that are advancing toward you on the screen, these add a nice element of light diversion to proceedings.
Of course, like every Kinect game, if the tracking is poor, players get frustrated and decide to go back to the traditional method of holding a controller instead of “being” a controller. I couldn’t comfortably say that Nike+ Kinect Training is in the upper echelon of the Xbox’s motion-sensing peripheral’s titles, but it’s certainly not sitting in the doldrums, either.
Your on-screen likeness will glow a bright orange and will become a shining white once the activity is being performed at an acceptable level. A lot of the exercises won’t begin until you’re centred, which can cause issues. As with practically every Kinect experience, room space is key, however Nike+ Kinect Training requires, on regular occasion, a mammoth stretch of area. Even in the largest of living rooms, you can find yourself bumping up against couches or coffee tables.
The precision isn’t bad, with the peripheral recognising effort and correct execution to a fairly acceptable degree. However, certain drills where you’re required to lie on the floor or turn away from the TV give unsatisfactory results, as perfectly performed push-ups or burpees fail to be recognised. Where your effort is lacking, on-screen prompts appear to give hints at where you’re going wrong and readjustment is awarded through praise from the trainer.
There is also a multiplayer component present that allows users to either compete with friends by besting their times on challenges, or by performing more reps in specific exercises. On top of that, you can work-out with online friends in a variety of activities. Hypothetically speaking, this is a terrific idea, but a local option would be more welcome because, in actuality, how many of your friends will be playing Nike+ Kinect Training at the same time as you, if at all?
VERDICT: The Nike+ brand has been attached to numerous products recently, such as watches, smartphone apps and iPods. If you’re invested in the brand, the Kinect branch of this particular tree will interest you because of the NikeFuel connectivity across the Nike-labelled devices. However, gimmicks aside, this game won’t replace the gym. It certainly has some nice ideas and the personalised programs are a real plus, but innovation doesn’t appear much here. With one of the leading names in sport involved, this could have been so much more.