Hands-On Preview: UFC Personal Trainer

by on May 25, 2011

So you want to be an Ultimate Fighter?

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the world-leading organisation in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) cage fighting. THQ and the UFC have worked together with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) to produce a new innovation in fitness training. Set for release on Kinect for Xbox 360, Move for PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System is the first ever MMA-inspired fitness game, and on May 26th, Godisageek stepped into the Octagon to go one-on-one with the game.

Now this wasn’t just any old workout, I was assigned a real UFC fighter to be my sparring partner and coach for the day – in this case being Jason Young, an up-and-coming British fighter who made a name for himself in the UK with the Cage Rage organisation, winning the Lightweight Championship, and will be making his UFC debut in June. So Jason would be taking me through a range of the different workouts and activities available to players in the Kinect version of the game.

Whilst we didn’t go through every aspect of the game, this was more of a taster to see how you might put together a workout session for yourself. There are the options to follow pre-set workout routines, customise your own regime, engage in individual activities such as the speed bag or punching mitts and going all the way up to 30 or 60 day plans, where your own personal trainer will help you meet your set goals – whether they be weight loss, strength gain or general fitness improvement.

My “coach” started off by demonstrating some of the simpler routines, before easing me into the game with a set workout, put together by real-life MMA trainer Mark DellaGrotte. As you progress through the title, you will unlock more trainers to work with and more UFC competitors to spar with, with them also unlocking a range of new and often more intensive fitness routines.

Starting off on an easy warm-up routine, I found myself starting with low-level stretches and activities such as arm rotations, just to get limbered up – as any fighter would in order to reduce the risk of injuring themselves. These warm-up routines are generally timed, with a set number of repetitions required before you may pass onto the next activity. Just like in real life, after you complete the set number of reps, your trainer in-game usually asks you to perform a few more – above and beyond the basic – just to push yourself a little harder, which in turn rewards pkayers with more points and obviously more calories burned.

These warm-up exercises and full training routines can all be tailored to target the area of your body you particularly want to work on. For instance, I took part in some basic balance exercises, side-stepping and bunny-hop type moves, all in a basic agility set. Want to go for a more intense warm-up? Try some squat-thrusts or even V-ups, to really start to feel the burn. What became apparent quickly was that this game really does raise your heart-rate, and you can feel the exercises having an effect on the muscles that are being worked on.

These exercises are all ones that you may have seen, or have seen similar, in existing fitness titles. Its the fighting exercises that set this game apart from the competition. These include; Activities and Ultimate Training. The activities include; Heavy Bag routines -where you have a set time limit to work on the bag – throwing as many hits as you can; Speed Bag – which is obviously all about quickly landing hits; Punching Mitts – where a sparring partner calls out for different strikes to be thrown at their hands and the Tire Flip – which funnily enough, sees you flipping a gigantic tire. These obviously all work on different aspects of your fitness such as speed, stamina and accuracy, and each work-out different muscle groups.

Heavy Bag is really energy draining, and even on intermediate settings, the timer seems to go very slowly – you start to feel your arms go to jelly if you aren’t already a well-oiled fighting machine. Tire flip sees you repeatedly crouch then flip over imaginary tires and after having to hold the squat before launching your tires, you will feel it in the morning. But this all goes to show that these routines have value, and that when used in conjunction with the other workouts, would help you to improve and build up your fitness levels.

The Ultimate Training mode is all about teaming up with famous UFC fighters in order to take part in drills that will challenge you in a variety of ways. Making use of punching and kicking sequences, these will progressively get harder and harder, challenging you to beat your times and records, as well as using online functionality to throw out challenges to your friends. Different fighters will offer different routines and more of these unlock as you complete other challenges.

The whole time you perform these workouts, a green avatar of yourself appears discreetly in the corner of the screen – both so you can tell that you are within sensor range and that you are mirroring the movements of the on-screen coach correctly. It is important to say that the Kinect detection seemed very impressive throughout gameplay. Punches and kicks thrown were recognised ably  – when thrown correctly – and the game would often make an error noise when you didn’t perform the action correctly. It can tell when you throw a straight instead of an uppercut, and as such, could distinguish well between the different actions needed in the game. My training partner Jason did point out that an uppercut could sometimes be missed if thrown too close to your own body – as his style was – but this obviously will differ from competitor to competitor, as all fighters have slightly different technique.

Apart from a current over-sensitivity problem with the pause function of the Kinect sensor at present, there were no real detracting points other than my woeful fitness levels. Being left-handed, I wanted to see if there was an option to set-up which your dominant hand is – and thankfully this is included. Unfortunately due to the fact that we were all playing as guests, I couldn’t test this function – but it is good to see that it has been considered. Wii and PS3 versions were also on show, and whilst the remote-based play is still very solid, the lack of full body tracking does somewhat cut down on the accuracy with which the game can be measuring your performance. This game seems to be tailored primarily for Kinect users, then scaled back for other consoles.

All-in-all there seems to be a great variety of exercises on offer in the title, and with the different modes and target-setting options there is certainly the opportunity for this title to have long legs in a household concerned with fitness. If you consider that the game features a lot of the basic routines that a normal fitness game contains, then with the fighting ones added on top – this looks like a good value package. Jason showed me a few more routines himself, and he even taught me so well that I managed to beat his score in the Tire Flip – thank god they weren’t real tires! So, feeling battered and bruised – without even stepping in the ring – my workout ended. I’m not the most active person, but one sampling of the game left me eager for more – and there is still a lot I haven’t even tried out. UFC Personal Trainer really does look like it could be the Ultimate Fitness game.

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UFC Personal Trainer is currently scheduled for release on July 1st 2011, and will be available on Kinect for Xbox 360, Move for PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii.

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